Saturday, January 27, 2007

[FOCUS: First Cuts #5] Rain Dogs (Tai Yang Yu)

Growing Pains

The FOCUS: First Cuts project seemed to have stalled into making the local screenings despite last year's fanfare during the project launch, and it's probably because of the lacklustre box office sales that seemed to add to the reluctance. Rain Dogs (and the other remaining movie My Mother is a Belly Dancer) were given new lease of life at the local halls in a one-off weekend screening, which allowed me to view this movie which have been making waves at major film festivals overseas.

Maybe I did not get the appeal of the movie, as I found it difficult to seek that iota of connection with Rain Dogs. Perhaps I haven't been the kampong boy nor experienced the type of life that the protagonist led. What I do see though, are two separate stories telling the life of Tung, in the first where he's in KL with his brother, and the story dwells on the excellent brotherly love between the two boys, while the second, his exodus from home into the solace of relatives, where he experiences puppy love and somehow finds strength in character, a departure from his relatively whimsical earlier self.

Directed by Ho Yuhang, Rain Dogs tells of Tung's development from boy to man, and maybe, just maybe, his innate search for a father figure in his life. We see that his brother served as the person he admires, and one who takes care of him, while in the later stages, it becomes his uncle, and even more interestingly, the suggestion of Tung being the big brother whom his nephew looks up to. And I thought while Tung develops his bravado, he still retained a certain gawky demeanour, which is actually true of anyone coming of age.

Given the two disparate settings of the movie before and after the opening credits, it allowed for some contrast between the city and the smaller town, with the city being portrayed as dangerous - gangsters, pimps and their broads stalking their next prey, snooker parlour gangsters, and even the blatant corruption amongst white collar workers. The small towns on the other hand, provides opportunity for growth, family bonding, and even a whiff of romance in the air.

There are plenty of picturesque scenes in the movie which allows for some quiet contemplation, and some touching moments too where and when characters connect. If you keep your eyes peeled at the minutest of details, you will probably break out into a smile or two. One of my favourite scenes involved a beer can, which I thought was very subtle, and I actually burst out laughing, much to the puzzlement of the rest. Also, I would like to highlight that the movie is almost devoid of songs save for one, which in my opinion, epitomizes my general feeling towards watching the movie.

Fans of Yasmin Ahmad will also relish seeing their favourite director in front of the camera rather than behind it. Playing the aunt of Tung, she speaks Cantonese quite flawlessly in her role, and yes, she can act too you know? In case you're not aware, Yuhang has also starred in Yasmin's movie - Rabun.

Rain Dogs may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this is just as diverse as the FOCUS: First Cuts project sets itself out to be.

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