Sepet : Beyond A Malaysian Love Story by Chief Alchemist a.k.a Wiley Chin - March 10, 2005 Posted: 11:34:15 AM EDT
Keywords: Sepet, Yasmin the Story Teller, Ah Loong, Orked, A Malaysian Love Story, Race Relations in Malaysia, challenges of a multiracial society, inter-racial marriage, racial polarization, ideals, purity, review, critique.
Though I've heard so much about it from so many people and read all the reviews, I must say I was not prepared for the whole experience.
It was beyond my expectation. It was great story-telling. There were weaknesses in the movie if you want to pick on it but I would give it 4 and a 1/2 stars over 5.
It's better than all the Hollywood movies I have watched the last couple of years. I think perhaps only Dead Poet's Society was that soul-stirring. And yes, it's way beyond Puteri Guning Ledang of 16 Million. I was numbed when I walked out of PGL. I was inspired and touched deeply (yeah, I won't try to give you all those macho s**t ) when I drove home after Sepet.
Sepet is a moving story. It is also a very artful piece of drama that weaves the themes of Malay-Chinese racial relations and the issue of nationhood within a simple plot of a love story.
I am not doing a review but I am going to dig a bit into the movie. I think what Yasmin has done in terms of political and race relations analysis and commentaries is unparalelled in Malaysia. She got away with very deft nuances which I think the censorship board might not have picked up. But that's her art. The only other Malaysian works I've seen that use this art as effectively was Mat Som by Lat. The comic strip, not the movie. To an extend, Lat's Town Boy can be seen as a precursor of Sepet. I am sure Yasmin was inspired by the storyline and exploration of the cultural identity of 'the Other' in Lat's Town Boy.
If you hate movies to be taken apart, don't read beyond this line.
I like Yasmin's treatment of a difficult Malaysian theme. I will try to reveal the beauty of the symbolic story-telling as I could see them. But this is not comprehensive. If I am inspired and if I do find the time, I hope to write a proper critique of this rare but successful attempt at engaging a theme not done before in Malaysian movies.
Surface Theme: A Love That Transcends Racial and Cultural Barriers.
Undercurrent Theme: The Chinese migrant's story of failed adoption of his new homeland. The struggle of a prototypical economic migrant in his attempt to achieve union with his adopted homeland and the shadow of his past that prevents him from consummating the relationship.
The story weaves together an emphatic story about the struggle of a migrant race in Malaysia and their attempt to breakaway, to reinvent themselves, to redefine who they are in relation to their adopted land, beyond the long shadow of history, cultural confines & socio-political lines that force them to take on their limiting identity, roles and ultimately their meaning of existence and destiny.
Plot : A Chinese boy falling in love with a Malay girl and goes through a series of events that ends 'tragically'.
Lost Dragon and Caged Rabbit
Maggie thought the price of her love, a timid rabbit in a cage, was too expensive. Loong was looking for for the 'rose of his love' all around town but couldn't buy it for all the money he has. He didn't find the elusive flower but stumbled upon Maggie, a past he is trying to breakway from. But he is again coerced into an unhappy union.
In the next scene, Loong tries to escape from a shophouse’s back staircase but was again caught be Maggie who finally let him leave, with a threat to get back at him.
Great use of symbolism, the caged, the searching, the shophouse and an escaping Loong.
Chinese Family Dinner
Stuffing chicken to choke the words out of a cynical father/husband who was showing disapproval about Loong's relationship with a Malay girl.
Very deft symbolism. 'You only know how to eat, you are all about eating, food is everything to you. Just eat another piece of chicken, we don't need your opinion about this!'
Keong : An Unreachable Itch in Hospital Scene
Loong is aware of his longings and tries to seek out his love, to fulfill his a yearning for a pure union with his beloved. Keong couldn't get to his itch and his talk degenerates into a physical desire, provoking an erection at the thought of the “malay girls in wet sarongs”.
A Bumigeoisified Orked
A chic, made-up Orked (bumigeoisified) being driven away in a red 4 wheels drive with other rich Malay kids, looking at Ah Loong with sad, longing eyes. (Nice touch, Orked looks a little like 'Lolita' here, albeit a reluctant one). Are we heading towards a materialistic culture that will polarise us and destroy our dream as a nation? Are we going to forget our ideals as a plural nation with a single destiny and discard the deep longing for the unification of our selves for crass materialism and westernizaton?
Attempted Gang-style killing of Ah Loong Ah Loong's past caught up with him at the backlanes of the shops. He is confronted by the master of the 'business district'. Can he break away from the role that's limiting his true desire to live the Life he wants; to love, to belong and to be truly fulfilled, or will he be coerced into replaying and re-living the stunted lives of his father and his ancestors? Between the struggle of 'material subsistence' and the desire to love and to belong to the adopted homeland, which will be triumph? Between the 'boss of the streets' and the pure hearted Ah Loong, who will win the fight?
Clueless Abah in Journey to Airport Crying mom and daughter and a clueless father, moralizing out of context at the driver seat. Good juxaposition of the emotionally intense and the ridiculous.
Irritating Ringtone Annoying handphone ringtone “Pick up that bloody call la”. Pure fun.
Super great features Great acting by Sharifah Amani and 3 lovely songs by Sam Hui.
The Ending Disputes I wonder why Yasmin didn't end the movie with the gang-style killing of Ah Loong and Orked's fruitless search for him in her Abah's old red volvo. She would have said it all with poetic brevity.
I've received a couple of requests to help track down the 3 songs by Sam Hui. Here they are:
These songs should be included in Sam Hui's Greatest Hits collection. Tip, you can get it from your neighborhood's Ah Loong. ;-)
Was browsing the internet to find out the titles of Sam Hui's songs in SEPET . Perhaps you can provide the titles for the sake of my 4 year-old grandson. He watched the movie on Astro, became captivated by it and asked me to buy the CD. I prefer to download the songs. Please help. Khatijah
Your blog on Sepet is true to the storyline of the movie. I am a Malaysian working overseas and had seen numerous tragic movies from different languages. The ones that really make my throat choarse were Anak from Philippines and Fly Me To Polaris from Hong Kong. But Sepet tops my chart as it cried my heart out. I am very glad and happy that we Malaysian is able to produce out such a great movie. I am definitely going to share it with my foreign friends with the Ah Loong vcd that I brought back.
I just watched the movie last night, and was moved to tears at some point. The storyline is good, simple and typical, but yet embedded with it is a strong message about racial, religiuos and social issues so prevailing in Malaysia. Chief Alchemist, I certainly share your in-depth review and opinion about the great movie. It's simple artistic, innocent and brings me back to the good old days. Everything was just great, from the setting, music, chereography, acting, storyline, etc!
Kudos to Yasmin, the production team and all actors/actresses! For once, I am proud to recommend this truly MALAYSIAN movie to everyone, even foreigners! Yasmin, please keep it up and I hope to see more of your film!
p.s. err, I am a bit blur, here's one question about movie: what happen to Jason in the end? Did he die from the road accident? Was that Jason's friend whom Orked was speaking to while in the car? Maybe, I am going to watch it all over again, it's worth it afterall!
nice review! glad you saw all of that in the movie. sadly, i didn't get most of it. perhaps you were involved in the making of it and therefore had a wider perspective? this i'll never know.
i thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of the movie though, ESPECIALLY the dance jason did at the start. very nice. very hilarious. had a good feeling about the movie then.
but it slipped, for me, after the [aborted? we'll never know as it wasn't shown but hinted at via jason's letter to orkid] street fight after he was fingered as the responsible party in the thug's sister's pregnancy. after that it became cliche'd (the going out with the old boy jo) and utterly predictable (the death of jason). the crying ladies in the car journey to the airport and the telecon with "jason" in the end? tsk... totally lost me then.
so sad. what happened to the movie that i liked at the beginning? such potential, lost. but then again, that's just me. i'm glad to see lots of people enjoyed it though. hope jasmin makes lots more movies that are not necessarily in the same genre, but light edu/entertainment for us all.
I enjoyed watching Sepet too. Its quite rare to see a Malaysian movie that goes beyond the simplistic love themes that most local films prefer to tackle. I notice you've listed some of the Chinese songs from the film..this is a long shot, but would u happen to know the traditional malay song played during the scene where the main actor does a tradtional malay dance? It goes something like..Dia datang...dia datang..
anyway, great analysis! <http://www.thecocoanut.wanzafran.com>
Hi, can someone please send me the intro song also, I've been looking for the songs over the net but can't seem to find it. So far this blog is the most helpful and efficient one. The songs are great, the movie is great, the humour and the story, damn it rocks, so far the best Malaysian film that I've watched. All those bujang mami whatever crap can go swim in the drain. Please do send me the Sam Hui's songs, thank you so much guys.
hye there!!ur blogs are relly rocks!!this movie really touch my heart..my mom is chines while my dad is malay but they can live happily together eventhough they are from different root..so with this movie, it can open many eye about the love from different race..thanx to the director!!by the way,can u e mail me the chinese song from thi movie?thanx!!
Hello, Can you send me the song at the end of the credits, becoz its really hard to find. And its memorable alot to me during my childhood where i ate "pau" with my dad at the Muslim Chinese restaurant here in Kota Kinabalu. Can you send me because i'm not chinese and i can't understand it but i love the song. Send it @ email@example.com . And thanks again for ur help.
An alchemist of the Internet and marketing strategies, leading the
charge to put our creative and software talents into serving companies
who are out to slay the global giants. Also known as Chief of Caffeine
Consumption and hallucinates between projects. Yes, that accounts
for his “giant slaying” stuff.