Review 27 Steps of May (2019)

Raihaanun delivers a stark and raw yet sterling performance to become the soul of this powerful story about sexual trauma.

Director Ravi Bharwani and writer, Rayya Makarim, bring about the face of sexual trauma in the stark yet riveting 27 Steps of May. Released on the same day as Indonesia’s Women’s March, the story trots out an unapologetic study of a tragedy against humanity, especially women, and its aftermath. The message it carries is as timely and timeless as the issue itself; it’s powerful, important and urgent.

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Review Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku / Memories of My Body (2019)

Also titled as Memories of My Body, Garin’s Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku presents a melancholy tale of mysticism, philosophy and sensualism about human body through a gender variant dancer.

Long-time, eclectic Indonesian director, Garin Nugroho, returns with a meditative picture, Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku (also known as Memories of My Body), about gender and the mysticism of human body. His new film, inspired by the harsh life of Japan-based Indonesian dancer, Rianto, and many other traditional dancers living in the rural area of Java, is not only visually, contextually, subtextually and substantially rich, but it’s also thought-provoking.

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Review Ave Maryam (2019)

Beyond the beautifully staged and shot pictures, Ave Maryam is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punchline.‬ Rich with subtexts; but modest, if not poor, with narrative impact.

Underneath the beautiful cinematography and poetic, rare dialogues, Ertanto Robby Soediskam’s Ave Maryam (a more clinical title compared to its metaphorical working title, ‘Salt is Leaving the Sea’) is a black comedy with Catholic guilt as the punch-line. The guilt is the love manifested in four unique forms of love found in the Bible to contradict each other. All the burden of love is the cross that Sister Maryam (Maudy Koesnaedi, profoundly) has to bear in her via dolorosa of life.

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Review Sunyi (2019)

Sunyi showcases most of the director’s style and jump-scares without ever worrying about the story. It’s pretty basic—in terms of story and scares, after all.

Awi Suryadi has become a legit name in Indonesian horror cinema. His three recent horrors (Danur, Danur 2: Maddah, Asih; dubbed as Danur universe) were all blockbuster hits with mixed to negative reviews condemning his over-abuse of cinematic style (including the never-ending Duch tilts) that borrows from famous horror auteurs, jump-scares with blatant sound effects, and, mostly, weak scripts. His recent venture, Sunyi, is a loose adaptation of the 1998 South Korean horror blockbuster, Whispering Corridors—a horror which isn’t necessarily needing an adaptation.

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Review Mantan Manten (2019)

It’s flawed, but Mantan Manten manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual take on Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

Farishad Latjuba’s Mantan Manten could easily slip into a maudlin melodrama or simply a mess given its convoluted, ambitious yet heartbreaking premise. The title (literally meaning: former bride) does not suggest otherwise and we know pretty well how romance movies easily sugar-coats tragedy to push an overemotional haul. And yet, Mantan Manten caught me off guard when it acknowledges the flaws and manages to deliver an emotionally gripping look on letting go of love lost from an unusual view of Javanese matrimony tradition.‬

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Review My Stupid Boss 2 (2019)

While Reza Rahadian’s performance is such a crown jewel, My Stupid Boss 2 still feels like a compilation of comedy sketch that only partially work.

In 2016, My Stupid Boss was a national box office hit in Indonesia – scoring more than 3,000,000 admissions. Helmed by versatile Indonesian director, Upi Avianto, the oddball comedy adapted from best-selling memoir by Chaos@work received mixed reception upon release. Major praises went to Reza Rahadian who garnered several awards and accolades for his portrayal of the titular goofy boss called Mr. Bossman. Meanwhile, the movie was also hardly criticized for the incoherent plot and the tonal mess.

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Review Yowis Ben 2 (2019)

Following up the sleeper hit with an exhilarating sociolinguistic discourse, Yowis Ben 2 can still be funny even when the acting department’s a bit lousy and the narrative messy.

In 2018, Yowis Ben prevailed against the odd condemning its segmented nature—using regional language (Javanese) with a more obscure dialect (Malangnese) and came in as a profitable sleeper-hit (almost hitting a million viewers during its theatrical run). While the use of particular dialects is not a new thing in Indonesian cinema, especially in arthouse community; the fact that it was a mogul-produced blockbuster creates a new powerful surge in the industry (note that a year earlier, the very industry was caught unprepared by another sleeper-hit, Uang Panai, a Makassar-bound production). Given the financial success and warm response from general viewers, it is not surprising that an immediate sequel is produced in no time, hence Yowis Ben 2, an unnecessary yet still tremendously hilarious sequel.

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