Saturday, October 21, 2006

RAIN DOGS: Ho...Hum...

RAIN DOGS (Malaysian drama in Cantonese)
Cast: Kuan Choon Wai, Liu Wai Hung, Yasmin Ahmad, Pete Teo, Chua Thien See and Lee Yoke Lan
Director: Ho Yuhang
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

The poster
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Like many local Indie films of today, Rain Dogs requires lots of patience and indulgence on the part of the audience. Camera-work is sluggish, the narrative meanders at a lethargic and sometimes irritating pace, and we have to tolerate a whole lot of irrelevant and pointless sequences, shot ostensibly to beef up the footage.
Indeed, to the foreigners, Ho Yuhang's coming-of-age drama may offer insights into a youth's angst in a multi-cultural Malaysian context. It captures scenes and sights that foreign eyes may find fascinating. This may explain the many accolades heaped upon Rain Dogs at the international film festivals abroad. However, if you are a local, you would soon realise that what is happening on-screen is just what is happening outside our window: scenes of life in Malaysia.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Rain Dogs is the story of 19-year-old Tung (Kuan Choon Wai), a youth from an unidentified village in Malaysia, who journeys to Kuala Lumpur to visit his elder brother Hong (Cheung Wing Hong). This turns out to be some sort of 'baptism of fire' for our protagonist as he is robbed right smack in his cheap hotel room; sees his brother getting involved with thugs working for a bookie, and is duly sent home by bus a few days later.
More 'dark clouds' and 'rain' follow: Tung gets news of Hong's death in a snooker-room brawl; he is presented with a chance for revenge by his brother's buddies; and, back home, he has to wrestle with his mother's (Lee Yoke Lan) affair with a deadbeat boyfriend. Now, the dispassionate Tung is more of a spectator than a doer. His only passion in life is fishing. Faced with such problems, Tung does what he does best: Escape. He runs off to his uncle's (Hong Kong drama star Liu Wai Hung) place where his loving aunt (Yasmin Ahmad, speaking awkward Cantonese) dotes on their primary school son. Here, Tung gets a chance for a 'romantic interlude' with two pretty sisters (which he does nothing about) and another 'baptism of fire' involving a gun.

HIGHLIGHTS: Oh yes, parts of the movie play to the strains of Odetta's Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child which helps to set the mood of Tung's family background, except that Tung is fatherless, instead of motherless.

LOWLIGHTS: Halfway through, we would have had enough of the passive Tung who seems unable to make any headway with anyone or anything in his life. Worse, the movie gets even more restless and intolerable as director Ho Yuhang throws in scenes of fireworks, kite-flying and a snake scare which are totally irrelevant to the plot.
Rain Dogs, shot in HD (high-definition) format and converted to 35mm, is largely humourless and drab. Kuan is so disaffecting and wooden that his Tung gets no sympathy from us. Others, like Yasmin and Liu, are a godsend, bringing comic and dramatic relief to scenes largely dominated by Kuan.

THE LOWDOWN: Ho ends the movie with a shot of a rainbow – the Biblical promise of a new beginning. Now, dare we hope...?

Rain Dogs opens at selected cinemas on Oct 26.


At 2:26 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow. with all due respect, u r missing the point in a major way. 'motherless child' (like any other film music)doesn't have to apply literally. if this sort of deficiency in imagination is indicative of the rest of your review, then you are doing a young filmmaker a grave disservice by even writing about his work. and explaining the film's accomplishments overseas as merely the result of the foreighners' naive fascination with 'scenes of Malaysia' is both patronising and arrogant. if this were so, then every single Malaysian film would receive rave reviews at major festivals, won't it?

r u sure you've thought about it before you put words to paper?

Still, thanks for bringing this film to my attention. I shall buy a ticket and judge for myself.

At 6:10 pm, Blogger Lim Chang Moh said...

Hi anon,
Thank u very much for your comments. I know the point of the movie (as Ho had told me himself during the screening) is that it does not have a point. "What you see is what you get," he had said.
Also, I said the Motherless Child music is apt ("helps to set the mood"), and I was merely pointing out the fact that Tung was fatherless.
If I sounded patronising and arrogant, it may be the reaction to watching the movie. I would very much like to know what u think of the movie after watching it... unless you are a representative of the film-maker or has vested interests in the movie.

At 2:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I know the point of the movie (as Ho had told me himself during the screening) is that it does not have a point. "What you see is what you get," he had said."- lim chang moh

sadly, you lim chang moh do not 'see'.

At 2:46 am, Anonymous rain bob said...

mr. lim,

please read these reviews. i hope you can see that these 'reviewers' are not
exactly the 'touristy' type.

imho, a film reviewer/ film critic/ film scholar should be a bridge between general audience to the film.

alas, you have set the bridge aflame with your review.

At 9:19 am, Blogger The Visitor said...

sadly i hv to agree with the two anons. Mr Lim, you completely missed the point of the film.

i saw it yesterday, and i think it's the best Malaysian film i've seen so far. it is incredibly moving without being sentimental. and it's definitely more than just a coming-of-age film. it's such a richly crafted work.

if you think the foreigners are only interested in the "exotic" scenes of Malaysian life, you should read Rotterdam programmer Gertjan Zuilhoff's article, The Rise Of Malaysian Chinese Cinema, and also Benjamin McKay's review in Kakiseni.

and as a friend said, you can't base your review on what the filmmaker tells you. it should be your own interpretation of what the filmmaker put on screen. and i totally agree with him.

At 9:25 am, Blogger The Visitor said...

oh by the way,

the "kite-flying scene" is not about the kite, but about the three ppl on the ground.

the "snake scare scene" is not about the snake scare but about the two inmportant characters among the others in the orchard.

watch carefully again, and see how the characters are placed in relation to each other.

At 4:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'touristy' movie anyone?
bollywood film > "Don"

At 5:31 pm, Anonymous siew eng said...

star's more thoughtful and thoughtfully written review here:


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