Friday, August 28, 2009

Love is Contagious

A Film Review;
MUKHSIN written and directed by Yasmin Ahmad (Grand Brilliance & MHz Films, 2006, 95 min)

Since this is the last Pulp Friction column, we will celebrate by doing something different! And so the text we will discuss is a film rather than a book.

My memories of Mukhsin are inextricably linked with the circumstances in which I first saw it. It was at the Berlin International Film Festival 2007, a full house with almost a thousand people.

When it started, it was safe to say that most people there had no image of Malaysia. But when it ended, the applause went on for over five minutes. I wasn’t involved in the making of the film. But if the pride I felt at that moment could be bottled and sold, it would be the most potent power drink ever.

Mukhsin is deceptively simple and functions as a fable about the end of innocence. We follow two kids, the 10-year old Orked and the slightly older Mukhsin, as they spend a few weeks together. You can almost say it’s summer if Malaysia didn’t have summer all year round. The enveloping warmth is palpable; the characters are framed in an almost Edenic natural environment.

It’s puppy love, which the Malays here would call monkey love. But Mukhsin is also ‘about’ many other things without being unduly didactic: class, faith, gender, race, little cruelties and redemptive sympathies. Its serene humanism remembers not only the raw pull of emotion but the cheeky thrill of naughtiness.

Any Eden will have snakes. Sour notes are provided by Mukhsin’s bitter older brother, and Orked’s family’s mean-spirited neighbour. Everyone is created by a home environment, and we get enough glimpses of how the attitudes of these killjoys were created. A stand is taken against such life-denying carping, but it’s done with graceful ease.

The director’s favourite scene is where Orked’s precocious and relatively privileged family dance to a record, while Mukhsin, standing outside their house, looks in on them. He is happy for them but also envious, since his own family isn’t nearly as harmonious.

My own favourite, which is an odd choice, would be where Orked’s maid explains how she makes ais krim Malaysia. Basically, you can’t appreciate the sweet unless you also have the bitter. It is the director’s storytelling credo, but presented with such blithe nonchalance that you smile rather than feel lectured to.

Also in that scene, the actress stumbles on a line but then covers it up by saying she’s nervous at getting a visitor! This is wonderful. Other filmmakers would have yelled “Cut!” But by using that take, the film becomes all the more transparent and charming. You can’t celebrate humanity without accepting that we all flub once in a while; it’s how you bounce back that counts.

The film has a supple quality; it sculpts with light and time. Which makes it even more tragic that the official Malaysian DVD is of such low visual quality. (A much better DVD was apparently released in The Netherlands, and I’m sure other countries will follow suit).

This film is, in the order of release, the fourth in the ‘Orked quartet’ that began with the made-for-TV Rabun three years earlier, followed by Sepet and Gubra. But in terms of the character’s chronology, it comes first. It also ends with the director’s own voice-over (the only time we hear it in the quartet), wishing that Mukhsin found his own love, too. In the end, fact and fiction, reality and celluloid dreams, immediacy and nostalgia, all blend together.

Away from the cold and wet Berlin weather on that day, Mukhsin had me thinking warm thoughts. And I was surely not the only one.

It wasn’t an entirely ‘happy’ ending: Mukhsin, if he were not careful, might also be consumed by the anger and despair that affected his brother. The crucial factor would be whether he was open to the love that exists all around him, for him, if he would only realise it. This love takes on a divine quality with the theme song Hujan, where (seemingly unusually for a story not set among farmers), rain is proof of blessing.

And blessings indeed can come in many forms, and sometimes from the most unexpected people. The works of Yasmin Ahmad will be viewed and discussed for as long as we hunger for an inviting place called home. Ameen.

My favourite Spielberg memory

Reading Tom Shone's latest post on his favourite Spielberg shot got me hurtling down memory lane, a process that always involves a few bumps and bruises.

My favourite Spielberg memory was when Steve (good old Steve!) turned to me at the Polo Lounge and opened his mouth and said, "Excuse me, this seat is taken. Could you bugger off?"

No, I kid.

My favourite Spielberg memory was watching the midnight Jurassic Park at the Rex cinema in KL, which has since been turned into a backpacker lodge. It was indeed the scene where a rampaging dino (of some kind or other) is chasing people who were in the vehicle with a rear-view mirror. The shots kept alternating between the people and the creature. So when we saw the panicky people, nobody make a sound. (Why should we?) But when we saw the creature, the whole hall screamed. It got to a point when there was a sudden cut to ... something not very scary, but a lone person in the hall screamed anyway. And then a selamba voice nearby was heard: "Aiyoh, lambat pick-up la." And then the whole hall laughed and the rest of the film turned into something comedic, which is something ol' Steve (good old Steve!) would surely have not disapproved of.

Erm, OK. End of flashback. Carry on with your lives.


Aku boleh masak sayur sambil goreng ikan sambil tanak nasi sambil cuci pinggan sambil intai-intai tivi sambil menyanyi-nyanyi sambil bercakap dengan kucing-kucing sambil susun makanan kering dalam kabinet dapur.


Aku boleh menaip surat rasmi sambil chatting sambil dengar lagu sambil sembang-sembang dengan kawan sambil mengunyah kerepek pedas sambil jawab telefon sambil menulis sesuatu pada helaian nota berwarna kuning.

Juga multitasking.

Namun, bila fikiran aku tertumpu kepada sesuatu perkara... aku lupa untuk multitasking. Aku gemar berbaring dengan kedua-dua tangan di bawah kepala sambil tenung siling hingga tembus merentasi langit ke tujuh, mungkin (heh). Fikir, fikir dan fikir....

Justeru, blog aku ini terabai sebegini. Maaf, ya... Nanti, bila otak aku sudah boleh beradaptasi dengan perkara baru dalam hidup aku ini, aku menulis kembali ya...

*Sengih dari telinga ke telinga*

Life Lately.

Our weekend turned 360 degrees. All of us planned to go to Subang Jaya yesterday and stay overnight at my cousin’s house because Danial is supposed to play soccer at the Shah Alam Stadium today!

Since nobody else was going to KL, I canceled my participation at NST as well. It turned out to be a good change of plan because I had the opportunity to do all the cleaning that I wanted to do.

I will try to squeeze in an appointment tomorrow. Can't wait.

The, Fasting Month.

I guess that yesterday is the last day I get to go Oldtowning in broad daylight, without having to wear any disguises. At least until a month from now. And I didn't even went Oldtowning. I spent the day hanging around my Opah's house. Until my mum came by later and I took off with her. So yeah I got to know my Opah more and more with every visit. One thing I just found out is, Opah ada 11 siblings, sekian terima kasih. The first thing she said when I came to her house was "Eh kamu dah botak dah?" haha okay fine Opah, fine.

So anyways, yesterday I went out with the whole family to get some dokong, langsat and satay for sahur. My dad and his chipsmore family spirit, tiba tiba Semua kena ikut, cepat pergi tukar baju senonoh sikit. At times he just disappears. Like this morning he was all over my bedroom door knocking like Jeniffer Love Hewwit in I Know What You Did Last Summer when she was chased by that Hook-hand Guy, she went to the store and knock on the door non-stop. Kalau tak tengok lagi movie tu, pergi download. And I know my dad was not being chased by anything, bulan puasa kan hantu semua kena ikat? Then after I opened the door dia suruh mandi siap, bila dah mandi semua entah mana dia pergi. Lepas tu tiba-tiba terpikir nak update blog. So here I am dengan muka mengantuk tapi masih cool.

Honestly, its been like 3 years or more since I last bersahur on the first day of fasting, since boarding school, I never bothered to wake up for sahur. Lapar gila kot puasa tanpa sahur. But yeah, sleep is golden at those times, lagipun bangun pagi buta untuk makan MAKANAN DEWAN MAKAN TU? *facial expression as if sedang memandang zebra tengah mengawan, geli kan* Nowadays tak cukup tidur pun still boleh siapkan sepuluh set Sudoku. Sumpah.

My mum and dad gelak gila when he said "This girl is sort of the Jessica Alba of the University, I've had a crush for like a year already" Well, what made me laugh most was Eh sejak bila abah pandai nak dengar ni? Sebelum nih je hahaha dah maju abah ni (gaya mengusap janggut)