By Benjamin McKay
The directorial debut by leading actor Hans Isaac is more impressive than I had anticipated. For all of its syrupy Malaysia Boleh sentiments, “Cuci” is in fact a fairly well constructed entertainment. One of the pleasures of the film is that it takes the tired cliché of the ubiquitous KL skyline establishing shot and allows that shot to build into an entire movie narrative. KL looks quite good in this film and while “Cuci” is certainly not taxing on the intellect, it is largely a well crafted genre film – a buddy movie that revels in its own good humour.
It is not without its obvious faults. By and large it would have worked better as a TV movie and there were some minor pacing problems in parts, but given the limitations of its budget, there is still here much to be enjoyed. I particularly liked the quirky premise of the story. Who would ever have thought a film would be made about the lives of an ambitious team of window cleaners! Who knew that window cleaning in KL could be so ruthlessly competitive? And who would have believed that a tale about the ruthless world of window cleaning could sustain our interest for 101 minutes of screen time?
Genre-based situation comedies seem to be the primary staple of mainstream Malaysian cinema, but one of my criticisms about those films is that largely they have little respect for their audience’s intelligence. In “Cuci”, Hans Isaac and his assembled team of comic talents are to be commended for not insulting their audience and for having invested in the template a degree of originality. I was heartened to note too that the packed audience that attended the screening I caught the other day seemed to be a demographically representative audience of Malaysians of all ages and backgrounds and that they remained vocally enthused throughout!
With a screenplay by Hans Isaac and Harith Iskandar and some occasionally interesting camera work by Helmi Yusoff, the film stars Isaac, Awie, Afdlin Shauki, AC Mizal, Erra Fazira and Umie Aida. I have always thought that Afdlin Shauki is one of those rare local talents with the capacity to rise above the material he has to work with – nice therefore to see him in a film that celebrates his on screen presence rather than in one that merely relies on it.
There are some rather delightful cameo appearances peppered throughout the film – Harith Iskandar pops up with a set of golf clubs and pithy one liners and in an almost shamelessly amusing instance of product placement the Executive Producer of the film Dato’ Tony Fernandez wraps up the movie with an onscreen appearance accompanied by one of his aircrafts. But if one cameo stands out it must be the hilarious, albeit brief, appearance of Ida Nerina as an over the top receptionist – I would pay to see the film again if only to catch her brief scene stealing moment one more time.
Hans Isaac should be rather pleased with himself as he does indeed show evidence here of his potential as a director of light entertainment. This is not rocket science – but who cares? Popular entertainment should be celebrated so long as it does not demean its audience. I congratulate Isaac on having avoided that tendency.
First Published: 05.02.2008 on Kakiseni