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Monthly Archives: March 2006

Berbagi Suami

With a string of successive records of introductory lessons, Nia DiNata starts to establish her own place among the commonality of other directors in the industry.

Why introductory?

First, she initiates. In Ca-Bau Kan, she brought the unseen historical tale of Chinese heritage to the public for the first time. In Arisan!, she touched the surface of homosexuality to the public unaware of the issue.
The similar pattern continues in her latest effort, Berbagi Suami (literally translated as “Sharing A Husband”, although the official English title is “Love for Share”), and as the title suggests, the film talks about polygamy.

But does the film talk?

Here comes the second point of her directorial trends. She spreads the subject being highlighted, and by doing so, she puts her thoughtful effort to give a politically-correct objective point of view, without necessarily putting in her own belief. Thus, she does not wish to be judgmental or siding to one faith, unlike Oliver Stone in his political series of JFK or Nixon, but rather, she goes for the way Jafar Panahi does The Circle, accommodating as many possible angles as possible, while a little distance away from the likes of, say, The Laramie Project.

It works well, it works not.


The division of the storyline into three (almost) parallel stories, contrasting the risk-and-consequences of polygamy life to one another, gives the audience multiple views of polygamy, leaving the audience choosing on their own. Whether polygamy works by suppressing jealousy, or by leaving the husband for good, or by exploiting every possible chance to make one’s own satisfaction, the effect could not be more satisfying the way a kid is given choices of many flavors in a box of chocolate instead of sticking to one particular flavor.

However, the spread may backlash as it results in the lack of thorough explanation for the subject in focus. This could not be more apparent in the talk-show scene where Salma (played with a great degree of subtlety by Jajang C. Noer) defends her support towards polygamy against her opponent who despises the concept. As the raging discussion continues, while it is still going circle on the facade, DiNata does deus-ex-machina by abruptly inserting the news on tsunami disaster to hijack the whole film throughout, bringing it to another direction.

Which direction will it take then?

The final introductory pattern of DiNata is to leave the audience on their own best to perceive and receive what they see, and perhaps bringing it with them to do any necessary follow-ups on their lives. Certainly Arisan! does not simply end with the two guys embarking on a relationship, and polygamy does not stop when two of four wives leave the man for good.
And maybe this is what DiNata excels best, that in tradition of storyteller, she does not necessarily give the whole story in details. Rather, she tickles her listener by giving a little to think about.

It is understood then that she deserves her own place here.

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Posted by on 03/26/2006 in English, Film

 

all i know of love.

Like all of you reading this blog, I was born to this world from the womb of my beloved mother, as a result from my parents’ act of love.

Throughout the years of my upbringing, I felt blessed that I grew up in what you may consider a perfectly normal, if not ordinary, household, where me and my sisters experienced what it was like to have our own jackfruit tree we were so very proud of, and that old red ‘80s Honda Civic taking us to our late grandmother’s place in other province.

Those were the days when we were often encouraged by our parents to show the world what we had. Shamelessly and tirelessly, both of them always stood by my side whenever I turned up in any talent contests, be them from singing or modeling ones. You are reading the words of an ex-model now!

Little would I know that behind the supportive acts, they had personal problems on their own, like any normal married couples do. It took me a while to understand that my mother often felt frustrated not to meet her husband who was away for work in a long time, or the times when my dad went out for fresh air to clearly avoid heated debates at home which I never heard directly on the first place.

But look what he brought home a few hours later? A packet of martabak for all of us!

The phone did not ring, no words were spoken, and it was hardly the time mobile phones existed. Yet, in what seemed like a silent agreement, they made up. He washed his hands in our small kitchen, she set the table, and we had supper. Life has gone on.

And a good 32 years later from the day they exchanged vows, they continued to love each other, setting an example for me to follow.

Or so they wish me to.

For almost 27 years of my existence in this world, I always yearn for having a companion by my side, simply longing to love and be loved in return, like anyone would wish to.
When I could no longer deny my likings on different kind of love to embark on, I could not find any proper guidance or direction telling me how I should behave and place myself in this kind of relationship. Except one.

I have the example as set by my parents.

Thus, despite the difference, all I know about love and relationship is mirrored what my parents have done for a good three decades. They love each other without asking much, or telling much. They love each other in silence, they love each other in unspoken rages that fades quickly. They love each other in sharing a common space without complaining much, or praising much. They love each other by sticking to each other, be it on the lowest level of degradation, or at the highest euphoria.

My relationship with twinnie has somewhat become static recently. Gone are the days of exchanging mushy entries in both our blogs, and if you happen to see any in mine, well, what can I say? My blog is my home where I have all the endless privileges to decorate it any way I want.
I cannot stop lamenting through some thoughtful process often filled with temptation to lure myself to others. After all, it is not easy to pass through the time without intimacy to satisfy my ego being a lustful human. Yet, what constantly slips through mind telling me of something else.

I want to stick with twinnie for good.

The hard and harsh times may be tough to get through, and writing this entry against the rain in the wee hours of the morning leaving me shedding some good tears. The tears that I often saw when I sit next to my mum who missed her man when she had not met him for months. The tears that I am now having because I miss him.

I know I do.

Does he?

 
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Posted by on 03/25/2006 in English, Personal

 

Ruang.

In the days of successive mindless films only highlighting sophisticated use of advanced technology bombarding the cinemas recently, it is more than welcome to have a film that could transport us back to good old times, when a simple story can be told in a very plain, straightforward manner, yet it leaves us yearning for more.

Even the story is the kind of tale often heard in numerous times. It has been repeated in many versions and many interpretations, yet the way the story is brought to life is sometimes what amazes us, while setting aside the fact we have grown familiar with how the story might end.

It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey taken, and how we experience it.

Thus, Ruang gives us the chance to embark on an almost breathless journey from many breathtaking looks displayed on the big screen right in front of our very eyes against the darkened surrounding in a cinema hall. The continuous smooth editing allows us to capture the nuanced atmosphere of the nameless island where the story is set, along with the score, despite often being overplayed, does not glorify or hyperbole the natural beauty to become larger-than-life, but enough to make us feel being taken back to the nostalgia of the past.


The nostalgia theme might be something Teddy Soeriaatmadja has an eye for, as what he previously touched on his previous work, Banyu Biru. But this time, rather than challenging us into the world of surrealism to a raging effect, he wisely penned the script together with Adi Nugroho, making a linear storyline with a crystal clear narrative plot which in turns work pleasantly for us, the audience, and leaving us in amazement. Amazed that only in his second directorial debut, Soeriaatmadja manages to make a successful marriage of filmmaking elements: the technology does not overwhelm the film, but rather, it gives support to a story he has his faith and belief in.

Alas, the story itself does not offer anything new. How many times have we heard and seen a man, in love with a girl he would never be able to have, has to settle for another girl faithfully accompanying him from the beginning without ever asking for anything in return? Such a story does not have any spoilers or twists overtly used in recent films, but to absorb the thematic line, we are not asked to raise our eyebrows to decipher the film.

Because for once, Ruang successfully puts the old-fashioned romance back in a dramatic film we have missed for so long.

 
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Posted by on 03/25/2006 in English, Film

 

Ekspedisi Madewa

If one starts feeling uncomfortable watching actors in a big screen uncomfortably playing their roles in a film, then the film viewed is in a serious trouble.

Add that with the lack of adequate technical supremacy, something considered vital for the execution of the film here, what do we have then?

We have Ekspedisi Madewa.

The reason why it fails to spark the hysteria of Indiana Jones, as clearly the film is modeled on, can be pointed to many elements. Referring to my point earlier, the star-gazing treatment of a supposedly blockbuster film means that the film is determinedly be carried by a star, or two, as the main attraction. Seeing Tora Sudiro in his static expression throughout many action sequences, as if not sure if he believes in the script that asks him to pull a gun or to climb up, leaves us thinking if he actually screams for help to get him out of the film. Worse, the presence of Arie Dagienkz as the sidekick intended to give the film a fresh air from his humor, falls flat as his joke often seems tepid and unfunny, and not a single scene is able to make him established a character on his own.


Another point to sanctify in this film is its failure to present itself as an action adventure film, to the very least point of getting a proper look. The genre, which relies heavily on the existence of good editing, both in visual and sound department, seems to neglect the crucial technical qualities here. Some unthinkable fatal mistakes, as apparent in shooting the film in a digital camera then blowing it to the big screen, only make us wondering if the experiment of making the film is really disheartening.

Perhaps, the expedition on the subject needs to turn the direction to expedite a proper filmmaking that serves any intended genre, without leaving its audience in unintended confusion.

 
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Posted by on 03/24/2006 in English, Film

 

Jatuh Cinta Lagi.

Now, let’s play a game of “what-if”.

If Krisdayanti is not a spokesperson for a household product like a washing cream-soap and instead, she goes for, let’s say, a shampoo, will we see a scene filled with nothing but her hair most of the time to state that she is the face of the product and the product is happily inserted on the film?

If the presence of a coffee shop here is replaced by, let’s say, a warung pecel or a hawker centre, will we get to see the women preparing pecel or an uncle bringing us our drinks for a good scene or two, the way we get to see some baristas preparing coffee here in some unrelated scenes?

If Gary Iskak starts acting normally, and understands that being goofy is not the same as being over-the-top annoying, will we ever see the subtlety of playing a male-lead in a romantic comedy the way Hugh Grant or John Cusack easily slip in?

These are merely a few questions flashing through my mind upon watching Jatuh Cinta Lagi, a romantic comedy debut from Rizal Mantovani who revives the horror genre with Jelangkung, but unable to deliver the same revival process to the film here.

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The magic does not happen twice in a lifetime, but to think that blatant product placement gets continually annoying our film-watching experience is the least we expect for a prominent director with extensive video-music making background as of him.

Thus, when we start to look for something else to satisfy our thirst of the genre, again the mission is aborted by the unconvincing turns of the leads. As a female lead, Krisdayanti does not have enough potent to be kooky and smart at the same time as required by her character as a lawyer her, and she has to settle for the former quality which does not work all the time. Iskak has an aforementioned problem which suspiciously rooted from his own misconception of acting in a comedy film, instead of a romantic comedy one. Endhita as the female lead’s best friend, a possible side-kick that could have stolen the film, instead got stolen by the lines she had to utter. Her delivery of dialogues lacks the wit much needed in her presence, thus leaving her smart lines as prepared by the scriptwriter, Ve Handojo, gone off in the dust.

The only revelation is seeing Cornelia Agatha, fresh from her depressive performance in Detik Terakhir. Her kooky turn as an attention-seeker dangdut singer is exhilarating, thanks to her ability in maintaining her comic timing in place, and despite having to act against the leads, Agatha could hijack the film at any given time.

Thankfully, Mantovani keeps her in tact, leaving Agatha’s scenes short but memorable enough to leave us thinking about the film with a smile.

Just don’t get start on that little thing called BuKrim here …

 
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Posted by on 03/23/2006 in English, Film

 

Jomblo.

(For the purpose of any non-Indonesian speakers out there, the title can be loosely translated as a singleton, and the word applies to both sexes, although the film largely focuses on the single guys.)

Ooppss! Have I said too much above?

I can’t help it, as much as I can’t help laughing, smiling, smirking, thinking, wondering, and other activities done by a film audience who is fully amused with a film that, despite some bumpy rides towards the end, is consistently entertaining.

Jomblo, with a line-up of four straight single guys desperately wanting to get girlfriends by their sides, may tempt a comparison being a male version of Sex and the City, and make the setting changed from Manhattan to some fictional universities in Bandung instead. No famous clothing line flashing on the screen, but we settle for a staple of T-shirt and jeans, emphasizing the look of regular college guys who less bother about their looks.

That’s why, the move of Hanung Bramantyo, the director, to cast the lead in relatively unknown newcomer, Ringgo Agus Rahman, is something worth a praise on its own, as Ringgo carries his role as Agus, the guy who walks away with his wrongdoings, in a relaxed manner, unpretentious that we enjoy his quirky acts without having to laugh at him. Instead, we laugh with him when he appears in his chicken costume, or when he reaches his peak of desperation to get a strap of condoms.

Such a joke which often being banally used in many slapstick comedies of Warkop DKI in late 1980s works pleasantly well under a script which seems to be carefully written by the director himself, along with Adhitya Mulya who also pens Jomblo, the novel, in which the film is based from.

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If anything bugs me most, is none other than the stoic presence of Rizky Hanggono, somewhat often stumbling down amidst his fellow members of this ensemble cast that comprises of Ringgo, Dennis Adhiswara who shamelessly goes to extra length in making a fun of himself, and Christian Sugiono. The latter himself is suspiciously cast to the credit of his good look, but even so, the quality fits his role as a playboy nicely, thus his presence is a far cry from being an annoyance likely found in many other flicks.

With clean slate of humor, often teasing with sex subject without being gross, and the characters Indonesians could easily relate to, it is hardly any doubt that the film is as a complete as what a good, entertaining Indonesian teen-flick should look like.

 
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Posted by on 03/22/2006 in English, Film

 

Match Point.

What can we say of Woody Allen who does London?

What I can say about him and his latest film here is to imagine him in his reclusive semi-retirement in a countryside of London, enjoying his fine wine while recalling the good old memories of his glory, and when he does that, he really picks up the good ones to be assembled in a collective work of art. A piece that is worth of an appreciation on its own.

For an afficionado of his works from the days of Take The Money and Run to the recent years of Small Time Crooks, we hardly hold any surprise to what Match Point offers.
But for those less familiar with his past days, seeing the film is still a pleasure very likely to bring them to understand Allen’s stature position in cinematic world, and that position reflects his wit and philosophical mind-games that most of the time would surely jolt us, shaking our heads in disbelief over seeing an otherwise illicit soap-opera drama into a highly praised thriller which goes deeper as a study of human behavior in general.


The object of the study lies on the presence of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a tennis pro has-been who chameleons himself as a desperate social climber, only to hit the jackpot when he strikes a winning game by marrying Emily Mortimer of a reputable family. Thus, begins the question of morale Allen starts asking us: for a climber to reach the top of his destination, is there any limit to the ladder he climbs?

Apparently, the answer points to an indefinite limit of the ladder, as now the climb is heading towards the sultry Scarlett Johansson, a deadly viper, femme fatale, who, in the tradition of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, is able to mastermind and take over the control from the hapless guy now being a victim himself.

Or is he?

Allen has done this earlier in his Crimes and Misdemeanors, to a much more mind-blowing result, yet that does not mean leaving Match… in a pale comparison, for this London film has its own sleek look, suspiciously resulted from Allen’s shift in his musical score from the usual old-school jazz to classical opera, something to enhance the elegance of the upper-class society portrayed here.
But above all, what distinguishes the film from Allen’s recent works is his ability to leave out his ego completely on the screen, leaving the film with a fresh feeling, as if, hyperbolically, Allen is reborn in the film world. Hardly any single character in this film that we could say, “That’s so Woody!”, unlike, say, Anything Else in which Jason Biggs does Allen at his younger days (to a horrifying effect, Allen himself appears in that film!), and even Crimes… featured Allen in one of the main roles.

Perhaps London air does him good, leaving the spotlight to the beaming greatness of the cast, in particular Johansson who dons her sexy persona to the role she carries and continues haunting the film even when her character rarely presents in the film. Allen himself orchestrates them from behind, giving them deft direction from the clearly-twisted script he pens.

Thus, if London does muse him this well, we look forward to having more of it.

 
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Posted by on 03/21/2006 in English, Film