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Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Sydney Film Festival (7) - Joko Anwar's A Copy of My Mind (Indonesia, 2015, 116 minutes)

Sari (Tara Basro) and Alek (Chicco Jericho) in their fateful DVD store meeting, A Copy of My Mind
Joko Anwar’s  A Copy of My Mind (Indonesia/South Korea, 2016, 116 minutes) is just one of thirty three films listed in the SFF Guide under the generic “Features”. Still, better to be lead to it this way I suppose than to to have it characterised in some way that drives people away as much as it attracts others. But otherwise there’s not much information about the person who is probably the leading Indonesian film-maker of the day and it might almost come as a surprise to find a three quarter full house in Event 9 for a film described as one which ‘
“masterfully shifts gears from charming low-key romance to a suspenseful and immersive (huh?) depiction of urban Jakarta and Indonesia’s political climate.” OK.

That doesn’t say very much at all about the amount of punch it has nor the bravery involved in making what is clearly a film that would as they say trouble the authorities. Perhaps the program note writer decided as well not to trouble the authorities by being some sort of foghorn for the SFF in screening works that might upset those in power. We’ll never know everything because the notes in the SFF catalogue are unsigned and we have no idea whether such a contribution was done by someone picking their way through the prickles or someone just cobbling something (‘immersive!”) together.

It starts as a romance, almost a throwback to 60s French cinema or the early Jerzy Skolimowski. The young couple, both good looking and beyond, meet up in a DVD store where she complains about the subtitles of some bootlegged piece of anthropomorphic horror, steals a DVD and he hits on her. It turns out he’s the Google subtitler, a profession that is under the radar of the authorities’ gaze. Later we learn he’s not registered in any way though ultimately the fact of his non-personship doesn’t help him.

The romance shifts a gear when Sari, the gorgeous female element is sent in to do a facial on an older woman living the life of Riley in an Indon prison for the upmarket corrupt part of society. Sari cant resist swiping another DVD from the collection on the prisoner’s shelf but unfortunately it’s a secret recording of a meeting where dirty deals are done. Whoops and the shift in gear throws the film into action mode as the mob comes after the boyfriend with a view to having him give up where the girlfriend with her disc is hiding.

There are no doubt far more political and cultural resonances in all this than I can discern but notwithstanding that ignorance, this is a film which, in the manner of those Nouvelle Vague films from long ago toys with both its characters, its form and its audience. Very neat film-making from the third world.

The SFF missed a couple of Anwar’s films between this one and his debut Joni’s Promise screened way back in 2005. Soon might be a good time for a catchup.

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