Mata Sepet


Written on 6/01/2005 10:18:00 am by sikapitan

This is an entry published in the MSN.Spaces site, dated April 14 and the only one that generated any sort feedback. One of which came from Yasmin Ahmad herself (but hey, it's the Internet age, how can we tell?). It's reproduced here in all its "glory", un-edited with all the errors remaining intact. Enjoy.

Chapter II - Movie Review: Sepet
Expectation is a weird thing. It certainly is a wonderful tool for cheering someone up ("Don't worry, you'll find someone better"). Expectation drives you on. In fact, it could be said that it drives the whole world on. I mean, National Budgets are based on expectations; company policies are based on expectations, going to school is based on expectations (whether yours or your parents doesn't matter now, does it?).
And yet it is the biggest cause of heartaches and dissapointment. Seldom do you get upset over something you didn't expect. I mean, you don't get broken-hearted if Cameron Diaz marries another guy because she wasn't the one you were expecting. But I also believe that one of the greatest pleasures in life is getting something MORE from what you expect. Like 7a's instead of 4, 3 goals instead of a draw and such.

I guess after years of being disappointed and delighted by expectations when it comes to movies, I have developed a knack for lowering or raising my expectations. I mean, everyone was saying that "Without A Paddle" is going to suck big-time but I held my nerves and persuaded them to part with their RM9 for the tickets. I like it when I'm right. It was stupid and cliche but boy did I (and more importantly, them) enjoy it.

But I can't help but be biased before I stepped into the cinema for Sepet. I mean, EVERYONE said I should watch it. I guess I should have taken note who those EVERYONE is. I mean, it's not like I'm disappointed. Far from it. It's just that I thought my mind would be challenged, or my spirit moved. I expected something like The Pianist or AADC (POYO), but instead I got something else that's pleasant nonetheless but less inspiring.

Those who say that Sepet is ground-breaking or controversial are probably persuaded by the main theme of this movie which is mixed relationship. It is controversial to a certain extent. I mean, a Malay girl who prays diligently and wears baju kurung but so comfortable with touching the opposite sex is bound to raise a few eyebrows. But for the really controversial you've got to admire films like "Isteri, Perempuan dan..." and "Spinning Gasing". I mean, mixed relationship isn't something new. Our James Bond spoof Jefri Zain was banging some Chinese chick in the 70's if I'm not mistaken.

So if it isn't so fresh and mind-challenging, what makes it good? Simply put, it is well made. Sometimes people don't realize that lousy execution of a good story would spoil its inherent goodness, and that a simple story can be an excellent movie if properly executed. I mean, what is CLOSER if not a complicated love mess, but an excellent script and good acting made it a great watch, IMHO.
I guess that's what I got out of Sepet. It is like one of Yasmin Ahmad's Petronas commercial. It looks good. It sounds good. And the acting is good. I mean, I'll still put the Hari Raya ad where the guy looked like he was riding a motorbike but was actually "perah kelapa" as one of my favourites.

The whole film was beautifully shot. Unlike Rashid Sibir's attempt at being clever, this one could borrow the tagline from Volvo- "stunning simplicity". I mean, like the shot at the pier on the lake of the two main protagonists, Orked and Jason. It really looks great. And it's a lesson to all filmmakers that you don't HAVE to switch focus to the face everytime one of the character is speaking. We are not stupid as to mistake the voice as someone else's!!

The acting was simply superb. Again, real acting is when you don't seem like you're acting. For example, Ellie Suriaty is a natural, Erra Fazira is not. It's not that Erra's a bad actress, it's just that she won't be a great one. Sharifah Amani (Orked) should be a great one, if given the chance.It's just that I don't see her to be the popular star, which is a pity. It's sad that Malaysians glamorize half-baked "actors" like Khai or Vince while people like Sharifah never gets the chance to grace the cover of magazines. Oh..before I forget, the girl who played Orked's friend, Lin, turns in a commendable performance worthy of some sort of recognition.

But the real praise must go to Ng Choo Seong (Jason). I believed that he really carried his role well, to the point that I cannot imagine another person handling that role. He looks so sincere and natural in his acting. Unlike Sharifah, he has to deal with a whole lot more. I mean, he really looked like the typical Ah-Beng tyko-wannabe in the early scenes,and your favourite boy next door in his scenes with Orked. It goes to show that there's more to Malaysian cinema than Farid Kamil and Yusry.
He doesn't look like a hero though. And Sharifah doesn't look like a heroine material. This is the problem then. You can't keep turning out arty-emo movies like Sepet all the time. The novelty of having not-so-good-looking main actors will surely die out someday. Yasmin Ahmad can't keep taking them for her movies, less they become like Farid Kamil who IS stuck behind Prof. Mohaideen's ass. I mean, where do they go from here?

The setting of Ipoh certainly manages to capture the not-so-kampung yet non-urban vibe. I hate the cliche that there's only two sides in Malaysia- kampung and KL. Nonetheless, certain aspects of Sepet I find troubling. I can't quite see why she would choose Jason over the "Boyfriend", who IS malay but looks Chinese and an even closer resemblance to Takeshi watever his name is. In fact, there's hardly anyone who looks like the typical Malay guy in the movie. Harith Iskandar certainly isn't.

Speaking of which, Sepet certainly did not put in the issue of parent's consent into the mix, perhaps trying to avoid the cliche but instead turned it into something of a fantasy. The boy is a Chinese VCD-seller whose future is debatable. The parents of Orked never questioned her choice until Jason was involved in some fight with a gangster.

There might be a few more gripes I could think of, but it's late, and frankly speaking, I'm just being annoying. I enjoyed the movie, minus the whole emotional drama at the end. It's a great lesson to other film-makers, serious film-makers. Malaysians must take a hard look at what they want to do before executing it. An expensive film doesn't necessarily translate into critical acclaim, as previous international awards show have proven. It is usually the simple stories, told in an exciting way, that gets international recognition.
In the end, I have to say it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie, but is it realistic or simply a fragment of an imaginary Malaysian society pretending to be reality?

And here's the response from Yasmin:

"...Sepet certainly did not put in the issue of parents' consent into the mix..." - sikapitan

and so you see, ultimately, 'sepet' is about possibilities. "you don't have to understand people to love them" was the contention. if you can bear to watch 'sepet' again, this time with the above in mind, i think you may find things falling into place, insyallah. the maid who rules her employers, the peranakan mother's reaction to an indian poem, the love that happened in an instant at the video stall, the parents who did not mind the boyfriend's ethnic background, the maid who liked thai music, etc. i threw many stereotypes out the window, simply because most if not all of my characters were based on real people, and THEY laugh in the face of stereotyping.

"your job is to love us, not understand us," said orked's mother to her father. i suspect Allah put us on earth to love each other, so we can finally learn to love Him.anyway, thanks for watching 'sepet', and for dropping by at the storyteller. Published By yasmin ( - May 30 11:41 AM

My point is that: I should bloody hell watch what I'm saying, because sometimes people do read my crap. Nasib la aku tak kutuk lebih2....

If you enjoyed this post Subscribe to our feed

No Comment

Post a Comment