To the Editor:

Cinema Scope should be congratulated for its coverage of the Malaysian cinema in the latest issue.

I have not seen the work of all the filmmakers mentioned, but I do fully agree on the names of Ho Yuhang, James Lee, and Tan Chui Mui, and I did hear interesting reports on the films by the other directors.

However, I am perplexed not to see the name of U Wei. I suspect that Brandon Wee may not have seen Kaki bakar (a.k.a., The Arsonist or Barn Burning), which was in Un Certain Regard at Cannes and was considered by many who, in my eyes, are the best and most knowledgeable about film, as one of the best—if not the best—of that year’s vintage. The film was just as well received in Telluride and New Directors/New Films, amongst other Festivals.

Unfortunately, U Wei’s career did not develop as it should have, and he got trapped (part of it, in all fairness, being his own fault) in Buai laju-laju, a film which Brandon Wee may have seen and, legitimately, not considered. However, my friend Alain Jalladeau, director of the Festival of the Three Contents, in Nantes, who is the only person (other than me) who has ever seen the first 35 minutes or so in its starkest state (which could well have constituted a “novella”) also thinks that this section was at that time much better than what it has since become, disfigured by the “additional” attempts of the “second hand” producers to make it look “important.”  Unfortunately, the second part of the film always fell short of the first.

Unfortunately and, I am sorry to say, again because of the same producers, his short Rambutan (Sepohon Rambutan indah kepuyaanku di tanjung rambutan) was not shown at the Directors’ Fortnight, where it had been enthusiastically selected by Olivier Père and his team, in its proper cut, as it had been seen a few months before as a work in progress at the Nantes Film Festival and was highly appreciated. It was reported by Jacques Mandelbaum in Le Monde as the highlight of the festival.

Jacques Mandelbaum, Olivier Père, Alain Jalladeau, Harvey Keitel (who dreamed of making a film with U Wei) and the selectors of Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fortnight, New Directors/New Films, Telluride, Singapore and Pusan—especially all of them together—are no insignificant crowd. I shall let your readers and probably Brandon Wee himself wonder why U Wei is not present in what is otherwise, I believe, a comprehensive survey of the Malaysian cinema of the last decade.

It is certainly a loss that U Wei is trapped in a situation where his talent cannot develop as we all hoped it would. But the absence of his name in this survey can only make the “trap” worse.

—Pierre Rissient


Friend me on FacebookFollow me on TwitterRSS Feed

From the Magazine

  • Cinema Scope 82: Table of Contents

    Interviews A State of Uncertainty: Tsai Ming-liang on Days by Darren Hughes New Possible Realities: Heinz Emigholz on The Last City by Jordan Cronk This More →

  • A State of Uncertainty: Tsai Ming-liang on Days

    There’s no exact precedent for the long creative collaboration between Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-sheng. In 1991, as the story goes, Tsai stepped out of a screening of a David Lynch movie and spotted Lee sitting on a motorbike outside of an arcade. More →

  • New Possible Realities: Heinz Emigholz on The Last City

    The Last City, the new film by Heinz Emigholz, begins with a confession. “And it was a straight lie when I told you that I had an image that could describe the state of my depression,” admits a middle-aged archaeologist to a weapons designer (played, respectively, by John Erdman and Jonathan Perel, who were previously seen in Emigholz's 2017 film Streetscapes [Dialogue] as a filmmaker and his analyst). “I made that up.” Part reintroduction, part recapitulation, this abrupt admission sets the conceptual coordinates for a film that, despite its presentation and the familiarity of its players, is less a continuation of that earlier work’s confessional mode of address than a creative reimagining of its talking points. More →

  • This Dream Will Be Dreamed Again: Luis López Carrasco’s El año del descubrimiento

    Luis López Carrasco’s dense, devious El año del descubrimiento confirms his reputation as Spain’s foremost audiovisual chronicler of the country’s recent past, albeit one for whom marginal positions, materiality, everyday chitchat, and the liberating effects of fiction are as, if not more, important than grand historical events. More →

  • Long Live the New Flesh: The Decade in Canadian Cinema

    Let’s get it right out of the way: by any non-subjective metric—which is to say in spite of my own personal opinion—the Canadian filmmaker of the decade is Xavier Dolan, who placed six features (including two major Competition prizewinners) at Cannes between 2009 (let’s give him a one-year head start) and 2019, all before turning 30. Prodigies are as prodigies do, and debating Dolan’s gifts as a transnational melodramatist and zeitgeist-tapperis a mug’s game, one that I’ve already played in these pages. More →