7 BIDADARI REVIEW: A Sightseeing Tour Turns To An Ugly & Horrifying Experience

“It blends all the formula and the recurring horror gimmicks for the sake of bringing the entertainment for horror fans. It sure has its flaws, but for some reasons, 7 Bidadari will likely gain some cult followers.”




7 Bidadari ( 7 Angels) mixes several approaches in horror genre. There’s  an element of supranatural horror, bumpkin and redneck (a kind of “unofficial” sub-genre that plays on the myth of backwood and a relatively remote countryside that is filled with freaks and maniacs), pyschological thriller, gore and slasher.  And even there’s an obvious influence of J-horror movies.  7 Bidadari doesn’t shy away from the cliche all the horror movies have introduced before, in the likes of Hostel, The Possesion, or Blair Witch Project to Gonjiam Haunted Asylum. It blends all the formula and the recurring horror gimmicks for the sake of bringing the entertainment for horror fans. It sure has its flaws, but for some reasons, 7 Bidadari will likely gain some cult followers.

7 Bidadari refers to the members of a fictional famous Indonesian girl band with the same name who visit Victoria, Australia, with the purpose to go on a vacation while taking some shots for their next music video. These 7 angels are played by women with different traits defined by their pyshical looks: Lia Waode, Dara Warganegara, Gigi “Cherrybelle”, Camelia Putri, Salini Rengganis, Gabriella Desta and Ade Ayu Agustin. Together, these 7 lovely angels, have their time being interviewed by a radio journalist for a local radio programme. Never crosses their mind that the interview will lead them to a horrific event they could ever imagine.

At a local bar, these women happen to meet a local singer named Mark (William D McLennan) whose voice and physical look charms them. A casual conversation and flirting brings the members of 7 Angels accepting Mark invitation to have a sighseeing tour in Aradale Mental Hospital, a more than 150 years old site that’s been claimed as one of the most haunted places in Australia. And as predicted, the tour goes from fun to the terrifying 7-hours-experience one.

7 Bidadari is directed by Muhammad Yusuf whose tendency to bring his story in a full circle as he previously showed in Tebus. 7 Bidadari opens with an epilogue as the teaser and also an epigraph for the story before it closes with the same sequence. The choice creates the illusion of a full circle story as a whole, not as a collection of fragments.

In this 9th directorial efforts and the second feature that were filmed in Australia after The Curse (2017), Yusuf shot his story on the real location of Aradale Asylum and he clearly tries to exploit the location in order to bring the effect of teror to the maximum level. The Victorian-architecture-E-plans-barrack site is the true character here since it serves a function, not only as a backkground, but the tool of terror. This function is emphasized by the opening text of this movie, stating that Aradale is famous for its creeepines and as the part of urban myth.

Since the Aradale Asylum becomes the most pivotal part of the story, the story of 7 Bidadari sets in daylight which is a relatively uncommon treatment for a horror movie that mostly builds its terror in the dark situation. Some terror and horor in 7 Bidadari event takes place in a open space with a plenty source of sunlight.

To capture the intensity and the creepiness of the location, Yusuf worked with Farro Fauzi and Satya Ginong as cinematographer by gliding the camera in dynamic ways, even in 360 degrees style in a scene  which Lia Waode character envisions some of the forecasts that has something to do with their communal faith.

As stylish as it is in cinematography, the editing by Azis Nurmawan often works in fast-paced manner. It’s frequently using jump-cut-away editing style to intensify the terorr and the illusion of time paradox in the Asylum Aradale. Yes, the idea of 7 Bidadari is the time in the asylum works paradoxically compared to outside normal world. In the Aradale Asylum that’s filled with supranatural energies, time flies by and jumps out in no chronological order. It fasts forwards and sometimes backwards as the mystery and the twist unfolds.

Sure, the script by Muhammad Yusuf, Konfir Kabo, King Javed and Resika Tikoalu at times doesn’t grip enough the suspense. The plot and characterization leaps and jumps out inconsistently. And this movie seems to play some trick to have a more friendly rating by avoiding a gory depiction of the death and murder. But 7 Bidadari, I suspect, will gain the cult followers for its campy quality.

Judging from its treatement, 7 Bidadari seems to be the first of continous universe of Shu-yin to come.

 

Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN5Qxr0pu5c&t=22s

 

NOW PLAYING in INDONESIAN THEATERS.

Reviewed at Blok M Square XXI on  November 6, 2018.

Running times: 90 minutes

A Triple A Films in collaboration with State Government of Victoria presentation

Executive producer: Konfir Kabo

Producer: Resika Tikoalu

Director: Muhammad Yusuf

Screenplay: Muhammad Yusuf, Konfir Kabo, King Javed, Resika Tikoalu

Cinematography: Farro Fauzi, Satya Ginong

Editing: Azis Nurawan

Casts: Lia Waode, Dara Warganegara, Gigi “Cherrybelle”, Camelia Putri, Salini Rengganis, Gabriella Desta, Ade Ayu Agustin, William D. McLennan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Target Review: Komedi? Thriller? Tidak Kedua-duanya

“…Target berakhir menjadi sebuah ironi.  Dalam komedi, sebuah guyonan atau humor akan mencapai fungsinya bila diperlakukan seperti menulis naskah yang baik ataupun sulap yang membuat penonton terpana. Kesemua itu seringkali memerlukan “pengalihan perhatian” atau misderection. Arahkan penonton atau audiens untuk memikirkan satu hal atau poin dengan menyampaikan berbagai topik, lalu di saat yang tepat menjelang akhir topik, hantam penonton atau audiens dengan punchlines. Setelah penonton memahami dan tertawa, beri mereka twist di akhir guyonan yang membuat tawa mereka semakin kencang.

Intinya adalah tentang bagaimana menguasai dan mengatur ritme atau pace penonton. Target, ironisnya, tidak bisa menguasai apalagi mengatur ritme dan pemikiran penonton. Setidaknya saya.

Film ini meleset sebagai komedi, namun di sisi lain terlampau berusaha keras untuk menampilkan kesan sebagai film thriller serius. Apa yang kemudian saya dapatkan?

Tidak kedua-duanya.”




Target, film komedi ansambel terbaru yang ditulis dan disutradarai oleh Raditya Dika, mengikuti konsep film Hangout (baca ulasannya)—juga dari Raditya Dika—yang dirilis pada tahun 2016. Kedua film tersebut mengusung konsep “high concept comedy”, sebuah konsep dalam penceritaan yang lebih mengutamakan “plot” ketimbang mengedepankan pengembangan karakter. Kedua film Raditya Dika tersebut dibangun atas sebuah gagasan tentang “beberapa karakter yang terjebak bersama dalam sebuah situasi pelik yang memaksa mereka satu per satu harus menemui ajal”.

High concept comedy yang menggabungkan komedi dan thriller berhasil dieksekusi oleh Raditya dalam Hangout di mana menghasilkan sebuah film yang masih terasa memiliki “kedekatan personal” dengan dirinya, sementara di sisi lain dia bisa mengeksplorasi ranah sinematis baru. Hangout menjadi sebuah eksperimen yang menurut saya berhasil.

Lewat Target, Raditya Dika kembali berusaha mengulang formula yang sama di Hangout setelah sempat kembali kepada bentuk penceritaan yang lebih “konvensional” dan dekat dengan jenamanya sebagai sineas dan pencerita di The Guys (2017). Tetapi, sayang seribu sayang, Target membuktikan bahwa formula dan konsep boleh diulangi, namun hasil akhirnya tidak bisa menyamai.

Sama seperti Hangout, Target menceritakan tentang sembilan selebriti yang mengikuti sebuah undangan yang terkait satu proyek film. Bedanya, hanyalah medium undangan (di Hangout menggunakan surat, di Target menggunakan surel) dan juga sosok para selebriti yang dilibatkan.

Dalam Target, kesembilan pesohor itu adalah: Raditya Dika sendiri; Hifdzi, komika berbadan subur; Cinta Laura Kiehl, mantan Radit yang mencoba mengejar karir di Amerika; Ria Ricis, Youtuber idola anak muda; Samuel Rizal, aktor lawas “macho” yang bahkan menyempatkan diri latihan beban sembari menyetir mobil; Willy Dozan, aktor laga lawas yang kini “ngondek” dan mengubah namanya menjadi “Wince”; Romy Rafael, seorang ilusionis; Abdur Arsyad, juga seorang komika; dan Anggika Bolsteri, seorang perempuan muda cantik yang, sejujurnya, saya tidak mengenal siapa dia sebelum ini. (Perkembangan terkini, setelah mencari tahu melalui Google, saya baru tahu kalau Anggika ini adalah seorang aktris sinetron).

Kesembilan orang ini kemudian berkumpul di sebuah lokasi (yang sepertinya terpencil) dan kemudian terjebak pada sebuah permainan hidup dan mati ala film waralaba Saw, yang dipimpin oleh seorang gamemaster. Mereka harus melewati beberapa fase permainan, di antaranya melibatkan Russian Roulette dan tebak-tebakan konyol. Peraturannya sederhana, peserta yang meninggal secara otomatis akan habis perannya.

Seperti Hangout, Target juga melibatkan sebuah plot twist yang diungkapkan melalui metodologi “parlor scene”, sebuah teknik penceritaan yang umum ditemui di film ber-genre thriller whodunit. Sebuah teknik yang dipopulerkan di sinema lewat, salah satunya, film klasik arahan Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho.

Target dibuka dengan sosok korban selamat yang mengenakan perban di seluruh tubuhnya dan dia lalu menceritakan kejadian yang dialami kepada dua orang polisi (salah satunya diperankan oleh Ence Bagus), melalui teknik framing device yang menciptakan ilusi nested stories, yaitu cerita dalam cerita. Contoh yang baik dalam penggunaan teknik ini bisa ditemukan dalam volume kedelapan novel Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, yang berjudul World’s End yang juga mengisahkan sekelompok pelancong yang terjebak dalam sebuah penginapan dan lalu saling menceritakan sebuah kisah satu dengan yang lain.

Contoh lain dari penggunaan framing device yang baik dan tepat guna dalam medium film adalah kisah wuxia yang dirilis tahun 2002, Hero, arahan Zhang Yimou.

Dalam Target penggunaan teknik framing device berfungsi sebagai interrogative frame di mana kisahnya dituturkan oleh salah satu aktor penting dalam kisahnya. Penggunaan teknik tersebut dalam kisah whodunit memiliki resiko karena, sesuai namanya, framing device berperan untuk mengarahkan kisah yang dituturkan agar sesuai dengan yang diharapkan oleh si penutur. Bila tidak memiliki setup yang dibangun secara cermat, maka teknik ini bisa memutus keterikatan pembaca (atau dalam Target, penonton) dengan cerita yang dituturkan. Lebih krusial, penonton akan dengan mudah mengetahui siapa pelaku yang sebenarnya.

Dalam Target, framing device sayangnya menceritakan sebuah cerita justru bukan dari perspektif si penutur, melainkan dari sudut pandang Raditya Dika sebagai aktor utama dalam film. Keputusan artistik ini kemudian mengurangi suspension of disbelief yang sebenarnya menjadi tujuan utama kisah ini dituturkan karena bagaimana mungkin si tokoh menceritakan hal yang sejatinya tidak dia alami? Bayangkan skenarionya bila si penutur justru Raditya Dika sendiri, maka suspension of disbelief akan lebih bisa tercipta dan terjaga.

Bisa dimengerti bila keputusan melakukan framing device melalui salah satu karakter bertujuan untuk membuat ceritanya lebih efektif dan menimbulkan rasa penasaran penonton. Bagi yang awam akan teknik penceritaan, tentu saja detail ini tidak menjadi masalah. Tetapi bagi yang memahami, keputusan yang diambil oleh Raditya Dika dalam Target akan membuat twist yang dia coba bangun akan sangat mudah tertebak bahkan sejak sepertiga durasi film baru berjalan.

Seperti halnya Hangout, plot Target juga dibangun dari berbagai referensi film. Bila di Hangout, Raditya Dika menggunakan film This Is The End sebagai template (juga diulas dalam ulasan), maka untuk Target digunakan berbagai referensi film thriller di mana karakternya terjebak dalam sebuah kondisi yang mengharuskan mereka berkompetisi satu sama lain dalam sebuah permainan hidup-mati yang diatur oleh seorang gamemaster. Template ini bisa ditemukan dalam berbagai film seperti Battle Royale, The Hunger Games hingga ke Saw.

Namun saat menyaksikan Target ada satu judul film yang secara otomatis muncul dalam pikiran karena film ini menggunakan beat by beat plot utama kisahnya secara mirip. Mulai dari setting lokasi, penggunaan plot device, penyusunan konflik hingga jenis permainannya, meskipun memang ada beberapa modifikasi sesuai kebutuhan Target sebagai film komedi.

Film tersebut adalah sebuah film indie thriller berjudul Breathing Room, sebuah film rilisan tahun 2008 yang disutradarai oleh John Suits dan Gabriel Cowan. Dalam film tersebut juga menampilkan sejumlah karakter (13 karakter) yang tak saling kenal satu sama lain yang menemukan diri mereka terjebak dalam sebuah ruangan dan lalu harus mengikuti sebuah permainan mematikan di bawah arahan seorang gamemaster. Kemiripan antara Target dan Breathing Room tak bisa dielakkan karena desain lokasi yang mirip, penggunaan teknik pencahayaan yang juga mirip dan plot device berupa kalung yang memiliki aliran listrik di dalamnya. Bila Anda menyaksikan Breathing Room, maka Anda akan dengan mudah menebak siapa pelaku di Target karena juga memiliki pola penyusunan dan penggunaan konflik yang sangat mirip. Bahkan hingga ke karakter fisik sang pelaku.

Terlepas dari referensi film yang dipakai, Target menjadi kurang bisa dinikmati juga karena pilihan Raditya Dika menggunakan dialog dan caranya mengumpulkan berbagai karakternya ke dalam posisi yang menuntut mereka akhirnya harus bersama.

Dalam Hangout, Raditya Dika membangun kisahnya dengan membiarkan kita sebagai penonton merasakan proses mereka bersama sebelum akhirnya berada dalam sebuah posisi di mana mereka harus curiga satu sama lain. Hangout berhasil karena proses itu cukup lama dan mereka juga kenal satu sama lainnya, sembari menyisipkan satu konflik yang bisa meyakinkan kita sebagai penonton bahwa mereka bisa terpecah belah. Dalam hal ini konflik pribadi antara Raditya Dika dan Soleh Solikhun sehingga plot twist yang disajikan (meskipun tertebak) masih bisa diterima karena tujuan filmnya sebagai komedi. Twist pun terasa relevan dan koheren dengan pembangunan cerita.

Dalam Target, Raditya Dika sebenarnya mencoba formula yang sama. Kita diberi tahu bahwa ada konflik pribadi di masa lalu antara dirinya dan Cinta Laura. Kita juga diberi gambaran interaksi antara Dika dengan beberapa karakter lain, seperti Romi Rafael, Hifzi dan juga Samuel Rizal. Pun ada adegan di mana Willy Dozan sebagai aktor senior yang menasihati Raditya Dika, mengingatkan akan adegan saat Mathias Muchus menasihati dirinya di Hangout.

Masalahnya adalah ketidakkonsistenan penanaman informasi tersebut. Target semestinya merupakan kisah di mana para karakternya sama sekali tidak mengenal satu sama lain dan sudah saling mencurigai dari awal. Sementara pilihan pembangunan karakter dan konflik di Target memperlihatkan bahwa mereka saling mengolok satu sama lain dan hal ini mengindikasikan bahwa mereka setidaknya sudah saling memaklumi masing-masing karakter.

Baiklah, bila kemudian selama menjalani proses permainan, para karakter di Target terserang rasa cemas dan panik yang kemudian membuat mereka harus memikirkan ego dan keselamatan masing-masing. Namun, mereka kemudian digambarkan begitu cepat untuk saling memaafkan dan memaklumi setiap kesalahan yang dilakukan salah satu karakter sehingga mereka kemudian cepat kembali bersama. Hal ini menyebabkan ketegangan tak benar-benar bisa dibangun. Target juga tidak benar-benar memiliki konflik yang membuat kita benar-benar terhubung dengan problematika yang ada. Dalam Hangout, misalnya, konflik antara Raditya Dika dan Soleh Solikhun disebabkan oleh pertemanan yang merasa dikhianati. Konflik krusial yang juga meminjam pembangunan tensi di film This Is The End-nya Seth Rogen, di mana pertemanan Seth Rogen dan Jay Baruchel dirusak oleh keinginan Seth untuk diterima di kalangan teman selebritinya. Sebuah konflik yang kemudian bisa terhubung ke penonton karena sebagian besar orang pernah mengalami hal itu, perasaan dikhianati oleh teman karib.

Sementara di Target, tidak benar-benar ada konflik yang cukup kuat untuk membuat kita percaya bahwa masalah tersebut akan membuat para karakternya terpecah belah. Konflik antara Raditya Dika dan Cinta Laura lebih dikarenakan masalah asmara yang kemudian juga diklarifikasi di tengah situasi pelik. Sebuah konflik yang tidak membuat penonton benar-benar terhubung.

Penanaman informasi dan konflik menjadi penting untuk membuat motif dan twist yang dihadirkan tidak terkesan dipaksakan. Tidak telitinya menanamkan informasi dan konflik itulah yang kemudian membuat adanya pemaksaan motif dan twist di film Target.

Bayangkan bila skenarionya diubah menjadi adegan dibuka dengan Raditya Dika dan rekan-rekannya terbangun dalam kondisi yang nihilisme, di mana mereka menemukan diri mereka berada dalam ruangan tersebut tanpa tahu apa yang sebenarnya terjadi. Lalu pengenalan karakter dibangun melalui berbagai eksposisi yang menjelaskan kisah mereka masing-masing sebagai upaya menjalin kedekatan satu sama lain atas dasar senasib sepenanggungan. Hal ini memang beresiko akan membuat film akan berjalan dengan lebih pelan, tetapi akan membuat penonton lebih mudah mengobservasi kejadian dan mengembangkan syak wasangka. Keputusan itu juga akan membantu membuat dialog antarkarakter menjadi lebih mengalir dan juga berpotensi menciptakan guyonan yang lebih koheren.

Sebab lain yang membuat saya tidak bisa menikmati Target sebagai sebuah film adalah cara dialog disampaikan dalam film ini. Dalam Hangout, dialog antarkarakter terasa lebih mengalir. Dialog dalam Target terasa seperti kumpulan materi stand-up komedi yang tidak terhubung satu sama lain yang membuat dialog antarkarakter kerap kali terasa terputus.  Dalam Hangout, This Is The End, atau Superbad, misalnya, dialog lahir karena reaksi atas sebuah situasi atau dialog karakter lain. Punchline diselipkan di antaranya yang kemudian membuat humor menjadi segar. Hal ini tidak terasa di Target, di mana dialognya terasa terdiri atas sekumpulan materi one-liners berbagai topik yang acak tanpa disertai transisi yang membuat dialog antar karakter menjadi tidak alamiah seperti yang terjadi kepada sekelompok orang yang sedang merasakan situasi yang sama. Saat menonton Target, amatlah terasa bahwa terdapat cutting antar dialog. Masalah ini juga kemudian merembet kepada pace film secara keseluruhan. Terasa jelas pemotongan di beberapa adegan krusial yang membuat filmnya terasa “melompat”. Kesan “melompat” ini juga terjadi di adegan laga antara Samuel Rizal dan Arsyad. Jelas terasa ada beberapa pemotongan yang menyebabkan koreografi pertarungan oleh Yayan Ruhian menjadi janggal dan terputus. Tetapi hal ini bisa dimaklumi karena pertarungan ini memang didesain sebagai adegan komedi.

Memang ada beberapa humor yang bisa memancing tawa di Target. Mayoritas humor tersebut datang dari pencantuman referensi dan humor fisik. Di sinilah karakter seperti Hifdzi, Ria Ricis dan Cinta Laura menjadi menonjol. Hifzi beberapa kali menampilkan komedi fisik dan situasi yang tepat sasaran. Hifdzi pun menunjukkan bahwa dirinya memiliki bakat untuk bermain dalam film dramatis. Ada semacam kesan yang kuat bahwa humor yang dibangun Hifdzi datang dari ironi.

Sementara Ria Ricis menghadirkan komedi yang memang disengajakan untuk mengolok dirinya sendiri sebagai seorang YouTuber yang kerap bertingkah “jayus” dan “garing”. Keterkaitan seseorang terhadap sebuah humor memang dipengaruhi oleh referensi, tetapi Ria Ricis juga membuktikan bahwa dirinya tak sungkan bertingkah konyol sesuai konteks cerita. Sedangkan Cinta Laura mampu memperlihatkan dirinya sebagai seorang aktor yang berdedikasi. Dia kabarnya melakukan semua adegan laga dalam film ini seorang diri dan menolak untuk memakai stunt-in. Terlepas dari kabar tersebut, Cinta memiliki pesona dan kemampuan untuk meyakinkan penonton bahwa dia memang melakukan semua adegan itu sendiri. Lelucon yang melibatkan dialek dan logat “bule”-nya juga masih efektif, setidaknya, mengguratkan senyuman.

Target menjadi film Raditya Dika yang paling ambisius perihal desain produksi. Pemilihan warna dan set lokasi yang dibangun cermat menambah nilai tersendiri, ditambah dengan kerja kamera efisien arahan Muhammad Firdaus. Saya juga suka pilihan musik elektronik oleh Andhika Triyadi dalam film ini. Musik dalam opening sequence yang dirancang seperti sekuens pembuka film-film thriller klasik era 60’an juga menjadi nilai tambah tersendiri.

Akan tetapi Target berakhir menjadi sebuah ironi.  Dalam komedi, sebuah guyonan atau humor akan mencapai fungsinya bila diperlakukan seperti menulis naskah yang baik ataupun sulap yang membuat penonton terpana. Kesemua itu seringkali memerlukan “pengalihan perhatian” atau misderection. Arahkan penonton atau audiens untuk memikirkan satu hal atau poin dengan menyampaikan berbagai topik, lalu di saat yang tepat menjelang akhir topik, hantam penonton atau audiens dengan punchlines. Setelah penonton memahami dan tertawa, beri mereka twist di akhir guyonan yang membuat tawa mereka semakin kencang.

Intinya adalah tentang bagaimana menguasai dan mengatur ritme atau pace penonton. Target, ironisnya, tidak bisa menguasai apalagi mengatur ritme dan pemikiran penonton. Setidaknya saya.

Film ini meleset sebagai komedi, namun di sisi lain terlampau berusaha keras untuk menampilkan kesan sebagai film thriller dengan plot twist serius. Apa yang kemudian saya dapatkan?

Tidak kedua-duanya.

(2,5/5)

Reviewed at Blok M Square XXI on Friday, June 15th, 2018

Running time: 93 minutes

A Soraya Intercine presentation

Executive producer: Ram Soraya

Producer: Sunil Soraya

Co-producer: Rocky Soraya

Director: Raditya Dika

Screenplay: Raditya Dika

Director of photography: Muhammad Firdaus

Editor: Sastha Sunu

Art: Rico Marpaung

Music: Andhika Triyadi

Sound Editing: Khikmawan Santosa

Action choreographer: Yayan Ruhiyan

Casts: Raditya Dika, Cinta Laura Kiehl, Samuel Rizal, Willy Dozan,  Abdur Arsyad, Hifdzi Khoir, Ria Ricis, Rommy Rafael, Anggika Bolsterli, Ence Bagus.

 

 

 

HOOQ Filmmakers Guild Returns for the Second Edition

“HOOQ Filmmakers Guild is a South-East-Asia wide project that gives talented and passionate filmmakers in the region an opportunity to turn their most imaginative story ideas into television series, thus celebrating Asian rich story culture, the nation from which great tv arises.”




HOOQ, the largest VOD service in South East Asia, announces that their initiative, Filmmakers Guild, returns for the second edition this year.

HOOQ Filmmakers Guild is a South-East-Asia wide project that gives talented and passionate filmmakers in the region an opportunity to turn their most imaginative story ideas into television series, thus celebrating Asian rich story culture, the nation from which great tv arises.

As the 2017 competition closed, HOOQ calls upon film professionals once again, be it directors, producers or scriptwriters to send in scripts and treatments for a TV series idea they have.  The five best scripts, regionally, will be given USD$30,000 to produce a pilot episode which will premiere on HOOQ.  Submissions can be from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia and the best pilot will be converted into a full series exclusively on HOOQ in 2019.  Following the success of 2017, the format of judging will follow the same rules where a star-studded judging panel consisting of the top film talents around Asia, together with HOOQ subscribers’ viewership, will decide the winning entry to be produced into a complete season.

HOOQ Filmmakers Guild 2018 commences from mid-May and will be open for entries until end of July 2018.  Applicants must be working as professionals in the film industry with prior film production experience.  They are to submit the script and treatment for a series with a maximum of 13 episodes for a single season to qualify.  There will be no restriction to genre, however submissions and productions must be in the language of the applicant’s country.  The complete panel of judges will be announced soon.

But one of the accomplished Indonesian filmmakers, Mouly Surya (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, 2017), is officially announced to return as one of the judges.

 

–Versi Bahasa Indonesia –

HOOQ – layanan Video on Demand terbesar di Asia Tenggara – memulai pencarian naskah terbaik berikutnya yang akan diproduksi menjadi serial penuh dan ditayangkan di HOOQ melalui HOOQ Filmmakers Guild musim kedua. Setelah kesuksesan yang diraih musim pertama, HOOQ Filmmakers Guild kembali hadir tahun ini untuk musim kedua.

HOOQ Filmmakers Guild merupakan proyek besar di tingkat Asia Tenggara dalam membantu para sineas berbakat untuk merealisasikan  ide mereka menjadi serial TV. Melanjutkan kesuksesan tahun 2017, format penjurian akan mengikuti aturan yang sama di jajaran juri yang terdiri dari para sineas papan atas Asia bersama pelanggan HOOQ akan menentukan pemenang yang naskahnya akan diproduksi secara keseluruhan.

Guntur Siboro, Country Director HOOQ mengatakan, “HOOQ Filmmakers Guild adalah platform berharga bagi para sineas berbakat Asia untuk membantu mereka menampilkan karya terbaiknya ke hadapan publik Asia. Kesuksesan musim pertama dan respon positif dari masyarakat terhadap HOOQ Filmmakers Guild mendasari kami untuk kembali menggelar musim kedua. Kompetisi ini merupakan bukti komitmen HOOQ untuk mendukung industri film Asia dengan memberikan kesempatan kepada para sineas berbakat Asia untuk mewujudkan karya mereka menjadi serial TV yang berkualitas.”

Sutradara pemenang penghargaan asal Indonesia Mouly Surya kembali menjadi juri dari kompetisi ini. Mouly akan memilah naskah yang masuk dari Indonesia untuk disandingkan dengan naskah dari negara lain. Bersama juri dari negara lain, Mouly akan memilih 6 naskah terbaik sebagai finalis. Tidak hanya memilih naskah terbaik, Mouly juga akan memberikan filmmaking workshop bagi finalis di Indonesia.

HOOQ kembali mengundang pelaku film profesional, baik sutradara, produser ataupun penulis naskah untuk mengirimkan naskah dan treatment (sketsa skenario) mereka untuk serial TV. Lima naskah terbaik akan mendapatkan pendanaan sebesar USD$30.000 untuk diproduksi menjadi episode perdana yang akan tayang di HOOQ. Pendaftaran terbuka untuk peserta dari Singapura, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Filipina, Vietnam, Malaysia dan Kamboja. Naskah terbaik akan diproduksi secara keseluruhan dan akan tayang secara eksklusif di HOOQ tahun 2019.

Pendaftaran untuk HOOQ Filmmakers Guild 2018 dimulai pada pertengahan bulan Mei hingga 31 Juli 2018, dengan ketentuan peserta merupakan profesional di industri film yang memiliki pengalaman dalam memproduksi film. Peserta diharuskan mengirim naskah untuk serial penuh dengan maksimal 13 episode untuk satu musim.  Tidak ada batasan genre, namun proposal dan produksi harus menggunakan bahasa lokal dari negara mana peserta tersebut berasal.

 

 

 

Dilan 1990 Review: Adaptasi Verbatim Bermakna Minim

by PicturePlay

“Film Dilan 1990 lebih tertarik untuk mengeksploitasi dan mengeksplorasi aktor pemeran Dilan, Iqbaal Ramadhan, ketimbang karakter utamanya sendiri.



Ada satu perubahan kecil di Dilan 1990, film adaptasi novel berjudul sama karya Pidi Baiq, tetapi terasa signifikan terutama bagi yang telah membaca novelnya.

Perubahan itu terdapat di adegan saat karakter Milea Adnan Husain (di film diperankan oleh Vanessa Prescilla) untuk pertama kalinya memasuki kamar pribadi Dilan (diperankan oleh Iqbaal Ramadhan, eks CJR), remaja satu sekolah yang disukai oleh Milea. Saat menyusuri kamar tersebut yang didamping oleh Bunda (ibunda Dilan, diperankan oleh Ira Wibowo), pandangan mata Milea terpaku pada satu kutipan yang ditempel di dinding kamar. Kutipan tersebut berasal dari presiden Amerika di era 80-an, Ronald Reagan, yang telah diterjemahkan ke dalam bahasa Indonesia, “Barang siapa yang ingin damai, maka bersiaplah untuk perang.”

Ronald Reagan mengucapkan hal itu untuk memperkuat alasannya dalam meningkatkan pertahanan militer Amerika Serikat sebagai upaya menandingi kekuatan Uni Soviet (sekarang Rusia), yang di era 80’an, masih terlibat dalam kemelut Perang Dingin. Kutipan itu sendiri sebenarnya berasal dari sebuah  peribahasa Latin berarti sama, “si vis pacem, para bellum” yang diungkapkan pertama kali oleh seorang jenderal perang masyhur Kerajaan Romawi, Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. Ronald Reagan di saat memerintah memang mempraktikkan strategi “Peace Through Strength” atau “Menciptakan Perdamaian Melalui Kekuatan” yang mengadopsi strategi Jenderal Vegetius.

Sementara di novelnya, pandangan Milea tertumbuk pada sebuah poster besar yang memuat gambar Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, pemimpin revolusi Iran. Dilan sendiri di novelnya memang mengakui bahwa dia mengagumi tokoh revolusioner yang sekaligus menjadi Pemimpin Agung Pertama Iran itu.

Mengapa hal yang kedengarannya sepele itu saya angkat di review Dilan 1990? Karena setidaknya itulah “motif terselubung” yang bisa saya kaitkan dengan perilaku dan  tindak-tanduk Dilan, seorang remaja siswa kelas dua SMA di era 90’an yang memiliki karakter unik, pemberontak, tak gentar berkelahi, “Panglima Tempur” di sebuah geng motor, cerdas, piawai dalam bermain kata (kemampuan copywriting) dan sekaligus menarik perhatian para gadis. Dalam versi filmnya, ekpresi Milea saat memperhatikan kutipan Ronald Reagan di kamar Dilan tersebut mengimplikasikan bahwa itulah yang melatarbelakangi watak Dilan yang tak segan bertarung demi membela sesuatu yang dia yakini benar.

Tetapi, perubahan dari poster Ayatollah Khomeini ke kutipan Ronald Reagan itu juga menyisakan tanya. Bila sineas di balik filmnya menjadikannya sebagai sebuah motif untuk menjelaskan perilaku Dilan, maka pemilihan Ronald Reagan juga tidak tepat untuk mewakili karakter Dilan yang nyentrik, cenderung anti-kemapanan dan tidak segan melawan guru sekolahnya (mewakili penguasa di dunia Dilan) demi mempertahankan prinsipnya. Penggunaan Ayatollah Khomeini sebagai simbol akan lebih tepat, karena Khomeini tak ciut melawan dominasi negara adiwisesa, Amerika Serikat. Khomeini juga tak gentar melawan arus saat negara-negara sejawatnya di Liga Arab berlaku bak kerbau dicucuk hidungnya oleh Amerika Serikat, negara yang pernah dipimpin Ronald Reagan.

Film Dilan 1990 memang tidak tertarik untuk mengangkat lebih jauh karakter Dilan dan apa yang sebenarnya melatarbelakangi tindakannya sehingga begitu berani melawan dengan lantang seorang guru yang menegurnya, atau apa yang menyebabkan guru-guru lain terlihat enggan untuk memberinya sanksi tegas. Meski di novelnya juga tidak dijelaskan secara gamblang, tetapi setidaknya karakter Dilan digambarkan menaruh rasa hormat terhadap salah satu guru perempuan yang dinilainya mewakili pandangan idealnya tentang profesi guru dan hadirnya karakter guru ini menjadi pembanding kita, sebagai pembaca, untuk memahami pola pikir Dilan. Di novelnya, kita juga beberapa kali diberikan informasi bahwa ayah Dilan adalah seorang anggota kesatuan militer yang memiliki jabatan cukup tinggi. Cerita Dilan berlatar tahun 1990, di era Orde Baru, di mana kala itu anggota militer memang amat ditakuti dan memiliki kekuasaan.

Film Dilan 1990 justru lebih tertarik untuk mengeksploitasi dan mengeksplorasi aktor pemeran Dilan, Iqbaal Ramadhan, ketimbang karakter utamanya sendiri. Memang harus diakui bahwa Iqbaal memiliki pesona tak terelakkan di layar lebar yang terbukti lewat ekspresi gemas para penonton remaja putri setiap kali dia hadir di layar (yang berarti nyaris sepanjang film karena Iqbaal selalu muncul di layar). Iqbaal terlihat sudah berupaya keras untuk menghidupkan karakternya dan beberapa kali ia berhasil, yaitu saat dia bersikap lebih rileks, suatu kualitas yang diperlihatkannya di film Ada Cinta di SMA (baca resensinya). Namun, saat Iqbaal berupaya mengucapkan dialog sebagai Dilan yang gemar memakai gaya bahasa Indonesia baku, dia terlihat dan terdengar tidak percaya diri. Hal ini tampak jelas di mata Iqbaal. Saat dia mengucapkan dialog sebagai Dilan dalam bahasa Indonesia formal, matanya menerawang jauh. Seolah dia sedang mencari-cari bentuk reka ekspresi yang tepat.

Masalah Dilan 1990 tidak hanya di situ. Pilihan filmnya untuk mengikuti secara verbatim struktur dan gaya bercerita novelnya juga membuat film ini sulit untuk dinikmati sebagai medium bercerita audio visual. Novel Dilan mengikuti perjalanan romansa Milea dan Dilan di tahun 1990 dan dituturkan lewat sudut pandang Milea yang sudah dewasa, sebuah nostalgia kilas balik yang membuat rangkaian ceritanya seperti sporadis, episodis dan berdasarkan kenangan. Cerita di novelnya bersifat sangat subyektif, tetapi hal itu juga membuat kita tahu gejolak hati Milea sebagai karakter yang “gagal move on dari Dilan. Film adaptasinya juga memakai pendekatan serupa dengan versi novel yang menyebabkan semua tindakan haruslah diucapkan. Salah satu konsekuensi dari penggunaan voice over dan dialog untuk menjelaskan tindakan karakter adalah mengatur dan membatasi interpretasi penonton. Bila menilik dari keputusan film ini mengambil pendekatan sama persis dengan novelnya, maka bisa diyakinkan bahwa Dilan 1990 memang hanya menyasar dua target market: 1) pembaca novelnya; dan 2) penonton yang mengidolakan sosok Iqbaal.

Tujuan tersebut kemudian membuat tim di balik Dilan 1990 mengasumsikan bahwa semua penonton membaca novelnya. Hal ini terlihat dari diabaikannya penanaman berbagai informasi krusial terkait tokoh sekunder yang sebenarnya berperan penting dalam konflik antara Dilan dan Milea, serta berujung pada banyaknya karakter-karakter yang terkesan mendadak muncul dan kemudian hilang. Penonton yang tidak membaca novelnya akan kebingungan dengan siapa karakter-karakter tersebut. Film ini juga terlalu fokus kepada Dilan dan Milea, sehingga mengabaikan hubungan keduanya dengan karakter lain. Salah satu akibatnya adalah kita tidak tahu pasti apa yang menyebabkan karakter Milea sampai mendapat banyak dukungan dan perhatian. Apakah hanya karena dia cantik?

Keputusan untuk mengambil pendekatan yang sama persis dengan novelnya juga berimbas kepada tidak alamiahnya dialog yang terjadi. Seringkali dialog tercipta akibat tuntutan plot yang mengharuskannya ada dan karena dialog itu ada di novelnya. Bukan terlahir akibat aksi para karakter di layar lebar. Tuntutan untuk verbatim dengan novelnya pula yang membuat aktris sekaliber Ira Wibowo terlihat canggung dan bingung. Ira Wibowo semestinya menjadi seorang ibu yang asyik dan “gaul’ yang ekspresif dan ceplas-ceplos yang akan sedikit banyak membuat kita maklum darimana datangnya sifat eksentrik Dilan dan Ira punya kapasitas, serta kemampuan untuk itu. Sayangnya, Ira seperti tidak mendapat pengarahan yang tepat untuk mencapai tujuan cerita.

Tidak semua aspek Dilan 1990 lemah memang. Vanessa Prescilla tampil menyenangkan sebagai Milea dan dia pun memiliki interaksi yang sama menyenangkannya dengan Iqbaal sebagai Dilan. Adegan laga di jelang akhir film yang melibatkan Dilan juga sebenarnya menjanjikan, bila digarap lebih serius sebagai bentuk ekspresi cinta Dilan kepada Milea.

Dilan 1990 muncul di layar lebar tidak terlalu lama berselang dengan kejadian sekumpulan anggota gang motor yang melakukan penjarahan. Film ini pun menampilkan adegan satu geng motor menyerbu sekolah. Sayang, lagi-lagi, adegan itu hanya tuntutan plot. Andai saja bila naskah film ini juga memberikan ruang lebih kepada isu Dilan dan gang motornya, sesuatu yang di novelnya disebut bahwa geng motor sebenarnya tidak berbahaya. Meski juga tidak dijelaskan–atau setidaknya diberikan implikasi melalui bahasa visual, sebagaimana hakikat film sebagai medium bercerita audio dan visual—mengapa kegiatan menyerang tidak termasuk dalam kategori tindakan berbahaya dan kriminal.

Dilan 1990 memang lebih diperuntukkan dan dirancang sebagai persembahan untuk remaja yang selalu diasumsikan akan menelan mentah-mentah film adaptasi verbatim dengan makna yang minim seperti ini. Bila melihat dari mengularnya penonton usia remaja yang mengantri, asumsi itu memang sudah menjadi suatu hal yang pasti. Kita tak bisa mengeluh lagi. Jangan?

(2,5/5)

Reviewed at Blok M Square XXI on Thursday, Januari 25, 2018

Running time 110 minutes

A Max Pictures presetantation

Producer: Ody Mulya Harahap

Director: Fajar Bustomi & Pidi Baiq

Screenplay: Pidi Baiq, Titien Wattimena

Editor: Ryan Purwoko

Director of photography: Dimas Imam Subhono

Art: Angie Hakim

Sound Design: Khikmawa Santoso

Music: Andika Triyadi

Casts: Iqbaal Ramadhan, Vanessa Prescilla, Guillio Parengkuan, Brandon Salim, Rifnu Wikana, Ira Wibowo, Yati Surachman.

 

 

Call Me by Your Name Review: A Hellenistic Interpretation of Infatuation, Agony, and Ecstasy of the First Love

 “How do you define your “first love” experience? Was it “fall in love”? or was it “fall in lust”?

By PicturePlay

Watching Call Me by Your Name for an Indonesian like me provides an interesting perspective, especially due to a recent event. It’s because this movie surges to attention in the midst of heated protests from some (well, many, actually) Indonesians, following The Constitutional Court’s decision to reject a petition filed by conservative academics to make a premarital and gay sex a crime punishable by up to five years in.

The decision, then, leads to an allegation that The Constitutional Court had premarital and gay sex acts legalized, which is not the true case. What makes the protesters have such an allegation? Primarily, they don’t possess the ability to read and understand the decision comprehensively.

I’m not going to discuss or debate the case any further in my review for Call Me by Your Name. But, there’s a point in my aforementioned paragraphs which also functions as a requirement you need to have before watching the film: the ability to read and understand comprehensively, and to have that, you need to: have your mind opened, and reduce your prejudice.

While the movie never shies away from admitting the fact that it portrays a homoeroticism story, the quintessence of Call Me by Your Name is actually about the very basic event in human existence, that I believe, everyone experiences it: first love. But the crucial keyword then prompts us to another question, “How do you define your “first love” experience? Was it “fall in love”; or was it “fall in lust”?

The chain questions don’t immediately come into our view in the early duration of André Aciman’s novel ecranisation of the same title. They’ll pop up right after the on-screen events end, but they are going to linger in your mind. Call Me by Your Name is so powerful that those questions keep lingering and lasting on your mind, even long after you finished watching it. The questions are not typical kind of ones that bring you into an intense debate with your colleagues. But, you’ll keep those questions to yourself, instead, since you’re the only one who knows the answer.

What makes Call Me by Your Name so powerful to the point it raises an emendation question is how the script by James Ivory and the direction by Luca Guadagnino in adapting the novel. The novel tells its story from the main protagonist, the older and mature Elio Perlman’s point of view who recalls the moments of him having a passionate same-sex summer fling with his father’s intern scholar, an American Jewish, Oliver, who was 24 years old at that time. The memory-piece and first person POV approach, as the main narrative is told in flashback using framing device, in the novel makes the story very subjective that we have to adhere to what he feels. Quite the contrary, the film adaptation uses the third person POV and sets in the present time that it enables us for being a spectator who’s judging what happens on the screen based on our own perspective and opinion.

It doesn’t mean that the book is less captivating compared to the film, though. The book itself is a delicate work and its choice of using the first person POV allows us to capture the intensity of being behind Elio’s eyes. And it’s tremendous. But the film lets us, as the viewers, to have more freedom in evaluating the masterfully crafted and engineered on-screen story and, for that reason, it ultimately deserves to be hailed as one of the masterful film adaptation in recent years.

APRICOT ETYMOLOGY

In the film, Elio Perlman is portrayed by Timothee Chalamet whose masterful sensibility and subtlety in conveying his character’s sensual curiosity convince us that he is Elio. As a person who has read the novel, I’m so enthralled to witnessing how Chalamet embodies Elio so effortlessly with his juvenile demeanour in contrast to the mind of a connoisseur of his.

Here’s the thing. For me, Elio is more as an idea than he is as a person, a bright young lad who is old enough to comprehend complicated things, yet still, way too inexperienced to go through it. He still loves goofing around, but at the same time, he has an intimidating intelligence that makes him prefer the quiet sense of solitude. Imagine a barely 17 years old boy who is a trilingual (he speaks English, Italian and French without being worried of a slip of the tongue), a music prodigy and a very skilfull pianist with the ability to transcribe musics by Arnold Schoenberg, to improvise a Liszt-and-Busoni-like arrangement of Bach, and to make him more perfect, he happens to be a literature-smitten as well (he even brings Martin Heiddeger’s quotes in to a conversation!).

It’s Timothee Chalamet’s eyes that livening up the idea of Elio on screen.

His eyes speak more words than his mouth does in a single frame. While the skinny-long-waisted Chalamet’s Elio produces the spot on gestures as a sex-starved teenager who feels uncomfortable with his body and sexuality, his eyes deliver latent emotional spectrums, only a talented and gifted actor can do. Like when his eyes scan his soon-to-be lover, Oliver, with an intense curiosity; or when his eyes show the burst of sexual tension in a single glance.

Chalamet’s Elio’s journey to adulthood begins in summer 1983.

Elio and his parents have an annual summer tradition of visiting their airy-rustic villa in northern Italy. Elio’s mother, Annela Perlman (played by Amira Casar), is a kind and tender polylingualist housewife (she speaks English, Italian, French, and reads and translates German edition of Marguerite of Navarre’s The Heptameron); while his father, Dr Lyle Perlman (played brilliantly in a calmness and wiseness of an intellectual and a little bit of a teenage-like enthusiasm by Michael Stuhlbarg), is a professor who specializes in Greco-Roman culture.

Every summer, Dr Lyle Perlman has scholars to visit for six weeks and assist him in his work at his villa and for the summer of 1983, the scholar is, no other than, Oliver.

Oliver is played by Armie Hammer, an actor whose incredibly beautiful physical appearance is best described as an epitome of American hunk. Armie’s Oliver is tall, lean, blonde, smart, eloquent, articulate and athletic with a radiant and infectious confidence that will easily charm everyone, except Elio. Well, at first.

The very first time Oliver arrives at their villa, Elio secretly objects to the idea of sharing adjoined bedrooms, separated only by a bathroom, with the stranger. When Elio first learns about Oliver’s presence, he murmurs, “l’usurpateur” or ‘the usurper’ to his girlfriend, the pretty French-spoken girl, Marzia (Esther Garrel)—“La fille de Paris!”A colleague of Elio’s father recognizes her–.Although he feels irritated by the way Oliver says, “later” every time he’s about to leave to somewhere, Elio secretly observes the American stranger with curiosity as if he’s a Hellenistic sculpture.

It takes a nice conversation about the etymology of the word ‘apricot’ between Oliver and his father to win Elio’s heart. And then, they start to get along. They have long conversations, talk about philosophy and book and girls, exploring the little town together with bicycles, and even flirt with music with variations of Busoni and Bach. Oliver gets impressed by Elio’s prenatural intelligence (“Is there anything you don’t know?”, Oliver playfully asks Elio), but Elio thinks that Oliver is everything that he’s not.

MARCEL PROUST’S SENSIBILITY

Sure, the kinship builds. Slowly. But never dull.

And that’s what Guadagnino seemingly intended to. In a Proustian’s sensibility (the novel author is a proud Marcel Proust admirer), he patiently establishes a level of carefully orchestrated intimacy in the relationships between Elio and Oliver, to a certain extent, makes their existence more enticing until their deep-seated desire cracks like the cracked egg-shell. By giving Elio and Oliver the space they need, Guadagnino’s directing style lets them to breathe, to grow, and to become more aware of themselves at their own tempo, leaving us as the audiences to be a part of their story naturally and hardly feels constructed at all.

But it is Oliver who actually sets the tempo. Ivory’s screenplay gives enough hints of ambiguity and mystery to Hammer’s Oliver that, at some points, challenging our curiosity and then questioning his being. Oliver is portrayed as a mature man who knows exactly about himself (‘ I know myself…”, he says to Elio as the latter puts his hand on Oliver’s crouch through the pant on their first intimate physical encounter, or when Elio’s mother offers him to have more egg for breakfast). Although Elio is the one who initiates to make a bold move, at least overtly, Oliver seems to be the one who triggers Elio to do so. Like the scene in which Oliver gives the light massage and rub on Elio’s back. Or another hint the film seduces us in a scene which Elio reads a handwritten page inside Heraclitus’s Cosmic Fragments book—Oliver seems to leave that book intentionally so Elio can find and read it– that’s quoting Heraclitus’s epigram on the river of flux,” The meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but that some things stay the same only by changing

Oliver, through that note, seems to challenge and oppose to the old reading on Heraclitus’s Doctrine of Flux that interpreted it as “ we can’t step into the same river twice”. Did Oliver has the same sex romance before? Does he fully aware of Elio’s interest in him based on his previous experience and then decide to play a “catch me if you can”game?

We never know since Elio and Oliver are never seen exchanging words about their past romance. One can only assume that the 1983 setting plays an important part in establishing the reason why they’re (especially Oliver) being hesitant and holding back since the arrival of AIDS in 1980’s had helped to reinforce the taboo against male homosexuality.

But on the other hands, the seduction and ambiguity that Call Me by Your Name offer to us succeeds in setting up a more distinctive quality of innocence bravura of a harmless brief youthful-passionate and unfiltered taboo romance experience than Guadagnino’s previous films, I Am Love (2010) and A Bigger Splash (2015).

It helps, too, that this film features the erudite-aesthetes-bourgeois protagonists (the characters of this film recite and talk about Martin Heiddeger’s and Michel de Montaigne’s quotes, German edition of Marguerite of Navarre’s The Heptameron, to Heraclitus’s The Cosmic Fragments, to a passionate argument about Luis Bunuel’s works at lunch) with an extensive understanding of Greco-Roman culture that allows it to strip all the baggage commonly found in queer romance stories, such as social and religious norms restriction, as we see in the likes of Carol, Moonlight, or Brokeback Mountain.

Yes, the Perlmans are Jewish. And they celebrate Hanukkah. But they’re the open-minded secular Jewish who accept things and point-of-views not limited to their belief. Several times Call Me by Your Name points those things out in a subtle—or not very subtle– manner. Like in a dialogue between Elio and Oliver in a cafe, in which Elio says, “Oh, we are Jewish. But, we’re also American, Italian, France, somewhat eight typical combinations...” as he replies to Oliver question of why the Perlmans celebrate Christmas. And Elio also tells Oliver that his mother once said that they’re, “Jewish at discretion”. Or in Dr Lyle Perlman’s remarkably touching monologue as he talks to Elio after Oliver ends his summer internship and leaves them. In a brief, but unforgettable shot, the film faithfully recreates a moment in the book version, as the camera takes a shot of Oliver’s Star of David pendant from Elio’s POV. It then cuts to Elio’s facial and eyes expression that subtly shows his mixed reaction of an excitement to know that Oliver is Jewish—seeing it as a bond between them—and his doubt that Oliver’s religiosity will reciprocate his desire. Heck! The Perlman seniors even welcome a gay couple characters (one of them is played by the author of the novel, André Aciman himself).

The Perlman’s paradigm then allows us to see Call Me by Your Name as idealized fairy-tale of a gay-romance story. Even though a non-gay-but-sexually-tolerant parent or adult has been featured in a primary gay theme film before this, their existence is usually inserted in a film with comedy tone. For example, Arisan (Indonesia).

As demonstrated in I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino loves to have his films being presented with a high precision and detailed of sensual attention and curiosity towards his characters (his Desire trilogy have a poolside and “standing fellatio” scene); the textures and smells and intimate interaction of Italian life, even though they’re built out of his cinematic world that encircling his human characters, as if they’re incognito characters which not only serve a function as the backdrop for his story but also as a foothold for his human character’s development. Setting his story in a relatively remote Northern Italy, Guadagnino presents Call Me by Your Name in a sort of insulated utopia which his protagonists can develop an intuitive awareness of conflicting feelings and emotions to each other and, at the same time, explore their desires without fear of reproach and repercussion.

CHARACTERISTICS OF HELLENISTIC AGE

What makes Call Me by Your Name such an extraordinary achievement in storytelling is that Guadagnino brings his love for highly-detailed and precise directing style to another level, by incorporating his characters’ background into a recurring motif as the reason why a specific action is taken, not only as a backdrop or a gimmick. Guadagnino even uses his character’s background as the motif of the film treatment and camera work.

Call Me by Your Name opens with a collection of Hellenistic male sculptures photographs accompanied by credits and John Adams’ Hallelujah Junction -1st Movement. His choice of using Hellenistic male sculptures photographs for the opening sequence–the objects of Elio’s father research– is as the manifestation of his intention of unfolding desire, sensuality and emotion of his protagonists.

The Hellenistic era also introduced an androgynous aesthetic, especially in the sculptures. Greco-Roman culture is known for not seeing the concept of bisexuality as taboo and Hellenistic era continued how they saw bisexuality at that time, and it affected to how heterosexual relationships and the ideal male physical appearance was represented on their work of art. As a result, male Hellenistic sculptures became less bulky and muscular. They were also more slender, elegant and feminized. That’s why, at that time, the popularity of deities such as Apollo, Dionysus and Hermaphroditus gained more popularity and they were depicted as androgynous in sculptures. They still retained male anatomy, but they were slimmer and smoother, compared to sculptures from Classic era. Apollo was the god who often being depicted as an androgynous in sculptures because he was the god of music and poetry which were both considered as feminine arts.

The androgynous nature of male Hellenistic sculptures then draws ambiguity in seeing their sexuality. Or in the modern age, we’re familiar with the concept of “metrosexual”. This point is actually pointed out in a scene which involves a dialogue between Dr Lyle Perlman and Oliver when both of them are seen studying and observing a collection of Hellenistic male sculptures that Dr Perlman had discovered before through a projector. As they’re admiring the ageless beauty and ambiguity of what they’re observing, Dr Perlman says to the staggered Oliver that the sculptures challenge their inertia, “As if they’re daring you to desire them”. Oliver seems to be stunned by Dr Perlman’s words which are said hours before his first-time physical coupling with Elio.

Both main characters in Call Me by Your Name, Oliver and Elio, are not bulky and muscular in a way modern people of today see as the idealized form of a male physical look. Both of them are slim and slender. They’re androgynous. In fact, the concept of androgynous ambiguity was commonly adapted to popular culture in 1980’s, the era of the story was set. Well-known figures in popular art, such as Boy George and Billy Idol who wore a very visible makeup and pastel coloured clothes and kinky leather. Women wore broad shoulders clothes and tuxedos. In the 1980’s, they had a flirtation with the concept of sexuality and that’s one of the reasons why that era will always be fascinating.

Although Call Me by Your Name takes the viewers as the spectators in a relatively objective way, the camera frequently shots from Elio’s perspective in observing Oliver.

Oliver is more androgynous than Elio is and he carries the personality of, what we now call, “metrosexual”. He’s neat and more well dressed, compared to Elio who’s more “messy”, puppyish, wiry rather than chiselled. At one scene, Elio is surprised to find out that Oliver’s room—it’s used to be Elio’s room—now more neat and clean (“What have you done to this room,”Elio wonders”). For Elio, Oliver is like a Hellenistic sculpture who attracts his oppressed desire. The camera often takes shots of Oliver from lower angles, as if it underlines his self-esteem and his status as an alpha male.

It makes sense, then, that Guadagnino set Hellenistic sculptures as the opening of his film that also serves a function as an epigraph that summarizes the whole story of Call Me by Your Name. Up until this point, we’ve already learnt that the film is about a minor boy who’s in the quest for his true identity. Guadagnino uses his character’s sexuality as a way to reach the manhood and to unveil his self-faithfulness.

Guadagnino’s aim to recreate Hellenistic sculpture’s ambiguity, realistic, natural and subtle characteristic also has a significant impact on how he treats the film and the way camera shots its objects. Guadagnino’s d.o.p, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Beonmee, will work again with Guadagnino in Suspiria remake) filmed Call Me by Your Name in luminous celluloid (35 mm) that allows him being perceptive to the colour and sound of nature, as much as being perceptive to art objects. Mukdeeprom’s camera presents the nature of summer precisely by capturing and combining the colours of cerulean blue, cherry red, fresh apricots and limoncello yellow from the surrounding objects. So often, his camera works in a very Prost’s way by paying a hyperrealistic attention to tiny details like facial expressions, body gestures, the oozing-soft-boiled-egg, or touches. His shots position us to behave like an obsessive infatuated teenager.

Along with Guadagnino’s longtime editor, Walter Dasano, Mukdeeprom emphasizes subtlety emotional meanings in tune with the director’s obsession with the natural feeling of languorous mood. They create short scenes and abruptly cut them to another scene, but in each scene, the camera often works in a very Prost’s way by paying a hyperrealistic attention to tiny details, like facial expression, body gestures, the oozing-soft-boiled-egg, touches, or a specific line in the manner of an obsessive infatuated teenager. The combination of Mukdeeprom’s camera work and Dasano’s editing choice succeeds in creating the Hellenistic ambiguity that Guadagnino intended to.

Call Me by Your Name’s Hellenistic natural style is not only defined by its directing style. We cannot neglect the contribution of its sound editing that amplifies sounds and noises produced by nature, like wind, banging doors, water, or footsteps. As a result, there’s a specific quality of quietness about it. The sound editing is also smart in utilizing supposedly-non-diegetic sounds—soundtracks, for example– as if they’re being integrated with the narrative world. But, the sound editor seems to over-amplify Elio’ and Oliver’ speaking voices to underline their relationship.

THE COSMIC FRAGMENTS

There’s brief, but significantly pointed appearance of Heraclitus’s philosophical texts, The Cosmic Fragments, in Call Me by Your Name, and it doesn’t come up in vain.

Call Me by Your Name consists of chronological short-epigram-alike scenes , similar to The Cosmic Fragments which consists of hundreds of epigrams and short sayings, and each epigram in those material contains a paradoxical event that goes into an understanding that: all events happen is more about the world (logos) than just about the men (characters).

Heraclitus—whose teachings of the soul and logos represented a kind of paradigm for the Hellenic view of mortality—believes that there are a logos inside a human being and that our personal logos that provides us knowledge, and knowledge means experience and experience lead to wisdom. But, ones cannot assure that once the wisdom has been acquired, he or she will not go through the same process. It’s because of the existence of the greater, single-omnipresent-divine-logos that order, guide, and unify the process in a cycle.

In this film, personal logos is interpreted by desire, and that desire creates unreasonable urgency to do something. The concept of unreasonable urgency is strange for an erudite, like Oliver, who at first holding his desire back. But, in fact, the desire is behind why, “we can step into a river twice,” because desire will change either us or the river.

The knowledge that the main protagonists posses in this film, give them information that a kind of relationship that Oliver and Elio have will not last forever. Oliver knows it. Elio knows it. Elio’s parents know it. The Hellenistic sculptures and pieces of literature tell them so. They do observe, but their inner logos is the one who took the decision.

Do they regret? Eliot’s father’s monologue clearly shows that there’s no need to regret it.

Does the experience make them learn something and change? Oliver and Elio take a different path, and here’s the part where the decision to alter the ending helps the movie to become more powerful than the novel because the film refuses to teach us and it lets us to have our own interpretation instead.

The novel has Oliver and Elio meet again twenty years later in middle age, and reuniting. Meanwhile, the Guadagnino’s film finishes six months later in snowy winter after the events of the summer. The film implies that Elio has changed. He becomes more metropolitan in style.

Oliver also has changed. At least, that’s what we learn from his phone call to Elio that he’s going to get married. And it leads to one of the most dramatic ending in films I’ve watched so far as the entire movie is building up to this one poignant scene, as we see Elio cries before the camera and his eyes convey a wide-range of emotions that enable us to feel longing, anger, heartbroken, and being stranded, but strangely, we can still feel love and hope.

Are they going to have what Heraclitus’s Doctrine of Flux stated about, “step into the same river twice?” We never know as the on-screen story ends, we’re no longer being a part of their journey.

We only know that in an era when the significance and the privileged status of the work of art are being both questioned and reinforced, Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name becomes the ultimate monumental of the artistic achievement that turns literature about the infatuation, agony and also ecstasy of the first love, into the pure power of cinema.

So, how do you define first love? Is it “fall in love’? or Is it”fall in lust?”

(5/5)

Running time: 132 minutes

Production: A Sony Picture release of an RT Features, Frenesy Film Co., La Cinéfacture production.

(International sales: Memento Films, Paris.)

Producers: Peter Spears, Luca Guadagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marco Morabito. Executive producers: James Ivory, Howard Rosenman, Tom Dolby, Naima Abed, Nicholas Kaiser, Lourenço Sant’Anna, Sophie Mas, Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Derek Simonds, Margarethe Baillou.

Director: Luca Guadagnino.

Screenplay, James Ivory, Guadagnino, Walter Fasano.

Camera (colour, widescreen 35 mm): Sayombhu Mukdeeprom.

Editor: Walter Fasano.

Music: Sufjan Stevens.

Casts: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimoldi, Elena Bucci, Marco Sgrosso.

 

La La Land Review & Analysis: Five Seasons of Archetypes in A Technicolor Land

La La Land has five seasons and each season not only to mark an act, but they also serve as a theme for each chapter of Mia’s and Sebastian’s life which reminds me of Northrop Frye’s Theory of Archetypes.

In his book which was first published in 1957, Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye asserts that all narratives fall into one of four seasons. Each mythos has its own theme and consists of six phases, sharing three with the preceding mythos and three with the succeeding mythos.”




(The lego version of La La Land poster provided by @fbillys)

The world of La La Land is the world where contradiction, paradox, and irony coexisting altogether. It is the world wherein: conflicting elements exist in the same system; conflicting elements revealing a previously unknown truth; and a resolution that is opposite to what would be expected.

As a movie, La La Land consists of contradictive qualities. It’s humorous, but at the same time, serious; it’s uplifting, yet heartbreaking; it’s concave and reflective. It is a hundred and twenty-eight minutes of cinematic escapism that still gives you a taste of realism.

The story of La La Land is set in a place where dreams are built, sold as the main commodity and also shattered into pieces. It’s a place where hope could be turned into hate within seconds. It’s a place for dreamers who should be ready to be losers. It’s a place that constantly sunny and warm, a place called Los Angeles, Tinseltown, City of Angels, or a city that sells entertainment as the main business, a business with uncertainty and complexity.

But, it is the main characters of La La Land who bear the brunt of complexity. They’re a young woman and a young man. They are passionate and incredibly good looking. They live in the modern contemporary world, but their souls seem to be stuck in the old mold of the era when the originators and innovators were alive. They possess the demeanor of the golden age of Hollywood, but the time they’re living in keeps on going forward, not backward. Their idealistic world is based on nostalgia and fantasia, cemented on imageries of silver screens, vinyl records, and memorabilia, presented in the palette of Technicolor.

The young woman’s name is Mia Dolan (played brightly by Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who works as a barista at a coffee shop on the Warner Bros studio lot in between auditions. One day while she serves behind the cashier machine, a young lady–who wears a fancy and elegant dress–walks into her and orders a cup of cappuccino. She must be a famous actress or a public figure since other customers of the coffee-shop voluntary give her a lot of glances and a space to walk. Mia audaciously scans this young lady who, later to be seen, rides a golf cart accompanied by an assistant. The way Mia stares at her we know she admires this woman. We know that she wants to be like her.

One night after attending a Hollywood party, when she is looking for her car, Mia accidentally passes a small club in the downtown of Los Angeles. All of sudden she is hypnotized by a solo piano play. She follows the tunes and she gets surprised to find out it’s the same man he met earlier that day who playing the melody.

La La Land is a musical film, so it’s using music as the way to introduce its protagonists, music as its language to unite a lover. Their fate is bound by the tunes and melody. It’s the young man’s music that calling Mia.

The young man’s name is Sebastian: a struggling jazz musician, but not necessarily a crooner, since the way he sings the songs is more like a pop singer than a jazzy one. It’s the first contradiction I recognize from this film. Sebastian proclaims himself as a “jazz purist”, but he is forced to making ends meet by playing for an eighties retro cover version band (they’re playing songs from A-HA and a one hit wonder band, Flocks and Seagull). He thinks that the real jazz is dying and for that he plans to open his own jazz club, but he barely makes money. He compares himself to phoenix, a mystical creature whose ability of, “rising from the ashes”. He’s sort of a cultural snobbish.

Mia’s and Sebastian’s paths of life seem to cross, again and again, by some odd chances. La La Land clearly tries to bring us into a perspective that this is a movie about a dream. A beautiful and idealistic dream, at first, set in a place where all of the possibilities could happen to you.  It’s a hot and bright sunny day in an awfully long queue of the traffic jam on a freeway where Mia and Sebastian meet up for the first time, at the tail end of the opening scene. Mia is seen rehearsing behind the steering wheel of her Prius, practicing some lines of dialogues for her next audition. Apparently, she’s too focus on her script, she doesn’t realize that her car blocking Sebastian’s way in his classic seventies convertible ride. Sebastian honks impatiently, Mia gives her middle finger, and the rest of their journey is inevitable.

It starts in a mechanism of a rom-com movie, a screwball to be specific, a genre that originating in the early 1930’s and finally thriving in the early of 1940’s. It’s a genre of which the two protagonists first meet each other in a humorous circumstance of the battle of the sexes. Screwball comedy movies had their place in the era of great depression and war of which audiences needed an escape. The way Damien Chazelle, the director of La La Land, introduces his pair of characters is a nod to the era when motion pictures purely performed a function of escapism. It’s a reminiscence of the moment when Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Kathy Shelden (Debbie Reynolds) meet for the first time in Singing in the Rain. It’s also the first signals that his La La Land is aimed as a throwback to the very good old time of cinema when Hollywood was still depicted lightheartedly and innocently.

Through the opening scene, Chazelle has delineated La La Land with his festive idea of charm: presenting a massive dance sequence of the drivers who stuck on the freeway, emerging from their vehicles, displaying a variety of ethnicity like a proclamation that this is the place for every person of color and race, they’re dancing and singing like nobody business, to leap and twirl between and atop cars in one gliding and swivelling faux-long take, choreographed by Mandy Moore (not that former teenage pop-star) with a fusion of ballet and contemporary dance. Shot on film by cinematographer, Linus Sandgren (American Hustle, Joy) with CinemaScope 55 camera, the grandeur opening scene establishes the film as a paean to old musical movies. It is also a statement from Chazelle that this is a movie about dreams. A joyous one. Or perhaps is it a manifestation of dreams for everyone who suffers boredom over a long traffic jam? Or is it just a welcoming act of a musical play?

Chazelle opens his film with a superimposed text informing that it’s a “winter”, but the opening musical number is titled, “Another Day of Sun”. Christmas Carol and Jingle Bells can be heard everywhere, but snow is nowhere to be found. It’s a noticeable contradiction, although its use of the name of seasons as the title of a chapter in this film has a greater purpose nevertheless.

Chazelle starts his story in “winter” as the first act and ends it, also, in “winter”. It indicates the circle of life, from nothing to something, from nobody to somebody, as his pair of protagonist’s life progress and goes on. The creative choice suggests the structure of four acts and it reminds me of the using of month names to mark each phase of the story in Jacques Demy’s 1964 classic musical experimental film, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrella of Cherbourg). It is not the only homage to Catherine Deneuve starrer movie. Later, around the mid duration of the movie, we will see Emma Stone’s Mia writing a one-woman-show stage-play with Deneuve’s character name from Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Geneviève, as her main heroine.

La La Land has five seasons and each season not only to mark an act, but they also serve as a theme for each chapter of Mia’s and Sebastian’s life which reminds me of Northrop Frye’s Theory of Archetypes.

In his book which was first published in 1957, Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye asserts that all narratives fall into one of four seasons. Each mythos has its own theme and consists of six phases, sharing three with the preceding mythos and three with the succeeding mythos.

Winter

Right after the aforementioned epic spectacle musical opening scene, we are being informed that it’s “winter” in La La Land. According to Frye’s theory, winter reflects the theme of “satire and irony”. The process of Mia meeting Sebastian is ironic. They start it with a potency of conflict, even though it’s a cute one, as Mia gives her middle finger to Sebastian. But later, Mia accidentally falls in love with Sebastian after hearing his solo piano play and she ends up glaring at him with an intrigued look as Sebastian hits her and ignores her. This “season” also has a contradictive element since, at the first time they meet, Mia and Sebastian are wearing clothes with different colors, however when they encounter again with each other at the bar, this time, they both are in the same color: Mia is wearing blue dress, so is Sebastian putting up himself in a blue suit. Their color-matching dress-code is an indication that they’re made for each other and it’s ironic. Another contradictive element can be seen by how Sebastian and Mia have a different personal taste from the looks of their cars. When the camera first shots on Sebastian in his car, he is seen busy rewinding a cassette player of his retro convertible car.  This is the way how this movie has established Sebastian’s nostalgic, culturally hippie and snobbish personality. Later, also in this season, we’ll see Sebastian recording his piano play with a vinyl-recorder, instead of using a modern recorder. So it is understandable that Sebastian has no cell-phone. Mia is, another way around, seen riding a much more modern-designed car and using iPhone as a tool of communication.  The first “winter” in this movie also highlights the quality of satire. Here, we’re being introduced to their struggle for getting their dreams fulfilled in a funny way. We will see Mia auditioning for a role in a blue raincoat since her white shirt accidentally gets spilled by one of her customer’s coffee. Emma Stone’s performance is so excellent here. In a hilarious meta-acting chop, she plays her role before two casting directors as if she’s in the middle of a phone call with somebody. When she’s already in her emotional state, crying over her phone call, her acting gets distracted by someone who suddenly comes into the audition room and she has to have her emotion paused. On the other side of the story, we’re also being informed of how Sebastian burying his ego and pride. Wearing a fancy blue suit and black tie, he looks like Frank Sinatra and seems ready to play an acid jazz repertoire with his piano. But, eventually, he is playing a very standard Christmas songs as his boss (played by J.K Simmons) warns him, “No jazz!”. These funny introductions are a satire of how two people who live and try to make a living in a dream land have to deal with rejections.

Spring

It’s a season of comedy and it’s indeed started with a moment of comedy. In a pool party Mia, who wears a soon-to-be-iconic Atelier Versace inspired bright yellow floral printed dress, recognizes Sebastian who, this time wears an eighties look dress-code with a bright orange jacket and dark yellow baggy pant, is playing a gig and A-Ha’s Take on Me with a cover version band. Mia, then, intentionally mocks Sebastian by requesting A Flocks of Seagull’s I Ran to refer their previous encounter in a club at which Sebastian “ran away” from Mia (she also imitates the lyric in front of Sebastian in purpose). “Spring” in La La Land also refers to their blossoming love as they start to feel affection for each other and finding out that they have the same rhythm and beat. In a musical movie, the dance number performs a function as a way for its characters to share the same feeling through a dance. Here, in this season, Mia and Sebastian impulsively have a dance in the bright blue night sky which is also a tribute to a classic musical film, Singing in the Rain. In an iconic-in-the-making tap dance scene, both Mia and Sebastian show that they are attuned to each other. Chazelle uses “spring” and his nostalgia of Hollywood Golden Age era as the frame to show us the process of affirmative action of his characters love life. Mia talks about her fondness for classic films (Casablanca, Notorious, and a screwball movie, Bring Up Baby), Sebastian talks about his passion for jazz, Count Basie, and Chick Webb. Later, we’ll see Mia and Sebastian in white shirts having an excursion through Warner Bros lot, passing the set of Humphrey Bogart’ and Ingrid Bergman’ Casablanca (Mia is a huge fan of Bergman as we can see the big poster of her in Mia’s room)

There’s a cute tension here, though, when Mia admits that she hates jazz and this honest confession leads Sebastian to lecture her about the history of jazz while they’re listening to a quintet bebop jazz band at The Lighthouse Café. They’re seen being involved in a literate-dialogue in which Sebastian shares his fascination about jazz and brings the legendary Sydney Bechet into the plate. There’s a moment here when Sebastian points out how the quintet jazz band they’re listening to always offer something new in their gigs, although they’re playing the same repertoire each night. That’s the moment when I realize, as an avid fan of jazz myself, La La Land has so much jazz in it. One of the jazz’s distinctive qualities that separate itself from other music is the quality of polyrhythmic, the ability of jazz as music carrying multiple and contrasting rhythms at the same time. Despite the fact that its plot is built on classic and well-known movies, La La Land is able to define itself as an original material, not only because of the songs but also due to its ability to present itself in layers of contradictive and antithetical elements.

The dialogues between Mia and Sebastian here also reminiscent of Woody Allen’s movies, especially Everyone Says I Love You.

The season of “Spring” in La La Land also provides an iconic dreamy-alike pas de-deux jazz-ballet dance scene at the Griffith Observatory inspired by Rebel Without A Cause, a movie of which Mia and Sebastian watching on their first date. The spring season in La La Land ends by an “iris” editing style commonly used in classic movies bringing up the effect of whimsical old-fashioned filmmaking.

Summer

According to Northrop Frye’s The Theory of Archetype, summer is the season of romance and it’s time to romancing Mia and Sebastian relationship. This phase opens with a montage of the couple visiting some places in Los Angeles showing their progressively blossoming love life accompanied by a swing jazz instrumental music. The montage gives us a glance of the youthful innocence of inexperience. The montage includes a scene in which Mia in a pink shirt tap dancing to a live swing jazz music played by Sebastian and the quintet jazz band we’ve previously seen in The Lighthouse Café scene.

This season also marks an enlightened moment for the pairs to evolve. Sebastian realizes that he needs a steady income and he considers to take an offer from his longtime friend, Keith (played by a musician in real life, John Legend), to joining market-oriented pop fusion-jazz band. At first, Sebastian seems reluctant to join. I assume Sebastian is a neo-bop jazz musician whose conservative notions that the best way to save jazz is by keeping the genre pure and untouched by another genre. Sebastian’s hesitation leads Keith to open an honest discussion between the two of them, in which Keith asks Sebastian how he’s going to revolutionize jazz by being a traditionalist ( Keith cites Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk as Sebastian’s vision of pure jazz).

The conversation between those two friends is the moment for Sebastian to have his idealistic view revised. But ironically, this is also the moment for Mia to really believe in her dream and starts to pursue it.

The irony and contradiction are symbolized by the song, City Of Stars. When we first hear this song in “spring”, Sebastian sings it solo, questioning his fate and journey. In “summer”, City of Stars is being sung in duet. Emma Stone’s Mia tries to answer Gosling’s Sebastian question of doubt. Mia sings the song in a humorous and confident way, she sings it with more firm and assertive. By the time Sebastian sings the lyric, “ …Think I want it to stay”, he assures himself that he’s chosen the right path and the editing cut to the scene of him signing the contract and joining Keith’s band.

At the same time, Mia quits her job as the barista and totally pursuing her dream career as an actress. As “City of Stars” keeps on playing, we see a montage that showing the two lovers begin to separate.

The biggest contradiction and irony can be seen in a scene when Mia attending Sebastian’s band, The Messengers’ first concert.  The way Sebastian looks at Mia who’s standing in the crowd he thinks that his girl would be proud. But Mia thinks otherwise. She knows something has changed, something that would bring them taking a different path. Mia feels that she’s going to be just “someone in the crowd”, the song she sings earlier in this film.

Fall or Autumn

By the time we enter fall season in La La Land, the irony and contradiction between the pair are getting more serious we’re going to face the season of tragedy. Mia got her own one-woman show stageplay, So Long, funded. The title is also the sign for her to saying goodbye to Sebs. Meanwhile, Sebastian is getting busy on tour with his band. He gives up his dreams, Mia keeps on pursuing hers.

There’s a scene of two of them having a surprise dinner arranged by Sebastian in the apartment they’re living together, accompanied by their theme song, “City of Stars”, this time in a swing fast-tempo beat piano solo version. This is the time when they’re arguing over their dreams. It is the time they realize that they could not be together. It’s the time for Mia to say, “This is not home anymore”, as she feels that she’s fighting alone. The editing keeps on highlighting the big contrast between the couple by crosscutting the scenes. It’s also the moment we notice that Mia and Sebastian are wearing dresses with different colors. Mia wears a white shirt symbolizes her pure intention, while Sebastian wearing dark suit reflecting his surrender to the dark side of business. It’s like Chazelle subtly criticizing the industry through his characters.

But Chazelle also puts his story into a paradox, whereas it hints at a promise that the end of the tunnel is going to be bright for Mia and Sebastian.

Sebastian convinces Mia to audition for Amy Brandt, a presumably powerful casting director, whom he was receiving a phone call the other night. In the audition, Mia is being told that the film project she’s about auditioned for will be shot in Paris. It’s kind of resembles Audrey Hepburn’s classic movie, Funny Faces.

Winter (Again)

We fast forward to five years later. Now, Mia Dolan is a famous actress. She revisits Warner Bros lot and the café she used to work before. Mia is seen wearing a toned-down color and elegant dress, just like the women she admired in the earlier scene. Gone is her one basic colored-dress.

On the other side of the city, Sebastian has his dream of having his own jazz club achieved. By this season, Chazelle proves himself again as an avid nostalgist. But, this time he chooses to reconstruct the previous era of his own film in more ironic and tragic way.

Mia and her-now-husband accidentally visit Sebastian’s jazz café, Sebs. As she enters the café and reads the sign, she is experiencing a déjà vu. It’s like recycling the first moment when she first met Sebastian. But now they’re wearing dresses with totally different colors. They don’t belong to each other.

Chazelle offers an alternative story for the pair. It makes this film has a four acts structure. We see a montage in which the happier version of the story is being told. We hear the medley of “Another Day of Sun” and other numbers are being played to accompany the montage. It’s a dream sequence all over again like we previously see in the opening sequence. In a musical stage-play, there’s a part following the epilog in which all the casts show up on stage performing recurrent musical numbers. The alternative montage performs the same function as the musical stage play does, but Chazelle changes the order to create the maximum impact of contradiction, paradox, and irony.

The alternative montage is also the homage and tribute to classic musical movies, such as Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris.

But the real ending is the real gem, as it shows Sebastian and Mia now have a platonic relationship. They are now exchanging glances to each other, a very deep and meaningful long glance. It’s a glance that indicates they’re still in love each other, but they’re fully aware that they should choose different paths. It’s a statement that we can only achieve one dream. Sometimes we have to leave our past behind in order to succeed in something. This great, but smothering ending, is kind of a paean to Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and a 1927’s movie, 7th Heaven.

The Editing

It’s noticeable that Chazelle and his editor, Tom Cross, use a contrasting approach as the story goes by. In the first “winter” until “spring”, the editing heavily relies on “panning” and “invincible editing” to create the illusion of a long unbroken dream. This choice of editing helps the film to deliver energetic and frenetic pace, as these two first phase of Mia’ and Sebastian’ life are indeed like an idealistic dream. But as the story reaches the phase of “summer” and “autumn”, the editing is more fractured and the pace is slower. It suggests the message that the dream begins to fade and the characters should’ve stepped on reality.

The Performance and The Music

The greatness of La La Land is built on its two leading stars.

Gosling is excellent, tough and sardonic. He plays Sebastian in a way of convincing portrayal of a guy who’s adorable, charismatic, lovable, and miserable at the same time.

While as for Stone, this is her best performance so far. Her huge doe eyes radiating intelligence and they’re more shining when they’re filling with tears. Her Mia Dolan is witty, smart, and vulnerable at the same time. Together with Gosling’s Sebastian, Stone’s character without a doubt would be voted as the new iconic couple in cinema.

There are some irritating comments about how their performances are overrated. Some people are thinking that they’re not true musical stars with big-vibrato singing voices. The story of La La Land is the story of two ordinary people who live in their dreams. The musical numbers in this film is the way of filmmakers to portraying their dreams. Their imperfection in singing is designed to make their story accessible for everyone. To implying everyone could have their dreams.

La La Land’s music of which is composed by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (save for “Start A Fire”, which was written by Hurwitz, John Legend, Angélique Cinélu and Marius de Vries), combines and heighten ups of the old Hollywood musical with a realistic, nuanced, and modern look at everyday life. Every song in this movie is about character and story.

There’s a Michel Legrand’s DNA in La La Land music. Legrand is a legendary music composer and jazz pianist well-known for his long collaboration with French director, Jacques Demy. Like Legrand’s music, Hurwitz’s composition is able to marry jazz rhythm section and jazz big band with a full blown romantic orchestra. It’s also hard not to notice the heavy using of flutes to enrich the melody in this movie. It gives the nuance of 50’s to 60’s jazz music, commonly found in French movies. The result is memorable and easily hooked on music.



I have watched La La Land three times now. And I definitely will watch it again and again. A modern musical movie is easy to be found, but La La Land is an example of the movie of a lifetime.

It’s because the complexity of paradox, contradiction, and irony qualities this movie carries. It’s dreamy and reality. It’s nostalgic and majestic.

I’ve never remembered a quote about nostalgia in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris as strong as I had after watching La La Land. In that 2011 movie, Michael Sheen’s character, Paul, famously says, “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

Like Midnight in Paris, La La Land is a paean to the old time of cinema and culture. It’s a love letter to culture at its best, but also a very funny and heartfelt criticism. These two movies admire the past, but also warn us to face the future.

The title of La La Land could be interpreted into many meanings. The words of “La” in French means “the”, a word in English to point a determination of a place or a thing whose specific or well-known quality.

In jazz, there’s a technique of singing called “scat singing” of which comprises nonsense syllables, such as “ la la la” to give more rhythm to the song in addition to the beat. Like the syllable of “ la la”, sometimes a dream is a nonsensical thing. You may believe and pursue it, but you cannot let yourself be drowned in it.

That’s the beauty of La La Land. It may be a nonsense for some people, but it has a sense of adventure and endless charm. And oh la la, c’est manifique ! 

(5/5)

Reviewed at Epicentrum XXI, on January 10, 2017

Running time: 128 minutes

Imported for Indonesia market by Prima Cinema Multimedia

A Lionsgate release of a Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Imposter Pictures, Marc Platt production.

Produced by Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt, Gary Gilbert.

Director, screenplay: Damien Chazelle

Camera (color, widescreen, CinemaScope55): Linus Sandgren

Editor: Tom Cross.

Music composed by Justin Hurwitz

Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (save for “Start A Fire”, which was written by Hurwitz, John Legend, Angélique Cinélu and Marius de Vries)

Production designer: David Wasco

Casts: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Meagan Fay.

Arrival Review & Analysis: An Understanding In A Full Circle

Language is the foundation of civilization. It is a glue that holds people together, and it is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”




That line is quoted by Dr. Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist, from Dr. Louise Banks’ thesis (played superbly by Amy Adams), an advanced linguist, when they first meet each other on a helicopter trip arranged and led by a US military leader, Colonel Weber (played by Forest Whitaker) for a mission to making a contact with 12 strange shaped unidentified objects contain a race of alien (which are later called, The Heptapods) that suddenly appeared in 12 countries on Earth. The brief, but keen-witted, scene is from Arrival—the latest feature directorial work from Denis Villeneuve, a French-Canadian filmmaker—a movie based on an award-winning science-fiction-existentialist novella, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang released in 1999.

The first time I watched Arrival in theater, I was not automatically connected. I knew it’s a film with the tremendous level of techniques and details. I understand the movie, but I found it was not entirely explicable.

It was the time on my way home when I was struck with some kind of consciousness. The imageries from Arrival lingered on my mind and they were getting stronger and stronger each time. The film was like calling me to come back to it. Like the line Amy Adams’ character repeatedly said in the opening sequence, “Come back to me… come back to me”. It was like a plea, solicitation, and even a prayer. But, I didn’t immediately fathom what’s so fascinating and exciting about the movie.

And then I went for a repeat viewing, a day after I watched it for the first time. I let go my imagination, I absorbed the details, and the most important thing was I dismissing my ego.

And then that was it, the moment of enlightenment. I reached an understanding, in a full circle. Now, I don’t only like the movie, but I’m awe-struck by it. Arrival is a rare movie, these days in an era of films with futuristic setting misinterpreted as sci-fi, wrapped by the accountable using of science and knowledge. It’s a movie with almost no gimmicks because every little detail counts. It trusts our intellectual to digest and to interpret. It’s not only a great sci-fi movie. It’s a great movie.

The story of Arrival is the story of Amy Adams’ Louise Banks.  It follows her journey, a kind of spiritual one, to find the meaning of her existence. But, it ends up as an extraordinary spiritual journey that not only succeeds in revealing her fate, but also the core of human existence, through language.

I’ve read the novella on which Arrival is based. Although Arrival delivers the same energy and emotion like the novella does, the way it tells its story is unlike its source material. Arrival tells its story in the manner of non-linear orthography language. What is that actually? Orthography is a set of rules about the way a language is written including spelling, emphasis, and punctuation. Bahasa Indonesia and English, for instance, are linear orthographies since we write and read it from left to right. Arab language, even though it works in the opposite mechanism to English and Indonesia, also belongs to linear orthography category. Because those three languages have such clear rules about how and when a word or a sentence begins and ends.

A non-linear orthography language, contrariwise, has no clear guides when a word or a sentence begins and ends. The language of the heptapods aliens in Arrival is also non-linear orthography which is written in circular puffs of dark smoke produced by their tentacles, with no beginning or no end.  Their language has no alphabets or scripts. The creatures from outer space in this movie communicate with logogram, a collection of symbols formed a circle that can stand for a word, an entire sentence, or feeling. Since the aliens themselves don’t experience linear time, their logograms can put words in any order without changing the meaning of the message. Arrival gives us a series of information about the events occur in this movie like the logogram, as if it’s in a loop of Aristotle’s Theory of Causality, which is the beginning and the ending; the cause and the effect, and both of them exist at the same time. The words of “beginning” and “cause” represent the past, as both of them refer to the preceding events or the start. The words of “ending” and “effect” reflect the future, as they refer to the following events or the finish line. Arrival makes us experience its entirety of the thought, emotion, perception, and reason all at once in tandem with the past and the future, not just in an intertwining or progressive order.

Language is indeed the key word in this movie, a very powerful noun whose multiple functions, such: as a tool of communication, either written or spoken or using body gestures or signs or signals or even through a series of imageries; as one of ways of knowing (the others are included emotion, perception, and reason); and as the weapon, like the line quoted by Ian Donnelly. This movie even merges its functions since it communicates with us and, at the same time, provokes our ways of knowing through cinema as its language.

The concept of language and communication is even used in the attention-grabbing and emotional opening sequence montage which is accompanied by On A Nature of Daylight, strings quintet score by British composer, Mark Richter, which is also used in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island—that shows a brief encounter of the cycle of a young girl’s life, guided by the whispering narration by Amy Adams’ Louise Banks.  The way she whispers her words is like a lullaby, an apostrophe, and a sonnet all at once. She is questioning the concept of existence in a lyrical, forlorn, personal and motherly way. She longs for something and wants it to return to her belongings, something that she is meant to be. And there’s no better music than Richter’s in substantiating the emotional element of the sequence.

But what is it she longing for?

I used to think it was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time; by its order…”, Adam’s Louise Banks starts her story.

The montage sequence whose structure like vignettes is a brief summary of a life: a baby is born, grows up into a young girl, and then suffers an unidentified illness before she finally passes away. It is the most emotional and heartbreaking opening montage only second to the dramatic Michael Giacchino’s waltz-esque score brought us to tears through the opening sequence of Pixar’s Up.

The opening sequence, shot in Terence Malick’s Tree of Life aesthetic, also shows an evolution of language as a means of communication through the speaking voice or the facial expressions: from the moment of happiness of a mother in welcoming her newly-born-baby; the moment of togetherness of a little child and her mother while they’re playing in a grassy yard and sharing some laughter; the moment of intimacy when the little daughter says, “I love you” to her mother; the moment when the little kid yells, “I hate you” angrily to her mother; to the moment of grief and sorrow when both of them are facing the hardest time of their life. The sequence shows us how language evolves along with the development of the brain, physical and emotional of the daughter with her mother, Louise Banks. But camera focuses its shot on the daughter, following her evolution in adapting language and expression as a tool of communication. The mother is her audience.

But now I’m not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings. There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived”, by these sentences, Louise Banks gets her understanding about what actually happens.

But, we’re still looking for what the movie is talking about as scene by scene goes by.

Louise Banks’ whispery voice over performs the function of the epigraph, which is commonly found in the preamble of a book or in a chapter whose intention to suggest its theme or even the entire of the story. Arrival is a Villenueve’s film, which means there are a lot of his cinematic trademarks in it. The way the opening sequence is being presented in this film reminiscent of Villeneuve’s cinematic demeanor.

Villeneuve is well known for his tendency to approaching film in the same way we write an article or story. In writing, the first sentence should be something that grabs the reader’s attention. Villenueve uses his first scenes or sequences to establish a tone and draw in audiences immediately. Or in literature we call it epigraph. Typically, his opening sequence is very important in the context of the entire film, but the real meaning or value of it is not always apparent or obvious until much later.

In his Enemy (2013) — coincidentally resembles the theme of alien encounters –, for instance, opens with a line that functions as the epigraph from Jose Saramago’s The Double, the novel on which the movie is based.

Chaos is order, yet undeciphered”

The epigraph in Enemy actually suggests that there are some senses of clues of it if we only know how it can be deciphered. The opening line, then, is followed by an intriguing and provoking scene, which takes place at a sex show, the kind of show we also find in Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden. Later, in the same scene, we see our first spider (I assume it’s a black widow spider), crawling out of a golden shiny tray and then we see a lady’s foot is about to step on it, intentionally and consciously. For you who have already watched Enemy will understand the connection between the epigraph, the opening scene, and the mind-blowing ending.

The aforementioned illustration exemplifies how Villeneuve utilizes his opening scenes to hint at a reoccurring theme and message in his films.

Arrival is no exception.

His preference for maximizing the technique of editing mixes up the conscious with the subconscious in his narrative. He unfurls the underlying message in dialogues or unexpected extreme close-up shots on, we might think at first, a random object. Villeneuve also often features music or score while the camera gradually tracks away from a scenic shot into a more structured one, by alternating shots with contrasting ones in order to bring audiences into a forced perspective. Without context, his creative decision would get audiences confused, but he combines it with music, cinematography, camera movement, and facial expressions on the actor to make a powerful statement. The result is, instead of being disoriented, audiences will anticipate many important aspects to come throughout the entire of the movie, because Villeneuve’s opening scene establish important aspects of his films such as setting, the topic, and the tone. In short, every little detail in his film counts.

Another Villeneuve’s signature technique we can find in Arrival is the exertion of mystery. He always purposely restricts the perspective of his films to his main character(s) to create a puzzle. With this set-up, his characters are searching for the answers, and so are the audiences. This set-up also helps to bring a twist forth at the end of the story, where, if we once reach the end of the story, we would get the comprehensive understanding about the previous events shown in the opening sequence. It means that most of Villeneuve’s films have a full cycle.

The camera works by Bradford Young (cinematographer for Selma, A Most Violent Year) is brilliant here. He uses Amy Adams’ face as a canvas of observation, continuing Villeneuve’s cinematic traces, and inviting us to study her contour of emotions.

There’s a riveting scene in Arrival of which showing why Amy Adams, 5 times Oscar nominees, is the perfect actor for the leading cast in this movie. The scene is when Adams’ Louise Banks and her students first finding out about aliens encounter. One of her students asks her to turn the screen into television as breaking news program reporting the unusual events. In typical using of news footages in films, the camera will shoot the television. But, in Arrival, Young’s camera chooses to observe Louise Banks’ reaction and put her in a separate blocking with her students while the voice of news anchor is echoing and giving us the information, but also isolating her character. We can see how Louise Banks as a respected linguist absorbs the information and digests it through Amy Adams interpretation.

The scene continues Villeneuve’s tradition of shooting his main character in isolation shots. Before the aforementioned scene, Young’s camera follows Louise Banks as she enters the campus where she is lecturing. She walks straight and adamantly, even she is passing through some boisterous and curious crowds who are watching breaking-news programs. The camera isolates her from the crowd to indicate that she is a very focus lady. She once looks toward the crowds, shows some curiosity, but she keeps on walking to her class. This series of isolation shots establish Louise Banks’ character status, that later on, be revealed in a conversation.

Arrival is a compact and elegant film. Its pace is slow, as it unveils its mystery steadily. This movie builds the conflict and tension through communication, debates, and arguments surrounding the meaning of heptapods’ writings. The conflict is based on “lost in translation”. This movie is also involving a geopolitics issue, like we once saw in Eye in the Sky, as the heptapods landed on 12 different countries. Audiences who expect some spectacled combats between aliens and humans will get disappointed. But, once again, this movie is aimed as the nutrition for your brain, not only as a feast to your eyes.

I’m intrigued by how the heptapods space crafts are designed. These 1500 feet black monolith-alike space crafts resemble sloping half-ovals (a line and a circle at once) and each spacecraft is a detached entity. They’re like 12 separated-pieces waiting to be united. The number of 12 symbolizes the time. The clock which has the form of a full circle. In my theory, those 12 spacecrafts represent a variety of big cultures on Earth and together they will form an enormous full circle. Like the mechanism of time that always repeating itself or like the heptapods’ language, or like the structure of this movie.

I read this insightful book, The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain, in which Terence Deacon noted, “In this context, then, consider the case of human language. It is one of the most distinctive behavioral adaptations on the planet. Languages evolved in only one species, in only one way, without precedent, except in the most general sense. And the difference between languages and all other natural modes of communicating are vast,”

Arrival provokes the same topic as Deacon’s book implies. The main idea is questioning the concept of language to influence someone’s behavior and personality, mannerly or culturally, by which one changes his/her pattern of action to better suits the new environment.

I speak fluently in three languages: Indonesia, as my native language; English, the language I started speaking when I was 10 years old; and French, the language I started to learn when I was 14 years old. I rarely use it on a daily basis, but French influences how I interpret art and food, as my fascination for French began to develop since I attended a ballet class in my childhood.

I feel that my personality can be split into three different cultures and the way I express myself, more often than not, is only able to be channeled through a language only. For example, when I enjoy a product of high art (beaux arts/art majeur), I would use French to express myself. Otherwise, I would speak or write in English to express my ideas about mass art (pop culture) and I would use Indonesia to have a conversation about daily life, as the majority of my friends speak this language.

I also tend to sing better in English or French. But mastering three languages have helped me to understand three different cultures comprehensively. There were many times when I burst into laugh watching a French movie, while the other audiences didn’t laugh at all. My point is there is a barrier in language as a means of communication. The way humans languages evolving have their own flaws, as they require the speakers and the recipients to agree on every part of the process, including the interpretation which needs a whole understanding about the context and the culture all at once, instantly.

Deacon’s book and Arrival intrigue me with the basic question I once had when I was younger about, “What was the first human language like before it evolved into thousand of languages we find today? Is it possible that someday, in the future, our languages going to merge into one and universal language? A language sans frontiere?

As Amy Adams’ Louise Banks gets a better understanding of Heptapods language, she begins to envision her future. Does it mean mastering Heptapods language help her to be a clairvoyant? I’m not sure. But, in my theory, the ability to see beyond the time is a part of Heptapods culture and the way they’re thinking. Like when I got attuned to the French language, I could understand them.

My hypothesis is that the Heptapods intentionally making appearances in 12 different countries to seek for someone who can learn their language. As two friendly Heptapods, Abbot and Costello (they were named by Jeremy Renner’s Ian Donnelly after linguistically challenged famous duo), said to Louise that, “they need humanity help”.

This moment when Louise meets with Abbot and Costello without any barrier (previously they communicate to each other through an invisible wall), and the friendly Heptapods are finally able to transfer their knowledge without any hesitation from Louise. This is the moment when a language becomes universal. This the moment when Louise realizes that she’s able to experience the future while still living in present time, and the time she has to see her destiny and she apparently has to accept it as well.

This the time when I’m aware that Arrival works on a theory of linguistic relativity, called Saphir-Whorf hypothesis, a theory which proposes the idea that the language we’re speaking reflects or shapes the way we think.

A friend sent me a private text questioning whether the Heptapods performed a function as a deception to the whole story or not. I cannot agree, but I don’t fully oppose to his perception either.  In my interpretation, the heptapods is the trigger for human beings to unite as one voice, without any barrier. It’s a metaphor of an idea to conceive a tranquility and harmony using language as a tool, not as a weapon.

That what makes Arrival transcends beyond its traditional role of a movie as an art or just as a mass entertainment. It not only offers an idea but also a solution. It starts with questions, but also gives us the answers. All at once. At the same time, in a full circle.

Like Hannah, the name of Louise Banks’ daughter, the film purports to use flashbacks and forwards in subsequent viewings by the way of a palindrome. It carries us to feel the emotion, perception, and reason in order to get a whole understanding. Again, in a full circle.

(5/5)

Reviewed at Epicentrum XXI, on January 7, 2017

Running time: 116 minutes

A Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures International release of a 21 Laps Entertainment, FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films production. Produced by Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, Karen Lunder, David Linde.

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay: Eric Heisserer

Based on novella, Story of Your Life, by Ted Chiang

Camera(color, widescreen): Bradford Young

Editor: Joe Walker

Production designer: Patrice Vermette

Music: Johann Johannsson

Art director: Isabelle Guay

Casts: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker