Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lemak Kampung Santan [2013]

Director: Hans Isaac
Starring: Hans Isaac, Neelofa, Harun Salim Bachik, Natasha Hudson, Awie, Khir Rahman
Genre: Drama (?), comedy (?), romance (?)
Rating: General
Verdict: "Tonally all over the place, devoid of any style whatsoever, and seems torn over what it really wants to be..."

Owner of a succesful construction firm, Ridzuan (Hans Isaac) sees an opportunity to take his firm to new heights when he takes on a project for a resort to be built in a rural area. Initially, he's completely indifferent about the people already living there, in a village called Kampung Santan. But in a twist of fate, he stumbles into the village and consequently into the lives of its inhabitants. One inhabitant in particular; a woman named Tiqa (Neelofa).

What to Expect
1. A promising start
2. A story as vague as the title (and poster)
3. Tonally all over the place
4. Less-than-satisfactory script
5. Mediocre execution

What NOT to Expect
1. To be blown away
2. Believable romance
If you have nothing to do. Not even a wife or a husband.
If I have to describe Lemak Kampung Santan in one word, it's "vague". You know what I'm talking about, even if you don't realise it just yet. It's the same feeling you get when you look at the title and the poster for the first time; that "lolwut?" moment.

"What's this supposed to be? Is it a period piece? But I'm also getting a Nur Kasih vibe from the top half of the poster. Wait, what does Lemak Kampung Santan even mean?"

While I'm not overblowing the importance of a movie title and poster (after all, they can be deceiving), you could argue that it's usually a pretty good indicator of how much thought was put into everything. Not to discredit the folks at Tall Order Productions or Hans Isaac himself, but as an audience, I felt like there were some basic things that weren't given its due attention as they were making the film.

Like, the tone of the movie.

As always, I didn't seek out flaws or imperfections of any movie, but those of Lemak Kampung Santan surfaced barely fifteen minutes into it; I couldn't feel anything. I didn't get what the tone was supposed to be because the movie never really settled on any.

Of course, I'm not saying that all movies should be of one note. What I am saying is that, there should be like an overall tone, only then you can have the "subtones" that the scenes call for. Otherwise the audience wouldn't know what to feel, and when they couldn't feel, they wouldn't care. They'll start to occupy themselves with other things. Like tweeting, for instance. Or Candy Crush-ing.

Lemak Kampung Santan didn't have an overall tone. Instead, there were like rapid switches between one feel to another, sometimes even going up to three tones within a single scene. Look out for the scene where they tried to make it Twilight-esque, but fell flat. Simply put, whatever experience that it tried to impart was lost somewhere between the screen and myself. "Tak sampai," kata orang kita.

I just felt like Hans Isaac decided too soon to tackle this genre.

If you're able to look past the confusing tone and less-than-satisfactory script (I can't), Lemak Kampung Santan is actually a pretty well-made movie. For instance, the animated sequence in the beginning deserves a lot of praise. Not just from a technical standpoint, it was also notable as a clever way to fill us in on the backstory, not to mention it lent the tale an air of mythology.

It's just too bad that the writing wasn't as strong as Alfie Palermo's in Sembunyi.

The cast did a good job, though I did get the impression that they were, at times, as lost as I was. Neelofa, despite my thinking that she'll be nothing more than eye candy (I prefer Natasha Hudson, anyway), proved to be a natural, whose screen presence reminded me of Erra Fazira.

Add all that up, I can't in good conscience recommend Lemak Kampung Santan. I just feel like in the hands of someone more capable, it could have been entertaining. But hey, don't let me tell you how to spend your time and money. The movie didn't do it for me, but there are plenty of others who had a good time. Catch it in cinemas near you before they pull the plug on it, and with it director Hans Isaac's film career, apparently.

Movie-makin' ain't easy, man. Difficult even for a production house that calls itself Tall Order.

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