Friday, June 22, 2018

An Indonesian cinema artifact: Mouly Surya's pretty, silly, would-be feminist fable, MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS

OK: TrustMovies admits that he's hardly any kind of expert on Indonesian film, or for that matter Indonesian culture in general. Given that, he's at a loss to find much more than very pretty cinematography and a weird kind of ersatz feminism in the just-released-here-theatrically road trip/slasher movie from Indonesia, MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS. Directed and co-written by a filmmaker new to me named Mouly Surya (shown below), the cinematography is sometimes ravishingly beautiful, both interior
and ex, while the film's titular leading lady, played by an actress named Marsha Timothy (shown above and below), who is also very attractive but keeps her performance so close to the vest that, whether by design or talent level, very few emotions are allowed to be seen. In the film's beginning a man arrives on motorcycle to the little shack and farm owned by our heroine to inform her that six of his pals will soon be arriving on scene to steal all her livestock and then rape her. But she should not feel at all bad about this because: Imagine the fun and delight of begin able to have sex with seven different guys!

They arrive, Marlina is asked to prepare chicken soup for dinner, two of the younger men leave with the livestock, and the rest remain to dine on the soup and Marlina. Only one of them -- the gang's leader -- gets to have sex, however, for reasons you will soon observe.

From there the movie and Marlina hit the road to go to the local police station (quite far away) and report all this. Ms Surya's film is divided, as its title explains, into four acts: The Robbery, The Journey, The Confession and The Birth.

Yes, one of Marlina's friends (above), whom she meets along the way, is pregnant, and this allows us to partake of some interesting-if-oddball cultural assumptions about things like breech birth and adultery. To a fault, the males pictured here -- from the gang of robbers to a nasty husband to the single policeman (below) whom we meet -- are stupid, entitled assholes, reflecting, I 'm sure, Indonesia's brand of patriarchy as observed by the filmmaker.

But Ms Surya's attempt at plot machinations -- involving everything from beheadings to a psychologically-inspired ghost to a sweet little girl who misses her mother -- seem so alternately grotesque or sentimental that the movie hardly registers as much more than a silly-but-pretty little fable. 

Still, when it's pretty, it is quite something, so your eye will not mind the lovely scenery; nor, if you're a slasher fan, will you tire of the slice-and-dice swordplay. For me, however, the molasses-like pacing made the movie's 93 minutes seem like three full hours. The moral, I guess: Choose something other than chicken soup off the menu of a woman you're about to rob. Oh, and by the way, whatever happened to all that stolen livestock? Doesn't Marlina need it back in order for her farm to survive? Oh, well: I am probably just being picky....

An Icarus Films and KimStim release, in Indonesian with English subtitles, the movie opens today, Friday, June 22, in New York City at the IFC Center and on Friday, July 6, in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Monica Film Center. It is also said to be coming during a couple of days in August to Brooklyn's Nighthawk Cinema.

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