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shorts by James Lee, the thrilling conclusion

Posted by martinteller on September 16, 2014

In the interest of wrapping up this look at shorts by a director no one besides me cares that much about, I skipped more of the newer shorts and watched the remaining three from his early career:

Goodbye concerns a woman (Tioh Bee Yoong) who seems to have a busy sales job and has just broken up with her boyfriend.  One of her co-workers keeps trying to ask her out, but she deflects his advances.  She meets up with a high school friend and they talk about their love lives, past and present.  In the end, the woman is seen thoughtfully listening to a CD returned by the ex-boyfriend.  In contrast to the newer shorts, this one doesn’t demonstrate a need to spell everything out.  In fact, I had to read Lee’s description of the film to learn that at one point the woman and one of her associates are discussing the suicide of a Hong Kong singer/actor named Leslie Cheung.  I am familiar with Cheung primarily through his work with Wong Kar-Wai, but didn’t know he was a singer, didn’t know he killed himself, and didn’t pick up on the fact they were talking about him.  Perhaps I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but knowing it after the fact lends the short an extra dimension.  Still, I wish I had felt more meaning while watching it… it was enigmatic but perhaps too much so.  Also, there are amateur sound editing mistakes… you can clearly hear a change in the background hum when (I assume) lines were overdubbed.  Rating: Good (73)

WALL is listed as an “experimental short” and at first threatens to be the kind of thing that gives experimental cinema a bad name.  Over the droning, epic-sounding music of Mogwai and Sigur Ros, a woman (Amy Len) is seen wearing a black shirt and boxers, slowly dragging her body along a stark white wall.  She exits the screen and moves in the other direction, this time more in a more torturous manner.  The profile silhouette of a man enters the foreground, having a one-sided conversation, trying to fix their communication breakdown.  After the woman contorts herself painfully, she starts walking away from the wall, towards the camera.  Lee based the film on Len’s choreographed piece, and usually I don’t go for this sort of interpretive dance, but after a while the elements started coming together really nicely.  Although it flirts with ridiculousness, it’s a fairly effective work illustrating the difficulties in talking to each other when we’re talking on completely different planes.  Rating: Good (77)

Goodbye to Love also seems at first like self-parody.  It tells the story of heartbreak through three-minute chunks of static camera shots of nearly static images (except for a ladder dance, also choreographed by Len), accompanied by song.  A man holding a bouquet of flowers in the foreground makes a call to a telephone in the background.  Then he stands next to a woman.  Then he stands alone.  Then there’s the ladder dance thing, and I think I’ll just not spoil the rest.  I detected some David Lynch influence (perhaps mostly because the black and white photography kind of looks like Eraserhead) and Ming-liang Tsai (particularly in the use of a Chinese song).  The last song is Pachebel’s Canon, which despite its overuse and cheesiness always manages to grab me.  It’s all an intriguing mix of funny and sad.  Tried my patience at times, but I mostly got a kick out of it.  Rating: Good (78)

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The Scent of Green Papaya (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on September 16, 2014

This is my 6th time watching this film.  Each time I get a little more out of it, plunging further into its hidden depths.  At first I was simply intoxicated with its atmosphere.  Tran’s recreation of 1951 and 1961 Saigon is unspeakably lovely.  He takes time to drink in all the details: papaya juice dripping onto a leaf, the ripples in a bucket of water, the play of sun and shadow, the intricate decorations on an urn.  With lush greens and gentle golds, he creates a visual feast.  And he tantalizes the ears as well.  The soundtrack is exquisitely designed, with the chirp of crickets and other wildlife, the shuffle of feet and rustling of garments, the hollow clop-clop-clop of the grandmother’s prayer ritual.  But the sound tells of something beyond the serene environment.  In 1951, “the Vietnam War” as we Americans think of it hadn’t started yet, but conflicts with the French were in full swing with the First Indochina War.  In the film we often hear the siren of curfew, or planes passing overhead.  It is one sign that not everything is lovely in this lovely place.  There’s also the music, which is beautiful but punctuated with shrill flutes that create a sense of unease and tension.

While watching this time, I felt that unease in the way the romance between Mui and Khuyen plays out.  Throughout the film, Mui’s employers are kind to her but the power structure is implicit.  The exception is the youngest child, who doesn’t yet know how to wield his power with subtlety.  Mui doesn’t ever speak to her masters unless spoken to, and even as an adult she bows her head obsequiously in their presence.  We don’t know what Mui did in her childhood years before 1951, but it seems that being a servant has practically been bred into her.  She is always on the outside peering in (the use of interior and exterior space is masterfully handed).  So what does it mean when Khuyen enters her space?  Is this the romantic moment we’ve all been waiting for (yay, he finally noticed her!)… or is it a more sinister exploitation?  Is the Westernized Khuyen invading Mui’s traditional Vietnam?  He teaches her to read, but in a rigid fashion.  There is a proper distance that must be maintained between the face and the page.  Did she even want this, or is she simply trying to please the master?  Again, she never speaks to him unless reading from the page.

The film ends with a poem, suggesting that whatever water Mui is reflected in, she is still Mui.  Vietnam will go through changes and be influenced by the West, but the heart and soul of Vietnam endures.  The camera pans up to the face of Buddha.  We are given these images of harmony (as the poem says: “If there’s a verb meaning to stir harmoniously, it should be used here”) but I feel there is an irony behind them.  But I also don’t think it’s an outright condemnation of Westernization… remember, it’s a thoroughly French production shot on a soundstage by a French crew, only the director and performances are Vietnamese.  Rather, I think there’s a duality at play.  These power structures devalue people, these influences disturb our culture… but we can also find harmony.  Things can be both bad and good at the same time.  Mui and Khuyen can experience a true love, and it can also be exploitative and creepy.  We don’t discount the good just because it’s also bad, and we don’t forgive the bad just because it’s also good.

I don’t honestly know what Tran was going for, but given the amount of (understated) tragedy and conflict in the first part of the film, it seems unwise to write off the second part as just a simple romance.  There’s a lot going on here, and who knows, maybe it wasn’t intended, but I find it in there nonetheless.  And it’s also a film one can savor entirely on a surface level, a breathtaking exhortation to enjoy and appreciate the little things.  Mui tends to the little things in the world, perhaps because she herself is a little thing.  Rating: Masterpiece (97)


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shorts by James Lee, part 2

Posted by martinteller on September 15, 2014

In The Woman Upstairs, a novelist (Emily Lim) goes in for an abortion.  When the power goes out just before she has the procedure, she gets into a philosophical discussion with the doctor (Steve Yap).  This is yet another short from this year that does not at all seem like the work of a mature filmmaker.  Everything about it is mediocre.  The dialogue is poorly written and I don’t believe this conversation would happen.  It comes off like a college student’s idea of what deep introspection sounds like, and ends on a moralizing note.  Boring shot-reverse shot photography.  I really don’t understand why Lee thought this needed to be made.  Rating: Poor (43)

Gerhana is Lee’s contribution to the 2009 omnibus film 15Malaysia.  It’s only 4 1/2 minutes and shows a woman (Daphne Iking) watching the news while her boyfriend (Azman Hassan) man-splains it to her… and then takes pictures of her sleeping, the implication being that he posts dirty shots of her on the internet.  The description on Lee’s website talks about media manipulation and some of that comes through, but it still doesn’t feel like anything that deep or special.  There is some unusual editing that at least makes this somewhat interesting.  Nothing that great, though.  I’m quite disappointed with most of these shorts so far.  Rating: Fair (60)

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shorts by James Lee

Posted by martinteller on September 14, 2014

I discovered Malaysian director James Lee when I spotted a DVD at the public library with the intriguing title, The Beautiful Washing Machine.  I picked it up on a whim and was immediately smitten with the filmmaker’s calmly surreal style.  I managed to track down his “love trilogy” — Waiting for Love, Things We Do When We Fall in Love, and Before We Fall in Love Again — and also really enjoyed those.  And I watched the omnibus film Visits: Hungry Ghosts Anthology for which he directed one segment.  And then I hit a wall.  I could see on IMDb that he had other features and a multitude of short films, but I could never find them.  Yesterday I was going through my watchlist and went searching once again for James Lee.  And I discovered that his production company, Doghouse73 Pictures, has a YouTube channel.  Included are 10 of his shorts (most of them not listed on IMDb, which makes me wonder just how many shorts this guy has directed).  I’m going to tackle them a handful at a time.

In All for Love, a high school girl (Daphne Low) takes her camera to a reclusive man (Mike Chuah) who repairs them out of his apartment.  The man is aloof and works slowly, but the girl seems insistent on hanging around and they develop a relationship.  It’s a nice enough film, but very slight and overly familiar.  It’s odd to me that this is a short from this year, when it comes off as much less mature than his earlier features.  Rating: Fair (68)

The same could be said for The Girl from Tomorrow, also a 2014 production.  Joe (Joseph Germani) is tired of getting dumped and plans to kill himself… but he’s stopped by Yen (Koe Yeet), an enigmatic girl who claims to be from the future.  Yen inspires Joe to work on his writing, and Joe falls in love… but the effects of time travel limit their relationship.  Again, this is a perfectly pleasant little film (with some so-so comedy), but it seems like absolutely anyone could have written it.  It’s the kind of thing that feels like something you’ve seen/heard/read a hundred times.  This is not the imaginative, experimental Lee that I was hoping for.  Rating: Fair (65)

Sure enough, going back further I found better results.  2005’s Sometimes Love is Beautiful is much better than either of the current shorts I watched.  A laundry girl (Tan Chui Mui, a decent filmmaker in her own right) is friends with a girl who rides a motorcycle (Mien Lor).  The laundry girl is cheating on her boyfriend and asks her friend to deliver a letter to him.  This short isn’t nearly as on the nose as the other two, and is filled with more reflective moments and unusual touches.  The ending hints at things without spelling them out for the viewer.  Rating: Very Good (81)

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Koridorius (The Corridor)

Posted by martinteller on September 13, 2014

Like many guys from my generation, there was a period of my life where I played a lot of videogames (actually, in my day it was still considered a pretty dorky thing to do, but nonetheless, a lot of guys did it).  The thing is, I was never particularly good at them and on the rare occasion when I play a videogame nowadays, I always use the easiest settings.  Some people like to play on the hardest settings and take it as a point of pride that they can master the most difficult games.  This is the third film I’ve seen by Sharunas Bartas, and it felt like playing Bartas on “Expert” level.  The other two I’d seen — A Casa and Few of Us — weren’t easy either, but this one was particularly challenging.

Perhaps “challenging” isn’t the right word, as it implies an intention to confound.  I don’t get the feeling that Bartas is trying to alienate the viewer, but rather that these are the movies he wants to make, and the audience will come to him… or not.  He doesn’t make concessions, maybe even less so than Bela Tarr.  Tarr is an easy comparison point, the two filmmakers share many similarities.  The incredibly slow pacing, the dingy locales, the downtrodden characters, the themes of post-communist Eastern Europe, the lack of dialogue (in this case, a total lack).  And here the comparison is even stronger, with Bartas working in black & white and achieving results that are equally impressive.  Some of the images here are very evocative, although on the whole I found it less visually captivating than A Casa.  Another point of comparison: a scene involving a mad, shambolic gathering in a kitchen recalls the centerpiece of Satantango.

The setting is a decrepit apartment building, whose residents seem locked in various states of depression, madness, inebriation or desperation.  There are violent motifs, several images of fire and guns, and a scene in which a young woman is pushed into a filthy puddle at least 20 times… every time stubbornly getting back on her feet to confront her attackers.  Some figures wander around, looking very dejected, as if searching for meaning… any meaning at all.  The corridor of the building is often seen, perhaps meant to evoke a state of transition or limbo.  A corridor is neither here nor there, it’s a space between the spaces we actually want to be in.  Knowing that Bartas’s films are particularly concerned with the problems and trauma of Lithuanian society, the metaphor is clear.

However, the meaning of many of the scenes and images eluded me and left me frustrated.  I felt I lacked the “mad skillz” to decode what I was seeing, and at times I wished there was a menu I could go into and change the difficulty level to “Novice”.  Is this a more impenetrable movie than the others by Bartas I’ve seen, or are my cinematic faculties getting rusty?  I could pick up on the sorrowful mood, but much of the significance was lost on me.  Rating: Good (72)


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Cairo Time

Posted by martinteller on September 12, 2014

Juliette (Patricia Clarkson) has just landed in Cairo.  She’s there to rendezvous for a vacation with her husband Mark (Tom McCamus), a UN organizer of refugee camps.  But Mark isn’t there.  Mark is held up with work in Gaza, and in his place he sends Tareq (Alexander Siddig), a former associate who now runs a café… that serves “the best coffee in the world”.  Juliette bides her time in the hotel room until she can’t stand it anymore and goes exploring the streets of Cairo.  It isn’t long before she lands in Tareq’s café and the two occupy their time together, a passion slowly building between them.

The movie reminded me of something, and I’m still not sure I can put my finger on it.  Certainly it’s got similarities with Lost in Translation.  I also detected a bit of an Antonioni influence, especially in the first half as Juliette’s isolated outsider status is emphasized.  A scene where a mob of admiring men gathers behind her as she walks down the street recalls a similar event with Monica Vitti in L’Avventura.  Or perhaps the basic construct is familiar: a woman with an unavailable husband finds comfort and the stirrings of romance in an exotic, dashing new man.

But this isn’t a steamy Harlequin novel.  Director Ruba Nadda shows restraint, allowing much of the emotion to be communicated in small gestures and brief glances rather than passionate smooches and longing leers (or heaven forbid, gauzy curtains billowing around a cheesy display of lovemaking).  Clarkson and Siddig are both in excellent form, delivering nuanced performances.  Their chemistry is felt by the viewer, and nothing that happens feels especially forced or contrived.  As far as filmic romances go, theirs is quite natural and believable.  I can’t reveal much without “spoiling” things, but their potentially dangerous feelings seem to have mostly positive influences.  Tareq is definitely a charmer, though not in an overtly flashy way.  There’s a subtlety and grace to Siddig’s performance.  Juliette comes off as too naïve in places, but there’s a hint that she’s puffing up her image as a serious journalist a little.  I wonder if perhaps the character is not as savvy as she’d like everyone else to believe.  Or perhaps it’s a bit of somewhat lazy writing, making her too much the helpless outsider to help drive her towards Tareq.  Either way, Clarkson is eminently watchable, wonderful at using her face.

I know little about Nadda.  She’s from Montreal, and according to Wikipedia her father is Syrian and her mother is Palestinian.  Perhaps at some point she visited the Middle East and particularly fell for Cairo.  The film makes for a gorgeous love letter to the city.  There is a glimpse of the dingy, bustling Cairo as depicted by Youssef Chanine in one of my favorites, Cairo Station.  But what Nadda emphasizes is the wondrous colors, majestic structures, vibrant fabrics and palpable sense of history.  It’s a stunningly beautiful film, with lovely compositions by Luc Montpellier (whose work on Guy Maddin’s delirious The Saddest Music in the World should be enough to establish his cred as a cinematographer).  The movie does not pretend to get down to the nitty-gritty of the “real” Cairo (although an incident on the road to Gaza acknowledges the existence of political strife).  It’s Cairo through the eyes of a tourist, which is what Juliette is.  If the movie oohs and aahs at the scenery, there’s certainly a lot that’s ooh-worthy and aah-worthy.

It takes patience to get settled into this movie, it doesn’t cater to a restless audience.  And it took me quite a bit of reflection to figure out where it sat with me, and whenever a movie makes me toss it around in my mind for a while, I view that as a positive.  And in the end I think the positives win the day.  Rating: Very Good (82)


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Shotgun Stories

Posted by martinteller on September 12, 2014

Three brothers living in small town Arkansas.  Son (Michael Shannon) works at a fish farm, and his gambling problem has chased away his wife Annie (Glenda Pannell), who took their boy Carter with her.  Kid (Barlow Jacobs) works with Son, and moves into his house after Annie departs.  Youngest brother Boy (Douglas Ligon) coaches basketball to kids and lives in his van.  They are the Hayes brothers, but they’re not the only ones.  Their abusive father abandoned them, cleaned up his act, “found” Jesus and started a new, middle-class family with four sons: Mark (Travis Smith), Cleaman (Michael Abbott Jr.), Stephen (Lynnsee Provence) and John (David Rhodes).  Old man Hayes dies, and the black sheep brothers show up at the funeral, where Son speaks his mind about what kind of man he really was.  Mark is enraged, and a feud is born.

I wasn’t at all surprised to see David Gordon Green had a producer credit on this film, the debut by Jeff Nichols.  The movie occupies a setting and a tone reminiscent of Green’s first two features, George Washington and All the Real Girls.  It’s a particular take on Southern America that steers clear of condescending stereotypes while still acknowledging the issues of class and poverty.  Son isn’t a stupid man, but he’s born to unfortunate circumstances.  Even his name — like the names of his brothers — is an indication that the world will always look down on him.  They’ll tell lurid stories about the shotgun scars on his back without bothering to ask him the real truth behind them (with welcome restraint, Nichols only hints at their origin).

The movie builds gently, allowing us to get comfortable with these characters (before and even in between moments of violence and tension, there is some humor).  Less time is spent with the other group of Hayes boys, but we feel some of their pain too.  By gradually increasing the stakes in this duel, the consequences are more deeply tragic and wasteful.  My only quibble is that at one point Son takes an action that doesn’t feel like the Son I’ve come to know.  I don’t mean to say it’s wildly out of character.  It could certainly be explained as a moment of weakness or frustration, or an inability to negate the hate that’s been drilled into him by his mother.  I just think there could have been a little something extra to convince me.

It’s a small complaint.  The film melds quiet beauty (the score by Ben Nichols — Jeff’s brother and member of the band Lucero — is lovely and very appropriate for the material) with creeping dread, evoking sympathy for this trio of struggling brothers while giving us permission to wince at their errors in judgment.  Growth does occur, but it comes at too high a cost.  Shannon is a talent to be reckoned with, and although none of the actors are as impressive, it’s a fine cast.  Following this up with Take Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols has established a superb track record.  Apparently his next project has a sci-fi angle, it will be interesting to see him strike out into new territory.  Rating: Very Good (84)


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Stop Making Sense (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on September 12, 2014

It’s about time I wrote a proper review of Stop Making Sense.  I’ve written about it three times before, but always just a brief paragraph.  It deserves more than that, especially as a film that has been in my top 100 since I started making that list.  I was surprised to see that my last viewing was some 5 years ago.  It feels like I saw it last year, but perhaps that’s because the movie is like part of my DNA.  There are films you like and films you love… and then there are films you LOVE, films that give and give and give like a doting mother with a bottomless bowl of chicken soup.  We cherish our favorite films like precious memories that we can return to again and again to provide us with comfort.  They live inside us afterwards, or maybe they surround us like a warm haze or a cozy blanket.

But maybe I should stop gushing and using sloppy metaphors.  To describe what the movie is and what makes it great, perhaps I’ll save myself some time and condense some comments from my previous mini-reviews.  There’s no interviews, no behind-the-scenes footage, no fans, no animation, no fantasy sequences.  Just 9 musicians and their instruments, a floor lamp, and a big suit.  With these sparse tools, Demme and Byrne crafted the finest performance film I’ve ever seen.  There’s a reason this movie played every weekend for 2 years at the Fine Arts Theater in Chicago… it’s engaging, energetic, and completely infectious.  Through variations in lighting, staging and dance, they manage to give every song a distinct visual feel.  The personalities of the band members shine through, and all involved seem to be having tremendous fun.  It’s rare for a concert movie to contain so many memorable moments.

Well, that was easy.  Nothing like recycling.  But what else can I add?  I left out my nitpicks, which are not negligible but we love our favorite films the way we love our families… we accept them as they are, flaws and all.  Is it annoying that Chris Frantz says “Check it out!” like five times during the “Genius of Love” performance?  Of course it is, but he’s still a huggable teddy bear with an adorable grin on his face (it’s cute to catch Tina Weymouth — his wife — looking back and smiling at him).

The way the film builds is really something.  It starts with the barest simplicity, just Byrne and a guitar and a boombox on an empty stage.  And with each successive song, more elements are brought in and it starts to become a production.  It would be stretching the truth to claim that a story is being told, but there is a development of mood.  Eventually the tone gets stranger and less personal, and in a way the movie lures us down the rabbit hole.  After the vigorous calisthenics of “Life During Wartime”, things start getting a little out there with the enigmatic Big Brother-esque screen projections of “Making Flippy Floppy”.  There are dark moments, like Byrne’s fascist bayou spokesman of “Swamp” or the faces distorted by shadow in “What a Day That Was”.  Then there is a moment of rest, albeit one in a surreal, lamp-lit environment.  Is there a sweeter lullaby than “This Must Be the Place”?  Not to me, there isn’t, nor is there a catchier one.  “Never for money/Always for love/Cover up and say goodnight”.

But it’s only a breather because here comes the jittery, self-destructive paranoia of “Once in a Lifetime”, a disorienting change with “Genius of Love” and then “Girlfriend is Better” and the otherworldly image of The Big Suit, the film’s most iconic image. It’s an outfit that evokes Japanese Noh theater, comments on corporate society, and looks really funny when you dance in it.  Jonathan Demme and Talking Heads take us through a bizarre tunnel and guide us through to the other side.  After “Take Me to the River”, we’ve all gone through a baptism of sorts, with Byrne our oddball, anxious messiah, and our comrades dance in the aisles, overcome with rapture.  Reborn through music.  Music that’s seriously, seriously good.

I was saying to my fiancée the other day that I couldn’t think of any band or artist that could come through town that I’d simply have to see.  I take that back.  If Byrne were to reunite with Franz, Weymouth and Harrison, I’d be there.  Dancing in the aisles.  I’m still waiting…. I’m still waiting….  Rating: Masterpiece (98)


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a couple more quick shots

Posted by martinteller on September 11, 2014

Watched Midnight Run for the umpteenth time.  Action/comedies aren’t generally my bag, but with my admittedly limited knowledge of the genre, I’m gonna say this is the best example.  There’s really nothing here that annoys me, I don’t know if DeNiro or Grodin has ever been funnier.  Fantastic support from Dennis Farina, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton and Joey Pants.  It’s a long movie but things are kept interesting by continually reconfiguring the situation and not dragging out any particular scenario to the point of tedium.  There is a distinct lack of female characters (Jack’s estranged wife and daughter show up for about 4 minutes) but what are you gonna do?  Rating: Great (91)

Three to Tango isn’t great, but it’s certainly not as bad as you might expect.  There are some cringe-worthy gay gags, but attitudes have changed a lot since 1999 so it’s fairly progressive for its time.  It’s a shame Matthew Perry never really got any good movie roles, because I can’t help liking the guy.  He’s got a Keaton-esque quality… I’m talking Michael, not Buster.  He’s got a few pretty funny moments here, and Oliver Platt is enjoyable as usual.  Still, despite the sexual identity politics, this is a really formulaic and predictable romcom.  There’s even a Slow Clap scene, one of the worst and least earned I’ve ever seen.  I really have a hard time with plots that revolve around someone not saying the thing that needs to be said (and people not listening when he tries to).  I also have a hard time accepting movie romances that are built on a history of deception.  Rating: Poor (53)

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Posted by martinteller on September 10, 2014

In Sepet, writer/director Yasmin Ahmad told the semi-autobiographical tale of Orket, a Malay teenager who falls in love with a Chinese boy.  In Gubra, we see Orket and her family 7 years later, with the girl now married to a man named Arif.  This conclusion of the “Orket trilogy” goes back to when she’s 10 years old.  She meets Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip), a 12-year-old new arrival, living with his aunt Senah (Mislina Mustaffa) and brother Hussein (Salehuddin Abu Bakar).  Mukshin’s family is fractured due to an abusive father, which weighs heavily on the angry Hussein.  Mukhsin gains Orket’s favor when he invites the tomboy to participate in sport, and the two become fast friends… and feel the flowerings of first love.  But a betrayal drives a rift between them.

I’m not going to say a lot about this.  I don’t recommend seeing it without seeing the other two first, and if you have seen the other two, you’re probably already interested in completing the trilogy.  This is the gentlest of the three films.  Although there is a dark moment or two, it carries along breezily in a series of lovely anecdotes that reveal great characters with compassion.  The only returning cast member is Adibah Noor as Yam, although Rozie Rashid from Gubra returns, in a role that may or may not be Temah.  Sharifah Amani would have been clearly too old to pass as little Orket, but she hands off the role to her real-life little sister Sharifah Aryana, while older sister Sharifah Aleya plays the part of the mother.  Despite the different actors, the chemistry among the family is as strong as ever.  There’s a sexual charge to the delightful playfulness between mother and father, and the movie is highlighted with several charming comedic scenes.

Ahmad once again makes great use of music, particularly Nina Simone’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” in two scenes, linking cozy familial warmth with romantic yearning.  The cinematography is bright and showcases the lush landscape.  As always, there is some emphasis on intercultural relationships in Malaysian society, though it seems to be less in the forefront this time as Ahmad focuses more on the personal and nostalgic.  The ending is incredibly touching and left me in tears, followed by a beautiful coda that blurs the line between reality and cinema.  A sweet ending to a very dear trilogy.  Rating: Very Good (88)


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