Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jawa Fight

I love Opera Jawa, Garin Nugroho's 2006 musical, a low-budget spectacle that deals eloquently with Indonesia's post-tsunami, post-Suharto state of mind. So I was disappointed with the response the film received in NYC (it's week-long run at MoMA ends this weekend). But I may not have been as disappointed as Jonathan Rosenbaum, who posted a scathing critique of Jeannete Catsoulis' review in the NY Times. Her review reads like she wrote it on a quick turnaround, with little time to think about or do any research on the film. The gist of her piece is that the movie is awfully strange, and that it "is guaranteed to test the fortitude of all but the most adventurous viewer." She fails to mention it's complicated use of music, which shifts between traditional gamelan, local folk forms, and even a bluesy ballad - or it's unique set designs, commissioned for seven local contemporary artists. But I wasn't as angry as Rosenbaum, who calls the review "ugly, xenophobic, and tossed off". I wouldn't go that far - but I do wish she had been able squeeze in some sense of the film's uncanny beauty - or any sense of what it was trying to accomplish. Instead she chooses to joke about one of the subtitles. Ah well - there's only so much one can do in 200 words, it's just unfortunate she couldn't do more for a film I love, and one in desperate need of critical attention.

And for those interested, you should be able to read my take on Jawa and its director in a future issue of everyone's favorite magazine. Details to come.



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