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[whitespace] 'Nico and Dani'
Buddies in Arms: Best friends Nico (Jordi Vilches) and Dani (Fernando Ramallo) explore some life lessons during summer vacation.

Sex on the Beach

Pleasing Spanish import 'Nico and Dani' follows a sexually confused summer on the Costa Brava

By Richard von Busack

THERE'S NO SUCH THING as that one summer where a boy becomes a man. But it can be a pleasure to watch movies about such a summer--particularly when the matter of manhood is as realistically confusing as it is in Nico and Dani.

The original title of the sexy but never exploitative Catalonian coming-of-age picture is "Krámpack." The word is the private slang of two 17-year-old boys for their mutual masturbation sessions. Friends since childhood, the two have no guilt about their secret game. However, this summer, the rules of the game are becoming hard to understand--signaling a wedge growing between them. Nico (Jordi Vilches), the blond, richer, better-looking one, is writing a novel and taking private summer school from a pretty English teacher; Dani (Fernando Ramallo) is a lot less complicated. He's failing in school and aims at being a motorcycle mechanic. During ten days of unsupervised liberty at Nico's parents' beach house, the two students begin a program of sexual exploration that includes the local girls.

Picking these girls up is an easy matter; the lasses offer themselves. Elena (Marieta Orozoco) visits Dani often; her surface boldness hides a deeper shyness . . . .which, in turn--I could never figure out adolescent girls then and it's too late now--hides a scheme for a quick tryst before her regular boyfriend gets back from the Army. Berta (Esther Nubiola), her more childish friend with a more womanly body, pairs off with Dani, but this isn't quite successful either. During their night alone after the girls have headed home, drunk and flecked with wine-vomit, Nico is finding that his fumbling around with this pal is leading to an infatuation he can't understand. More complications arise: Dani finds himself fascinated by a neighbor, an adult named Julian (Chisco Amado) who is a gay published novelist.

In the interests of showing his approval for sexuality in all its forms, director Cesc Gay trims off some of the rough edges of the story of Nico and Dani, especially at the tidy, easygoing ending. Gay's title cards, previewing the action in each coming scene, keep the film a little too soft and easy. Still, Nico and Dani goes much farther with its realistic look at teen sexuality than it's possible to see in Hollywood movies, where sex is moralized about, avoided, feared. Isn't it also a pleasure to see that the rifle the two boys have lying around never gets used for anything more important than shooting (and missing) wild rabbits? These characters, not quite adults and not quite children--and not quite straight and not quite gay--are privileged in ways that the average kid won't be. Everything fits into place for them. Still Nico and Dani is a pleasant fantasy--a beach party movie for the smart kids in the class.

Nico and Dani (Not rated; 90 min.), directed by Cesc Gay, written by Tomás Aragay and Cesc Gay, photographed by Andreu Rebés and starring Fernando Ramallo, Jordi Vilches, Marieta Orozco and Esther Nubiola, opens Friday at the Towne Theatre in San Jose.

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From the March 29-April 4, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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