Friday, September 14, 2007

A NOTE OF LOVE: Tribute To Yasmin?

A NOTE OF LOVE (local drama in Hokkien)

Cast: Han Ead Fong, Alice Tan Yen Yen, Eugene Neo, Oik Geok Lan, Sharifah Amani and Daniel Lee
Director: Linus Chung
Time: 82 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)
(Pic: Oik Geok Lan & Han Ead Fong)
PREAMBLE: “A Note Of Love” may be about a young boy’s puppy love and an old couple trying to rekindle their romantic flame, but the feeling one gets while watching this movie is that there is another ‘passion’ involved – the need to capture and preserve scenes of ‘ordinary’ Malaysian life that may soon be lost forever.
Indie writer-director Linus Chung, who is also the cinematographer, lingers the camera on antique sellers, dilapidated aquarium and bicycle shops and pre-war buildings in Penang as if to document their existence before they succumb to the demands of development. And yes, he also takes us on visits to the abandoned Rex cinema along Burmah Road in Penang and even to a Hindustani movie in an old stand-alone cinema. It is to his credit that the ‘ordinary’ looks ‘extraordinary’ in his shots as we ponder how these places had appeared in their heyday.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The ‘love stories’, however, are not so enigmatic or engaging. The main plot deals with a 60-year-old man (Han Ead Fong) who gets an attack of ‘romanticism’ when he accidentally reads his son’s (Daniel Lee) love letter to his Malay girlfriend (Sharifah Amani). All of a sudden, he gets the urge to relive their ‘pak-tor’ (courtship) days and takes his wife (Oik Geok Lean) to the beach, to the old cinemas and fast food joints – and even persuades her to lie on the grass like they did when they were courting. These sequences may look cute and some are even touching, but without a backgrounder (or flashback) on their relationship, the scenes are just vignettes like those from a TV commercial.
Indeed, this ‘vignette approach’ with minimal character development is also repeated in the subplot about six-year-old Yao (Eugene Neo) who gets his own attack of puppy love when he sees tuition teacher Zhi (Alice Tan Yen Yen) walking her student Pei (Vanessa Khoo) home. The next day, he goes to the market to acquire some flowers for Pei. However, not quite understanding the difference between love and concern, Yao asks Zhi to be his girlfriend – much to the chagrin of her real boyfriend Keong (played by Linus Chung).

PROS & CONS: This is the part where Chung squanders the chance to give more depth to Yao’s budding feelings of love. Except for one sequence where the boy intimates to Zhi his attraction to Pei, we know nothing of what goes on in Yao’s mind. Chung should have included a few sequences where Yao professes his new love to his gang of friends instead of elaborating so much on how the puppy love affects Zhi’s relationship with her boyfriend. That spoof on Hindi romantic movies – where the lovers run around trees – have been overdone by local productions, particularly in “Sepet” which Chung had co-starred in.Indeed, those who have seen “Sepet” would notice that some of Yasmin Ahmad’s social commentaries are being recycled here, especially that suckling pig scene with “Sepet” star Sharifah Amani as the dinner guest. In many ways, this movie is a tribute to Yasmin’s works, especially with that Daniel Lee-Sharifah Amani relationship. Only Sharifah Amani proves to be the veteran star among the cast of newcomers. Besides the shots of ‘heritage buildings’, I also like that “Titanic” spoof on the Penang ferry and the well-written songs that accompany the romantic sequences. What I can do without are the repetitive shots of drains and rusty bridges. Also, most of the vignettes capture the characters with smiling faces, as if they were in an advertisement. Well, too much of a feel-good thing can be boring.

THE LOWDOWN: As a maiden effort, “A Note Of Love” looks technically competent and promising enough for local movie fans and the art house crowd.

PS: Like Arivind Abraham, the director of "S'kali" (2006), Linus Chung was also one of the Malay Mail Young Reviewers a few years back. He also contributes to Cinema Online magazine. However, no special consideration was given to him in this review of the movie.


At 3:12 pm, Blogger Linus Linnaeus said...

Dear Chang Moh,

I appreciate your review and I don't think my film is fantastical...but I do believe it has something to response to why I was simplistic....let me ask you know how to swim?? well...swimming in a big pool and waddling in a baby pool is different isn't it? Well, I decided intently to make this pool about the little pleasures that can be had waddling in a baby pool....pleasures that are lost swimming in the big pool...I was always after the small sweet smile as opposed to the big belly laugh.

At 11:21 am, Blogger Lim Chang Moh said...

Point taken. Like I said, your film is promising and it will definitely open the door to more pleasures to come. I will be looking forward to your next one. Keep it up.


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