To me, Mukhsin is Yasmin Ahmad's best work to date. Compared to her previous work's of Rabun, Sepet, and Gubra; I think Mukhsin is the one that crosses over to mainstream audience and further adds to her credibility as one of Malaysian's great storyteller.
Yasmin packs a memorable love story; that's beautifully written, nicely shot, well directed, spice in great soundtracks, and some memorable performances from the leading young actors/actress. Yasmin reference of Mukhsin's tag line "everyone has a first love story to tell" is based on a poem written by Wislawa Szymborska.
Besides putting the central characters into spotlights, supporting characters were given sufficient airtime for you to actually understand the dynamic of relationships. There aren't that many close-ups because of the Yasmin's influence from Ozu Yasujiro's static shots that's now become signature in Yasmin's ads or films. These static shots can be hard for actors as they have to show much more emotion.
The static shots work here as childhood memories are pretty much remembered spatially or temporally. Sure, there are characters that you'll still remember, but it is the surroundings (trees, paddy field) and events (playing kites, galah panjang, or watching football with family) that you'll remember the most and relate them to the people you know. I definitely love the bright and cheerful scenes shot at the green paddy fields in Kuala Selangor as well as the government quarters housing area (I'm guessing here) used as main location in this film.
Here are my list of ten most memorable parts in Mukhsin. I actually plan to watch it again soon:
1. The string quartet musicians playing the keroncong (sung by Adibah Noor) version of Hujan in the opening (and closing) is perhaps one of the memorable music scene in Malay film of late after P. Ramlee movies, or Ali Setan or Hapuslah Air Matamu! The song was performed in piano version at the end of the movie by Yasmin's parents, Inon Yon and Ahmad Hashim who actually wrote the song. I plan to get Hardesh Singh's Pomeloes later to get the Hujan song for my Mukhsin OST compilation on my iTunes and iPod.
" Mega mendung di angkasa - Hembusan bayu dingin terasa
Gerimis berderai di merata - Bagai mutiara
Rahmat dibawa bersama - Limpahannya meresap di jiwa
Ada kala bah
agia terasa - Meskipun duka nestapa " - Hujan
Back to Hujan (Rain in English); Hujan here is a symbolism of good thing to come - love and a lifetime memory to happen. Hujan was also central theme so some P. Ramlee's movie but was rather symbolized as bad sign or omen.
Anyway, I've managed to compile my own soundtrack for Mukhsin. I wish the Original Soundtrack is released for I can actually find out which Mozart music Yasmin used in the film.
2. When I saw the trailer, the scene where Mukhsin sits with Orked wearing songkok with green paddy field in the background and Mukhsin got lifted into the air; I wonder when does that "mock bersanding" scene goes in the movie. Apparently, Yasmin slots it in Mukhsin's dream - visually, if you think about it, the scene is a metaphor to what we all call "mimpi kahwin" and you know what happens next when a boy comes of age or "aqil baligh"!
3. The game 'galah panjang' reminds me of my primary school days at St. Michael Institution II. We used to play it before school starts (afternoon session) or during recess time. I remember using the school cement compound and lines we drawn using white chalk. After few rounds, the lines were gone because of footsteps and we all start to quarrel on line error.
4. Nina Simone's cover version of Ne Me Quitte Pas (originally sung by the late Jacques Brel) was used playfully throughout the movie. It gives so much impact when it was played during the scene (mention in 2. above) - the song title in French means "If You Go Away". I managed to download Jacques' and Nina's versions last night. Although the mid part of the song shows so much sadness, you can hear much more suffering in Nina's vocal, thus making it perfect for this movie.
Basically a sad but hopeful song, the lyrics are told from the perspective of someone telling their lover how much they'd be missed if they left. This is described in vivid, hyperbolic terms, such as "there'll be nothing left in the world to trust". If the lover stays, the narrator promises them both devotion and good times ("I'll make you a day / Like no day has been, or will be again"). Some lines hint that the narrator is speaking to the lover as they already are leaving, or considering doing so ("Can I tell you now, as you turn to go..."). The lines "If you go, as I know you will" and later "...as I know you must" suggest that despite the narrator's protests, the lover's leaving is inevitable. - Wikipedia
I suppose the message that was written to Orked on the kite's tail contains some of the lyrics (4. above) love sentiment.
5. I wonder what does Mak Senah for income. The film portrays her characters a single aunt - taking care of Mukshin and his rage brother's Hussein.
6. Perhaps after all these years, this is the movie you can refer to your foreign friends about the childhood and family life in Malaysia.
- It shows how big football is in Malaysia that the father rewards her to watch football game or as a way to woo over Orked.
- It also captures cultural perpectives and children point of view during puberty!
- How we discipline children here
- 36-months extended credits in furniture repayment
7. Although I didn't go to a Chinese school, my mother actually told me to join the Mandarin Society and mix with the Chinese students in school since I already mix with Malay friends at Sekolah Agama Rakyat and in kampung. But I didn't stay long in the club, I was more insterested in scout and the school band.
8. Besides racial integration portrayed in the beginning of this movie, another issue highlighted is polygamy. From Hindustan style dating to Vespa obsession to the part where the wife Rozie beg for his husband not married the other woman (especially when her second pregnancy is about due); this type of character is pretty much exist in Malay community. It is nice that Yasmin takes the perspective from both the man and woman point of view in this show.
9. The tancho hair cream (or gel?) that Mukhsin applied to his hair to go for date with Orkid reminds me or Brylcreem that most of us used in school 20 years ago. Yeah, that one can make your forehead goes oily too!
10. Credits have to go to the three child's actors in this film, Orked (Sharifah Aryana), Mukhsin (Mohd Syafie Naswip), and that nasty little girl character whom people now are comparing her to Shirley Temple. Their acting brings their characters close to your heart - you'd laugh at the fun parts and feel the sadness despite the lack of close-up shots that I mentioned earlier.
Besides the celebrated victory at Berlin Film Festival, I'm sure Mukhsin will make it big in another festival it'll compete in the near future. Kudos to Yasmin Ahmad for a well made film. Momentum is already build up for her next project, Muallaf.