Review Kafir (2018)

Kafir is a well-crafted horror of local occultism culminating in visceral, over-the-top payback.

Review Kafir (2018): After the gruesome death of the father, a family is plagued by mysterious atrocities in amidst of overwhelming grieves and senses of isolation. Simple as it may sound, Kafir (subtitled ‘Bersekutu dengan Setan’, trans. ‘selling one’s soul to the devil’) is surprisingly delivering an above-average performance among Indonesian new-wave horrors.

In Kafir, the terror comes when the recently widowed Sri (Putri Ayudya, delivering one of the best horror performances in the recent years) begins to believe that an insidious force is preying on her family. Starting off with her husband (Teddy Syah), the malicious energy she allegedly guesses as a result of ‘santet’—a form of evil spell in local occultism—gets enraged in endangering her and her two children (Rangga Azof and Nadya Karina). From there, Kafir presents downright (while not consistently) terrors in whatever forms it can have (including in its tackiest form, to be honestly speaking). Continue reading “Review Kafir (2018)”

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Review Buffalo Boys (2018)

Buffalo Boys rides a furious, highly-decorated buffalo in an ambitious blockbuster, but the road is too bumpy for even the most furious buffalo.

Movie review Buffalo Boys (2018): Mike Wiluan’s directorial debut, Buffalo Boys, breathes the same air as Kim Jee-won’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird in the sense that both brings out Wild West virtues in Far-East settings. If the latter transposes cowboy bonanza into ol’ time Manchurian landscape, the former introduces Western tropes to fictionalized Dutch-occupied Indonesia setting. It’s a full-fledged, faux-historical Western fantasy where English-speaking Dutch colonialism recreates diabolical Southern-slavery as if it’s American Civil War period.

The plot revolves around a straightforward homecoming-slash-revenge mission carried by the titular boys—Jamar (Ario Bayu) and Suwo (Yoshi Sudarso). When their parent and their homeland perished during Dutch’s assaults, the boys were brought into exile to the real Wild West by their uncle, Arana (Tio Pakusadewo). Once the boys are physically and mentally ready, Arana brings them back to the land of the dead, to settle the score once and for all. At least, that’s the plan.

With stunning production value—including unique mix-and-match of architecture, costumes and comic characters making peculiar blend of Indonesian Western. For what it looks, Buffalo Boys is undoubtedly an ambitious Indonesian blockbuster (among the first in its ranks). The premise, the character designs (that also counts a troupe of over-the-top outlaws) and the local twist of American cowboy—hence the title—suggest that the film is directly translated from video games or comic books. Please note that, while being similarly branded as ‘Western’, Buffalo Boys is in different hemisphere as Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts). When the latter is a more grounded arthouse rendition of Western spirit, the former literally imports the Western blockbuster style and mixes it with local wisdom. As reflected in the protagonists’ background,  it isn’t a simply-inspired-by-Western-movie product, it is the Western product through and through. Continue reading “Review Buffalo Boys (2018)”

Satu Hari Nanti (2017) – Review

The ABCD of Love is muddled with convoluted plot and loose threads.

Review: Salman Aristo’s directorial effort, Satu Hari Nanti, is a complicated story about four Indonesian folks tangled in a love rectangle on a foreign land. Dubbed on-screen as “the ABCD of Love” (a coined term which somehow foreshadows the whole conflict) with wide references ranging from Hamlet to Woody Allen, and from Anthony Bourdain to Franz Kafka, the film is well-intentioned; but, when it comes to presentation, only one thing comes up to mind: muddled.

Set under the elegant sky of Switzerland, Satu Hari Nanti is like a box of interaction between the film’s four main characters only. Alya (Adinia Wirasti), a chocolatier student, is in the midst of desperate romance with Bima (Deva Mahenra), a musician bumping from one café to another. While Chorina (Ayushita), a hotelier, is trying to survive in a bumpy relationship with a tour guide, Din (Ringgo Agus Rahman). Four friends, two couples in a foreign land; two broken relationships try to make amend; there’s where each of them begins to cross the line between friendship and romance. Alya begins to find solace in Din; and Bima begins to find one in Chorina; hence, the fore-mentioned “ABCD of Love.” Notice that each character’s name starts with letters that make the reference to understandable, plot-wise. Continue reading “Satu Hari Nanti (2017) – Review”

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts / Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (2017) – Review

In a cruel world, a widow refuses to surrender & decides to fight back against patriarchal tyranny in a four-act-structure story.

Review: In a cruel world without favor for women, Marlina (Marsha Timothy) refuses to surrender and be a victim; she, instead, embraces her inner strength and decides to fight back against patriarchal tyranny.

Exquisite, powerful and poignant, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak), is a tale of empowerment wrapped as a Far-East ‘Western’ revenge thriller with strong femme fatale to root for. It’s a quintessential work for Indonesian female director, Mouly Surya, whose previous works (fiksi. and What They Don’t Talk about When They Talk about Love) revolves around determined female characters, too. Continue reading “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts / Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak (2017) – Review”

Hujan Bulan Juni (2017) – Review: A less-narrative visual poetry

Review: Hujan Bulan Juni (literally ‘June’s Rain), an adaptation of Sapardi Djoko Damono’s poetic novel, presents a complicated yet colorful romance thread between two lecturers. There are lots more than modest love story and exchanging of poems in the plot; however, this adaptation decides to present it more like a visual poem than a narrative apparatus.

It’s a grown-up love story about hesitation and love in the intersection of past and future. Pingkan (Veloxe Vexia), a Japanese Literature lecturer, will go to Japan for further studies; yet, before leaving, Sarwono (Adipati Dolken), an Anthropology lecturer and her lover, asks her to accompany him for the university affairs in Manado, Pingkan’s hometown. Unbeknownst to them, fear of Pingkan’s intersecting past and future engulfs Sarwono. Through poems, Sarwono attempts to warn his lover; and through poems, Pingkan attempts to convince her lover. Continue reading “Hujan Bulan Juni (2017) – Review: A less-narrative visual poetry”

Posesif (2017) – Review: A juggernaut of teenage romance

Review: This is Lala’s first love; yet, Yudhis wants it to be their forever. That’s how Posesif abridges its powerful content. It’s a high-school meet-cute that blossoms, escalates, grows as quickly as it spirals out of control. It’s a portrayal of how love is addressed as a tool to possess and how immaturity is outdoing the typical puppy love tropes and ending up in a chain of abusive relationship.

Even in his most mainstream tenure, Edwin (Blind Pigs Who Wants to Fly, Postcards from Zoo) can still channel his arthouse virtuoso and turn a sub-genre considered as ‘cheesy’ to a poignant, insightful observation of toxic teenage relationship. Under his direction upon Gina S. Noer’s script, coming-of-age relationship is depicted as an acrimonious force, which haunts both parties, in the name of love. Continue reading “Posesif (2017) – Review: A juggernaut of teenage romance”