TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines
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GUNUNG LEDANG (A
by TV Smith
doubt, a movie which only a garden snail can appreciate fully"
a number of friends and associates closely involved in the much-publicised Puteri
Gunung Ledang movie, I was naturally excited about the finished product.
Intrigued by the endless 'behind-the-scenes' gossip and bombarded by incessant
hype, I tried to view the film with an open mind; without the usual cynical presumptions.
film draws the inevitable comparison with previous local movies simply because
of its outrageous 16 million-ringgit budget. I say outrageous because it somehow
did not translate into the 'big film' look nor did it play out like one. Perhaps,
a big part of the money went wisely into marketing and promotions, driving droves
of curious Malaysians into cineplexes nationwide.
approach every local Malay movie warily ever since watching Sarimah's frightful
Dia Ibu Ku as a fragile youngster. The atrocious sound and dubbing scarred me
for life. Fortunately, with PGL, the producers engaged the services of Addaudio.
They (reportedly) did an excellent job with the location sound recording and complex
audio post-production. Only about 20% of the dialogue required studio dubbing,
I was told.
Unfortunately for me, that critical component was missing
during last night's screening. Painstakingly created sound design, which can only
be delivered through surround speakers, went mute. The cinema hall played with
faulty Dolby Digital sound equipment. Due to poor handling, the print also had
excessive scratches and was projected below full brightness (probably to extend
the bulb's lifespan). On top of it, there was flicker plus hum from the badly
maintained projector. Producers may spend huge sums of money; hire the best talent
from around the world but all it takes is one sloppy projectionist to ruin the
A fictional account of the fictional hero allows the
makers to take greater creative liberties. The supernatural theme begets telepathic
conversations, flying warriors, creepy creepers and a bizarre screenplay. The
superfluous and confusing flashbacks must have driven the competent (editor) Kate
James to the brink of stabbing herself with a keris. Hong Kong based DOP (director
of photography), Jason Kwan, made good use of the wide screen 2.35:1 anamorphic
format with some stylish camera movement and creative composition.
calculated framing and frequent use of shallow depth-of-field techniques kept
the disturbing backgrounds out of focus. During several vista shots, there were
traces of oil palm trees and other hints of modern Malaysian landscape. Making
a period movie is tough but it is even tougher for the audience to see neatly
stacked red bricks in the abode of a 15th century Majapahit ruler. Almost all
the props and sets were too pristine to look believable.
most jarring and disconcerting element was the miscasting of M Nasir with Tiara
Jacquelina in their lead roles as tormented lovers. There was as much chemistry
between the two as a neutered Rottweiler and a spayed poodle. Nasir was so characteristically
stoical except for that time he strained a smile upon seeing the Puteri's cleavage
in an obligatory 'dip in the pond' scene. Alex Komang (as Gusti Adipati) and Rahim
Razali (as the Bendahara) shined in their respective roles. Adlin Aman Ramlee
who played a rapist and a stalker in two other recent roles, settled into his
lustful Sultan Mahmud character with ease.
If you dig movies with liberal
doses of pepatah melayu, this is THE showcase movie for Malay proverbs.
There was one wise adage in every line spoken. However, there is one adage that
apparently nobody quoted at the set: "Long running time does not make an
epic". With the dialogue and scenes acted out in faux slow motion, the 'build-up'
consumed 91.5 % of the movie. It took more than 2 hours to tell a tale that could
have been told in half. It is beyond doubt, a movie which only a garden snail
can appreciate fully.
there was some (unintended) comic relief. The parting scene between the Bendahara
and Hang Tuah had the "Yo bro, give me a hug" metrosexual-bonding touch.
Then there are those outlandish kung-fu movie inspired fight scenes where the
principals hovered above some dead trees in Tasik Kenyir. And that was before
they were teleported there from some weird place in Melaka with mini Stonehenge
of cinematic clichés will be thrilled; director Saw Teong Hin pulled out
the big guns just for them. There's the horse-regiment-appearing-over-a-hill scene,
the two-lone-trees-off-camera-center scene, the overhead-autumn-trees scene, clouds-over-mountain-time-lapse
sequence and the gratuitous nice-waterfall-in-the-background scenes. I still can't
forget that brief but dreadful chickens-caught-in-front-of-stampeding-horses scene.
Did I mention dead trees earlier? The crew allegedly killed
more trees than Hang Tuah killed palace intruders during their stay at
misty Cameron Highlands.
Arguably, this is the first Malaysian film that
is flawless in nearly every technical department. It is also somewhat refreshingly
different from previous formulaic Malay movies with Erra, Awie and that inescapable
Mustafa Maarof. Like its eponymous character, the film can be either good or bad,
depending on where it holds court. Malaysians familiar with the language and legend
will view it either contemptuously or appreciatively. This film should do well
overseas where it is now fashionable to watch oriental movies with sulky babes,
exotic settings and white English subtitles. Yes, even the subtitles were flawless.
Link to this article: http://www.tvsmith.net.my/duasen/170904_pgl.html
See other reviews of Puteri Gunung Ledang at Kakiseni.com,
IMDb and The
to TV Smith's Dua Sen: http://www.tvsmith.net.my/duasen/