Love Conquers All
Love Conquers AllI’ve heard good things about this movie; that it was financially backed by the Hubert Bals Fund of the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and that it won a couple of awards at the 11th Pusan International Film Festival. The reason for the former is simple — if your movie does not contain at least 70% of dialogue in the Malay language, forget government funding. And if other people are willing to finance your film, their faith has got to count for something in your ability as a director, a.k.a. knowing that it will not totally suck.

Similarly the latter speaks volumes; after all such accolades are not awarded lightly. At the PIFF this past October, LOVE CONQUERS ALL grabbed two awards — sharing the ‘New Currents Award’ (Best New Asian Filmmaker of the Year – “This film is using a known cinematic language in a nice way telling the life of a village girl who is going to a big city to work and face the reality and the morality of our time”) with another director, and the ‘FIPRESCI Award’ (Prize of the International Film Critics – ” for its audacious narrative structure and its intelligent work with sound and image”). Nice, very nice.

The young writer and director of LOVE CONQUERS ALL, Tan Chui Mui revealed to fellow blogger Lim Chang Moh that…

[…] the movie was inspired by a story about pimps told to her by a friend during her stint at the Multimedia University. “I was also influenced by the beauty of my hometown in Sungai Ular, near Kuantan, and I have incorporated scenes from the village,” she said. The movie was made at a RM100,000 budget.

Below is a synopsis of the movie that I shamelessly copied and pasted from the Tokyo International Film Festival website.

Small town girl Ah Ping moves to Kuala Lumpur to work in her aunt’s chicken rice stall. She encounters John at the public phone booth while making her ritual calls to her family and boyfriend back home. John follows her everywhere pursuing her fervently until she finally succumbs to him. First it transpires that he is involved in some shady deals. Then he casually reveals his familiarity with the tricks pimps use to lure girls into prostitution. When he does a disappearing act we watch helplessly as Ah Ping’s fate is sealed.

Note: It was not a chicken rice stall, but an economy rice stall. The movie was set sometime in the 80s, I am not sure if they had mobile phones back then. The main story of Ah Ping’s journey of self-discovery was slow to develop, and as it is with indie/arty movies, there are long shots of Ah Ping staring into space, as if dust mites could transmit to her vital information about the meaning of life. Actress Coral Ong Li Whei has a face that could be rather blank sometimes, so it’s perfect for these artistic moments.

The budding romance between Ah Ping and John was interesting to see, actor Stephen Chua Jyh Shyan did a commendable job playing the part of the hero-turned-baddie with a conflicting personality. The only problem I had was not with the actors, but with the storyline. In one part of the movie, John explained to Ah Ping in detail the tricks pimps use to lure girls into prostitution. So to me it was rather frustating to watch Ah Ping jumping headlong into everything that John warned her about. Love conquers all indeed, love is capable of changing a person, and it is not the type of love that I can understand.

I thought of the choices Ah Ping could have made, and the alternative paths she could have taken. I was left feeling disheartened, and I wondered about the script writer’s decision in creating the story as it is. Not that I would have preferred a fairy-tale ending, but it did make me question her intent.

Ah well, at least it was a story that made me think, eh?

Love Conquers All

The micro story focused on Ah Ping’s little cousin, Mei who corresponds with her pen-pal who lives in another part of town. I find myself very much drawn to the on-goings and development of her story which mostly depicts loneliness, and her relationship with her mother, Hong Jie (who is Ah Ping’s auntie). The chemistry between Mei, played by Leong Jiun Jiun and Hong Jie, played by Ho Chi Lai was intriguing to see, the battle of wills exhibited by both parties were frustrations of miscommunication examplified. Some of the more powerful scenes in this movie to me were the ones of Mei and Hong Jie.

I give Love Conquers All 3.95 stars out of 5. If it weren’t for the constant shaky camera movements (for some reason are vital to indie/artistic movies but gives me bad headaches) I would have given it a 4.15. Oh well.

LOVE CONQUERS ALL is written and directed by Tan Chui Mui, and produced by Amir Muhammad. The spoken language is mostly Mandarin with subtitles in English. It opens in GSC International Screens today at GSC Mid Valley, GSC 1 Utama and GSC Gurney Plaza (Penang).

Other reviews by: SwiftyPatrickLim Chang Mohyours truly.