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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Gay > Indonesia > Arisan!

Arisan! (The Gathering)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B



In looking for intelligent films about adults, it was a very pleasant surprise to find one of the best recent such comedy/dramas to come from Indonesia.  Arisan! (2003) is Nia Dinata’s surprisingly good film about relationship sand how a common cultural gathering gets people to allow their guards to go down too much.  In this case, Sakti (Tora Sudiro) is a sexually oppressed gay man living with his mother, unable to deal with himself.  At the gym, he has become interested in Nino (Surya Saputra), but avoids him to stay unexposed.


It may not reflect the realities of Indonesia, but that is not the point of the film.  What is impressive is that the film manages to deal with human sexuality (straight, gay, lesbian) in an honest, mature, realistic, natural way that uses full-developed three-dimensional characters in a way that does not have an agenda, preach anything, and demonstrates some fine depth.  Dinata co-wrote the screenplay as well and the dialogue is exceptional.  Note than most of the words are spoken in Indonesian, but there is more English here than you might expect.


People talk to each other, not at and this is not trying to be some fell-good film or formula picture.  Instead, it is ahead of so many films trying to deal with similar subjects, including many that are only concerned with heterosexual couples only.  That it is made by women and made well by them is able to actually justify its 129 minutes-length instead of dragging on like so many Hollywood or independent boutique productions that are just wasting time.  When it does deal with heterosexual couples, it is as observant and well handled as the gay male leads.  Some may find this too pat or pleasant, but Arisan! achieves a look into a world we have not seen before on film and it often reflects part of more familiar ones we do not see enough.


The letterboxed 1.85 X 1 image is nicely shot by cinematographer Yudi Datau, capturing the places the characters either call home (which are always very personalized spaces), work environments that are not as appealing and outdoor locations that make you want to visit Indonesia.  The colors are consistent and more colorful than we have seen in many films of late, so it is a shame this was not an anamorphically enhanced transfer.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo has no serious surrounds, but is nicely recorded and plays back well enough.  Extras include 4:52 of deleted scenes, a 23:18 making of featurette, bloopers, multiple takes of a key sequence dubbed A Special Surprise and two original trailers for the film.


This is comic enough to be dubbed a romantic comedy, but I will add that this is the genre Hollywood botches more than any other.  This should be required viewing for any future such film that gets the greenlight.  Dinata could be on her way to becoming a world-class director.  We look forward to her next project.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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