I can say after attending Film Studies class i've become more critical of films lately.. . not that i wasn't critical before but more so now. hence, after watching Tan Chui Mui's directorial debut feature film, unfortunately i have to say that i felt disgusted and sorry or her. before u say, "eh come on lah it's her first time and the budget is super low, what u expect?", let me just tell u that my frame of mind was INDEPENDANT FILM AND NOT HOLLYWOOD. I am not denying that shooting on DV cam and trying to create nice pictures is hard coz i've tried it myself. she has done a lot of short films and one of her shorts, called Tree in Tanjung Malim also won some award somewhere i couldn't care less. I haven't seen it but since it won an award so i guess i expected her to come up with something better.
First thing's first. the story. it's nothing to shout about. without giving out spoilers, i'll just sum it up as something normal and that we've seen similar stories in other movies or other medias. the twist at the end is nothing significant as well. u dun expect it but at the same time it's not much of a shock, mostly due to the terrible acting from the two main characters. The subplot involving the little girl and her penpal was even more interesting IMO.
The main actors did shitty jobs. really dissapointing. I ended up liking the fat aunty and little girl's acting more. The hamsap uncle trying to woo Ah Ping (the female main character played by Coral Ong) is just plain horrendous/humourous. In fact, the grandma who has not a single letter of script to read does a better job. However, I have a totally different opinion for the TV drama shown on TV. The two actors, Chong Shun Yuan & Ng Meng Hui did decent jobs and i can't help but think that their make-up was so much better, maybe even given more priority. The scenes were picturesque and pleasing to the eyes (mainly becoz of the nice contrast in colours and make-up of the actors) so i was wondering why this couldn't be transferred to the main plot. Lighting wise, well, there's just no lighting, or minimal at best. I can see some motivated lights but most of the scenes are lighted badly. One particular scene i remember has decent lighting is when there's red light illuminating the little girl when she is folding her penpal's letter. Soundtrack? almost none too. I missed the opening credits due to finding a parking space in fucking midvalley so i dunno if there's music there but nvm bout that. I think the music is called Crow by Lang Mang. the point is during the whole movie i have not heard music till the very end credits. it is performed by Nan Hwa Military Band called Wellington's March. Camera movement is MOSTLY handheld. and that annoys me a lot, becoz i was sitting in the front row and the vigorous movements of the camera when tailing the characters made me sick and dizzy. When I asked why James Lee used this method of shooting during the Q&A session, Tan Chui Mui conveniently answered that she wanted to have a natural feel, sort of like the audience following the characters from behind. what the hell? she can say whatever she wants la but i think there are so many ways to create that particular effect rather than just making the camera look so unstable. there's really just no creativity in handling the camera. I also asked why the lighting and soundtrack are so minimal and Yasmin Ahmad (yes she was there saying she's so proud of Tan Chui Mui bla bla bla self promoting her new film bla bla bla) selamba say, "well, it's the feel of the movie, if u like it then u like it la, if u dun then too bad." Well, the feel i get from watching SEPET was so much better than Love Conquers All. So what's she so proud of or supporting? Becoz the film won an award in PUSAN FF?
Let's talk about other parts of mis-en-scene. I think Chui Mui must have thought we don't use public phones much. This is becoz i notice in one of the scenes Coral making a phone call without inserting coins! Blunder? On purpose? u make the call. The make-up for the characters were just not good enough. The bruises on John's (played by Stephen Chua) face looked fake and were wore off by his sweat. but i can say Coral's hairdo was a nice touch. Tham Siew Kai did an excellent job as an uncle using the services of a prostitute (Ah Ping). The locations have not been tampered with much, so it was believable, but the establishing shots were not impressive.
As a conclusion, mainly I think the story is shit, the acting is shit, the lighting is shit, soundtrack is shit, the camera is shit. In fact, i think the whole movie is shit. I'm not gonna say, "Not bad for a first timer" coz it's really terrible. I didn't even clap at the end of the movie. Not to blow my own trumpet but i think i can make a better movie than that, and i will when i graduate and have the means to do so. I would think that if it's just the story that Chui Mui wants to share with us, she would be better off writing novels rather than trying to put in on the video. Let me put it this way metaphorically, would u prefer to watch a 3D animation (Hollywood) or Flash animation (Independent)? well, for me, watching Love Conquers All was none of those two but more like watching a PowerPoint presentation. Lucky for me, it was free of charge. If you're looking for tips on how NOT to make a bad movie, go watch this film. You will learn a lot.
*On a side note, I've seen Woo Ming Jin's short film featuring Tan Chui Mui as an actress in it and it was soooo much better! here's a pic from that show: