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Monthly Archives: May 2006

The River Queen.

There’s gotta be something about New Zealand and epic.

It seems that in recent years, any films from the country, made in the country, and created by its native residents do have a certain epic quality which make them hard to ignore amidst the crowd of CGI-ridden films in recent years. The sentence actually leads us thinking, what is it with New Zealand filmmakers who can turn otherwise mindless films heavy on visual effects into something of, say, award-winning works?

Peter Jackson gives his emotion to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, and even King Kong is considered one of the greatest dramatic achievements in this time. Andrew Adamson gives a life to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, making the film a pleasant to watch despite the heavy-handed action sequence. Not to be left behind with these two fellow New Zealander, Vincent Ward ambitiously embarks on a project of bringing up a story about a heroine who challenges the race diversion between the white and the Maori tribe in the late 17th century.

The River Queen tells the story of the heroine in a poetic way that often feels like a bridge between Jackson’s usual sweeping action scenes and John Huston’s Western-hearted films. The latter influence could not be more mistaken as the main character, Sarah O’Brien, is given a large portion in handling her emotional conflicts, torn between her Irish heritage, and her enduring motherhood, which eventually led her becoming a Maori herself. The kind of character who faces psychological obstacles in a physical struggle could be played by Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper in the past, and this gives Samantha Morton her own edge.

Already known as an actress with skillful talents, Morton gives a daunting performance in such a difficult role like this. Fearless and emotionally naked, she injects the film with her unmistakably commanding presence, making her stands tall above the rest of the cast, as her role is intended her to be. It is simply hard to see anyone else is up to challenges she clearly has gone through in inhibiting her character here.

If only the promotional material is daring enough to put ‘Samantha Morton is The River Queen’.

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Posted by on 05/30/2006 in English, Film

 

The House of Sand.

You can tell a film is economical by the look of the film.
No one will doubt that Batman Begins is one helluva expensive film, from the sophisticated visual effects or from many sets used in the film. On the other hand, any films like In The Bedroom is said to be ‘small’ and ‘independent’ from the limited sets it uses, or simple from the rural look.

Another way to reduce the cost of filmmaking that tends to baloon these days is by having a limited cast. In Jasmine Women, Zhang Zi Yi plays different roles through different times. There is no harm done in doing this, as long as we are convinced with their portrayal of those variety of people who surely will carry different characters to inhibit within that one singular actor.

This is the point where The House of Sand fails to lift itself up from merely being an economical film. The film, which deals with a mother-and-daughter relationship spans over more than four decades, is set entirely in a desert, sparing us a swooning cinematography, only to already feel exhausted by the first half of the film.

Yet, the film’s biggest problem lies on the choice of Andrucha Waddington, the director, to cast both leads to play different roles. Arguably, both Fernanda Torres and Fernanda Montenegro are among Brazilian’s finest thespians. However, the risky decision to cast both actresses to play both mothers and daughters within different periods of time prove to be a risk not worth taking at all, for we are hardly convinced with their performance. It is not an easy task to carry different characters within confinement of 2-hour duration, and as a result, we simply do not buy otherwise a great idea. For the actors themselves, what could be a challenging role some actors dream of, simply does not work under a half-baked direction.

Thus, this is the film at its most economical way.

 
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Posted by on 05/27/2006 in English, Film

 

Heart.

Here are the things you learn from Heart (the movie) that you should apply and consider with your mind, not only relying from your heart (the thing inside your body):

1. a contrived, forced romance should not be made for more than or close to 2-hour long, otherwise any director will run out of tacky lines to utter.
2. running on a tight budget? well, in a matter of film-making, who doesn’t? but sparing the budget for cinematography instead of adding a few necessary cast members is a sin. lucky you, the whole Bandung/Puncak citizen is currently busy tackling their garbage, and not complaining why no one else exists in that area apart from the three main casts.
3. any songs made by melly but not sung by melly should be properly put. where? on the soundtrack album only.
4. if your life is nothing but playing basketball (not even with a team, but just with you yourself and that basketball ring) and painting, here’s my generous advise: get a life!
5. oh, speaking of tacky lines, here’s the thing about teens these days: they are way smarter than that.

Unless we are talking about some hopeless romantics who storm the cinemas, making the film (gasp!) a box-office success. Yes, somehow love-themed stories work best when they despise logic and good quality of filmmaking.

Oh well. I’m out of here.

 
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Posted by on 05/26/2006 in English, Film

 

The Consequences of Love.

Watching a film made from puzzles about one’s life hesitantly scattered pieces by pieces throughout the entire film left one feeling puzzled indeed, in a good way: we get hooked.

The Consequences of Love merely revolves around the life of Titta, an old man with seemingly boring routine. He wakes up, he walks down to a lobby in a hotel where he has been staying in for a number of years. He stays there, reading newspapers until late in the evening when he has to go back to his room to sleep.

Having an almost stationery character like Titta challenges every aspiring filmmaker to bring many additional characters whom Titta will observe, or get involved with. Surely Paolo Sorrentino, the director, follows such a rule, with an underlining bait of his past that soon catches him up. Soon, the past and the present life of Titta will tangle him up, in many ways that thrill our mind, and eyes.

The confinement of space, considering the film is almost entirely set in one location, does not confine Sorrentino from exploring unusual looks which recall any of David Fincher’s works. The carefully captured images in this film is indelible enough to stay on audience’s mind, surely I do, which actually complement the impossibly great twisted screenplay and master-class performance from Tony Servillo as Titta on his commanding presence through stoic manners.

Yet, the film moves, inexplicably.

 
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Posted by on 05/25/2006 in English, Film

 

The Russian Dolls.

Picking up where The Spanish Apartment leaves us, The Russian Dolls feels fresher, as now the film solely focuses itself on the life of its singular main character, Xavier (Romain Duris in his relaxed performance), particularly in his love department. This means, unlike the predecessor, the film does not have to carry a burden of allocating spaces for multiple characters, which in turn left the first film with a little bit of misled direction.

The focusing does not come with its consequences though, and the one who suffers most from the reduction effect is Audrey Tatou’s character as Xavier’s initial girlfriend, Martine. Halfway throughout the film, the character somehow goes off the film completely, only to be revealed in a lesser scene towards the end, which does not explain or enhance her presence, except to reinstate her annoying charisma built from the beginning.

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Yet, the same cannot be said with Kelly Reilly (that particular shining stripper from Mrs. Henderson Presents) who plays Wendy, Xavier’s English girlfriend. Arguably the only character in the film that breathes full of life, Reilly brings her character in such a charming and likeable manner. Every single turn of her moves, be them as a jealous girlfriend or while hiding her repression of pain, Reilly does them with a believable persona that draws us to her close, rooting for more of her presence.

The rest of returning cast gives a slight brush to the film, which now works as if the audience has graduated from wearing United Colors of Benetton, to a more staple line of Zara. In short, it may not that greatly colorful, but whatever available there are steady ones that will stick to your memory most.

 
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Posted by on 05/16/2006 in English, Film

 

Maskot.

If Maskot feels like a throwback to the good old 70s and early 80s Indonesian comedy, then perhaps Robin Moran, the director, feels the right to do so after watching tremenduous amount of those kind films during the preparation of making his debut film here. Again, it is only a possibility.

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However, the statement above is derived as one can’t help drawing many similarities in this film to the films on the era. At the surface, the basic story premise of Maskot is in many ways applicable as if the film was made by Nja Abbas Acup, Asrul Sani or Chaerul Umam. The film revolves around a search for a hen believed to be the symbol of prosperity for a ketchup company. As the owner of the company (El Manik, in a successive roles required him lying on a hospital bed after his turn in Berbagi Suami) has a declining health, he requests his clumsy son (Ariyo Wahab) to be his successor, but he can only be so if he is able to find that particular hen to be used as a mascot for the factory. Eventually, the search trip has become some sort of coming-of-age journey which resolves in a good way guaranteed to satisfy everyone.

After all, it’s a comedy, right? And good Indonesian comedies of both abovementioned decades, think of Inem Pelayan Sexy, Bintang Kejora and the likes of them, relies on the comic presence of the cast. We are not talking about Bing Slamet, Benyamin S. or Ateng-Iskak films here, where the mere presence of these comic figures would evoke your laughter. Referring to the two aforementioned film, for sure Jalal was on the former film, but hardly any comedy actors present in the latter film, which were filled by character actors such as El Manik, Ikranegara and Amak Baldjun.
Following the similar steps, Moran gave sizable opportunities for the supporting cast of his films to shine. Particularly Butet Kertaradjasa, one of the iconic theatre figures of recent times, and Epi Kusnandar of the TV-series Kejar Kusnadi. Both are able to seize their presence with unique wits and unexpected charm that any scenes without them seem to exhaust themselves.

Thus, in the days of endless mindless teenage romance or horrifying horror, having an Indonesian film that feels Indonesian all around is a refreshing take to indulge.

 
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Posted by on 05/15/2006 in English, Film

 

the risk of addiction.

so i am addicted to this absence,
which drives me further to making numerous attempts of earning a penny or two maybe,
and not penning my own journal for free.

so i am addicted to the nights,
the companion of flesh and snack,
of two gay guys, one fag hag, and one helluva drinker,
of green teas, or normal ones in alternate.

so i am addicted to the city,
the coffee meets the riots,
leaving me stuck in the unlikely space,
of yuppies, of tough guards, of breezing condensed air.

so i am addicted to you,
the lover of my life,
the hairy bear of my life,
the shivering thoughts sending the hair at the back of my neck rising.

so i am addicted to this life,
of uncertainty, of impossible dream,
of unclear destination, of mindless people and their hopeless defense,
of ambiguity, and the likes of it.

so i am addicted to myself,
living the life i yet to lead.

 
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Posted by on 05/03/2006 in English, Personal