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[whitespace] Teenage Wasteland

Welsh rave scene roils with youthful energy in 'Human Traffic'

By Nicole McEwan

THE WEEKEND has landed. All that exists now is clubs, drugs, pubs and parties. ... I'm gonna blow steam out of my head like a screaming kettle. I'm going to Never Never Land with my chosen family. We're gonna get more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever did. Anything could happen." So says Jip (John Simm), the narrative ringleader of Human Traffic, the blazingly alive debut of 25-year-old Justin Kerrigan, a wannabe filmmaker who was smart enough to "write what he knew" and creative enough to bring it to life on screen.

Whoever said "youth is wasted on the young" might change their mind witnessing this brashly mounted cross section of rave culture that goes beyond Wales' idyllic pastures and fairy-tale castles, straight into its Bacchanalian underground: an Ecstasy- and booze-soaked atmosphere that may someday be known as the Raving '90s. A more apt observation is simply: The youth are wasted. But then again, haven't they always been?

Kerrigan's film, which takes place over one lost weekend in the lives of a group of aimless 20somethings, takes a balanced approach to the hedonism it documents, showing both the ups and downs of casual drug use--and some of its less publicized daily side effects, notably impotence. If you never thought you'd see a film about a 20-year-old's inability to achieve, uh, how shall we say ... "hydraulic lift,' you're in for a surprise. Besides dealing with "Mr. Floppy," Jip, who works in retail, can't get his boss off his back. (This situation is whimsically and literally described via David Bennett's inventive cinematography.) Then there's Nina (Nicola Reynolds), whose college career was cut short by a small-minded interviewer who didn't like her description of why she was interested in philosophy. Now she flips burgers and cheats on her jealous boyfriend Koop (a DJ/record freak) for kicks.

Moff (Danny Dyer) is the quintessential policeman's son, forced to rebel harder than the rest merely on the basis of background. Appalled at the idea of getting a job, he's a small-time dealer who does it to bankroll his own good time. Of the crowd, only Koop (Shaun Parkes) has a job he really loves, and his immersion in music makes Jack Black's Barry in High Fidelity look like a vinyl dilettante.

As the makeshift "family" comes together and falls apart over the 48 hours between punching the clock, Kerrigan's cheeky visual ingenuity keeps pace with their adventures. Through direct address, fantasy sequences and cinematic derring-do, the director gets inside the drug-addled minds of his subjects. Particularly funny is the scene in which an imaginary BBC reporter doing a negative expose on the club scene doffs his composure and joins the party. And one could hardly blame him, thanks to a bumping soundtrack featuring the likes of Orbital and Fatboy Slim. Though lazy comparisons will likely be made to films like Go and Trainspotting, Human Traffic is far less story-driven than the former and lacks the moral epiphanies of the latter. Relatively plotless, yet never meandering, Kerrigan's virgin voyage is cinematic navel-gazing that works. By training a wise eye on his own generation, the savvy director has produced a timely artifact--one that's worth raving about.


Human Traffic (R; 99 min.), directed and written by Justin Kerrigan, photographed by Dave Bennett and starring John Sim, Shaun Parkes and Nicola Reynolds, opens Thursday at the Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz.

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From the May 31- June 7, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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