Sunday, August 16, 2009

Yasmin Ahmad's 'Talentime' back on the silver screen!

Catch Talentime at GSC MidValley, most TGV's and Cineleisure Damansara while it's still being screened!

After being dealt with news of Yasmin Ahmad's death, I was hoping that her contributions to the country were significant enough to warrant the re-screening of her works. The following weekend, there was a tribute shown on TV3 which featured the airing of "Mukhsin" (which sadly, I couldn't catch due to being out on that night). Judging from how Malaysian media 'loved' her, I assumed that the tribute was all that the fans were going to get.

Fortunately enough, the cinema companies have decided (for reasons monetary or otherwise) to re-screen her final full length work, "Talentime". I was elated upon hearing that news from a friend, as I have only seen two of her six full length works (Sepet and Gubra). And God knows how elusive her films can be. If it isn't the Censorship Board preventing access to it, it's the scarcity of obtaining her movies in hard copy.
*Can someone tell me please, where do I buy Yasmin Ahmad films on DVD/VCD/Whatever?*

Anyway, I managed to catch the movie with my friend in TGV 1-Utama this afternoon. Disappointingly, the cinema was only 30% full. I am not sure of the reason for the poor response. Perhaps the movie-going masses aren't that interested, or maybe publicity was lacking- I wouldn't have known about this if it wasn't for my friend. Read nothing about this in the papers either.

The movie was very good, replete with Yasmin Ahmad's winning signature style. Sentimental, romantic locations, charming characters, non-stereotypical characters, political and social commentary.

Once again, Yasmin succeeds in presenting Ipoh as an unbelievably charming town. Being her hometown, perhaps her personal attachment to the place lends all her shooting locations with a sense of nostalgia. As more and more Malaysian towns start to appear frighteningly similar in the vein of generic suburbia, all of Talentime's locations (Anderson school with its colonial architecture and imposing pine trees, Mahesh's house, Melur's house,even the hospital) display character that is increasingly difficult to find.

In the beginning of the movie, I didn't enjoy it too much because of the not-too-funny light hearted scenes. This is of course not anyone's fault, for the many of the other characters may be played by amateurs, contributing to some slightly missed comic moments.

But as the movie progressed, the beauty of the story had overcome all the minor gripes I had been having. The characters and the story was engaging, and the emotions even more overpowering. At the end of the story, I began to realise how charming each character of the movie was.

Idealistic? Perhaps. But so what? How else does one successfully push the envelope for change, if not by being idealistic?
The sentiments shown by Mahesh to Melur may seem cliche and tacky to some self-professed 'mature adults', but to me it was simply pure and honest love.
The relationship Hafiz had with his mother was acted out so genuinely and beautifully, and the final scene was simply heart-wrenching. The actor who played Hafiz is the same kid who played Mukhsin several years ago, and he played both characters excellently.

Still, as much as I loved her works, I had a few things to pick on. Her movies tend to include scenes that are more likely to happen in the perfect world than in real life. There was a scene in 'Gubra' that I found unrealistic, whereby Orked's husband gives a quirky introduction of all his eccentric family members to the staff nurse in charge of Orked's ill father. Similarly in Talentime I found a tad idealistic scene whereby (!SPOILER WARNING!) Melur's dad (Harith Iskandar) started goofing around at dinnertime, resulting with the whole family (including wife) engaged in a 'scrum' at the floor of the dining room.

And quintessential to her storytelling is the inclusion of scenes or characters that challenge Malaysian society stereotypes. One instance was (!SPOILER WARNING!) the character of Mei Ling, the Chinese-Muslim housemaid who can also play Debussy on the piano.

One thing I loved tho, was the music. Kudos to Pete Teo for the beautiful songs in the film, "Angel" and "I Go". No other lyrics or music could have suited the movie better.

Here is the beautifully sung, "I Go" by Aizat.

A beautiful movie to the end, but it was when my friend mentioned, "Too bad there isn't going to be a sequel to this" that I am struck again with the realisation that this was her final work that we could have the pleasure of seeing. Am not sure if anyone is going to finish her Malaysia-Japan collaboration "Wasurenagusa".

Thanks again to the local cinemas for this possibly final opportunity to watch a Yasmin Ahmad film in the cinema.

But most importantly, thank you Yasmin for blessing Malaysians with your idealistic views about Malaysians and about love.

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