Thursday, January 14, 2021

#2,527. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (2017)


Directed by Mouly Surya, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts crosses genres to tell the story of Marlina (Marsha Timothy), who lives in a remote area of Sumba, an island in Indonesia.

Having lost both her child (which is buried just outside) and – more recently - her husband (whose unburied corpse still sits in the corner of her front room), Marlina now finds herself completely alone.

One day, she’s visited by several men, including Markus (Egy Fedly), who intend to rob and rape her. Marlina turns the tables on her would-be assailants, however, by poisoning the majority (they demanded that she cook them dinner) and beheading Markus while having sex with him.

Determined to see justice done, Marlina packs up Markus’s head and sets out for the local police station, meeting her pregnant friend Novi (Dea Panendra) along the way. But two other crooks in Markus’s entourage discover what’s happened and are hot on Marlina's trail.

As played by Marsha Timothy (who won Best Actress at the 2017 Stiges Film Festival for her performance), Marlina is one of the strongest characters in recent cinema, a woman still reeling from her personal tragedies who nonetheless refuses to play the victim for Markus and his cronies.

In addition to its formidable lead, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is often quite funny (even after spotting the severed head that Marlina is carrying, Novi does nothing but complain about her pregnancy), and with its sparse landscapes (beautifully photographed by Yunus Pasolang) coupled with the music of Yudhi Arfani and Zeke Khaseli, the film gives off a definite western vibe as well.

Expertly executed and featuring strong feminist themes, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is one of the most unique, unsettling, and gorgeous motion pictures I’ve seen in quite some time.
Rating: 10 out of 10

Thursday, January 7, 2021

#2,526. Mondo Cane 2 (1963)

In the opening paragraph of my review of 1962’s Mondo Cane, an “exploitation film posing as a documentary”, I said that “while (it) does have something to say about the world we live in, the ultimate goal of Mondo Cane is to shock and disgust, which, on occasion, it does quite well”. That same sentiment also fits its 1963 sequel, Mondo Cane 2, to a T.

Like the first movie, Mondo Cane 2 is a crossbreed of documentary and straight-up exploitation. Shot on-location in (among other places) Italy, the United States, Africa and Vietnam, Mondo Cane 2 follows suit with the original by featuring plenty of bizarre scenes (in Portugal the faithful clean the outside steps of a church with their tongues, and elderly U.S. tourists in Hawaii shell out top dollar to get covered in Volcanic mud, which supposedly will rid them of wrinkles) as well as some gross ones (Mexican farmers keep their crops clear of pesky bugs by wrapping the parasitic invaders in tortillas and eating them, and the filmmakers pay a visit to a small village in Africa, where the women use their bare hands to make roofing material out of animal manure).

Like many films of this ilk, Mondo Cane 2 also has its share of disturbing moments; in Saigon, a Buddhist Monk protests against the current policies of his government by dousing himself in gasoline and striking a match; and we witness first-hand the dissection of a dead crocodile, which is a delicacy to the citizens of an almost extinct African tribe (why is the tribe almost extinct, you ask? Well, according to the filmmakers, a steady diet of crocodile meat has caused sterility in the male population). This sequel even tackles some environmental issues; in Africa, white flamingos die by the hundreds when a nearby lake is polluted by a British factory.

Still, even with the above scenes, Mondo Cane 2 isn’t quite as shocking as its predecessor, but it is, nonetheless, a worthy follow-up to the popular original.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 - Worth a watch