Sunday, June 2, 2013

To Kil a Mockingbird

Some people are placing the movie Kil as the herald of a new era of Malaysian cinema.

This reminds me of a Malay proverb - 'sokong membawa rebah'. It references the kind of support that could sabotage the one you are supporting.

The PMO and BN info machinery comes to mind, successfully defeating BN for the past 10 years due to sheer idiocy.

It is much too unfair, preposterous and pretentious to say that Kil is a game changer. Only time will tell and putting such heavy expectations on Kil has the potential to disappoint movie-goers when they find that Kil is NOT Star Wars. Not in the least. Kil is - to me - a well-made movie by people who love movies and stories.

It has a great premise - a man who wants to kill himself but couldn't, somehow - hires an agency to do so. The rest of the movie is about what happens after as Kil rediscovers his life, love and we delve a bit into why he wants to die, and why some of the other characters make their choices about life and death.

This is the real strength of the movie - the characters. Film is a collaborative medium, and everything - story, pace, structure, look and feel, character - are a result of great teamwork and chemistry between the major players. Directors, cinematographers, actors, writers, producers work together to bring some ideas to life. When the teamwork is solid, more ideas can be put forth, using such tools as characters. It should be noted that nowhere in the list are marketers or accountants.

The director, Nik Amir, managed to create a wonderful, layered world for Kil simply because the characters made it so. He sets up some characters early on and then creates resonance when those characters appear again to repeat or reinforce a theme. He used the characters as short-hand, which is a true delight to see.

While Redza Minhat delivers his expected performance as the awkward Akil/Kil, Cristina Suzanne Stockstill stole the show at times portraying a 'manic pixie chick lite' in Zara. A more subdued version of the 'manic pixie chick' made popular by actors such as Zooey Deschanel and various anime heroines.

A scene has Kil asking her, where she is going, and she said, "Nak gi toilet jap, eh?", with a flirty wink. Before you condemn this statement as support for scatology or golden showers, this encapsulates the attraction for the character Zara - she is both earthy (she takes a shit or pees) and ephemereal (boobs, wink) at the same time. The fact that she - and the movie - acknowledges that female protagonists do defecate is a true revolution in Malaysian cinema, if you're looking for 'revolutionary stuff' in this film.

Another revelation is Harun Salim Bachik - for the past 65 million years type-cast as a two-dimensional slapstick comedian - the man finally showed some dramatic acting chops. His delivery, timing and expressions were a delight to see. I have always been a fan of Harun Salim Bachik from his Gado-Gado days and am very happy to see him given a non-comedy role for a change.

Anne James demonstrated why she was cast with another subdued yet effective performance. Her ultimate scene is one example how stage acting neatly translated to the silver screen, helped by the director and her co-stars to bring an understated grief.

The Jebs - I can't remember her name, Junad is it? I know her only as The Jebs, or _TheJebs due to her Twitter handle - is by far the funniest character in the show. Both as the character and due to her own character. She should be recruited by a studio and typecast as a comedic actor for the next 65 million years.

The dialogue was crisp and minimal, and you can see here that the director and producers never asked for more dialogue to fill in the silence, which works really well. This sets Kil ahead of other movies that are sometimes cacophonous in their talking.

Kil is a great movie. Is it a perfect movie? There is no such thing. There are always things to nitpick in any movie, except Babe. Babe is the perfect movie. The best movie ever and I will rape anyone who says otherwise with a trained rapist dog. That has rabies.

Anyway, Kil could have focused a bit more on the theme of life and death, as well as our conscious choices. Though very tight, some strands of the plot tapered off into the nether. Kil's brother, The Jeb's character, the boss, the mechanic, the agent, even Anne James all appeared purely for the benefit of the two protagonists with few getting a neatly-tied bow for their contributions. Of course, if everything is a neatly tied bow, it wouldn't be fun and way too long.

The chemistry between Kil and Zara is good, but because this movie is not titled 'Akil Dan Zara' or 'A to Z', Zara's thread and ultimate resolution is a tad neglected. It would have been great to see her reach some form of transition herself, but it is fine.

All in all, a good effort and a great movie. I really enjoyed it. I hope for more stuff like this in the future from all involved, if only to enrichen the film scene.