Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lewat djam malam / After the Curfew (2012 digital restoration)

[Dopo il coprifuoco]. ID 1954. D: Usmar Ismail. SC: Usmar Ismail, Asrul Sani. DP: Max Tera. ED: Sumardjono. AD: Abdul Chalid. M: G.R.W. Sinsu. S: B. Saltzmann. C: A.N. Alcaff (Iskandar), Netty Herawaty (Norma), R.D. Ismail (Gunawan). PC: Persari, Perfini. 2K DCP with English subtitles. 101’. From: World Cinema Foundation / National Museum of Singapore. Restored in 2012 by the National Museum of Singapore and the World Cinema Foundation, with support from the Konfiden Foundation and Kineforum of the Jakarta Arts Council. The restoration work was conducted by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory from original film elements preserved at the Sinematek Indonesia. Special thanks to the Usmar Ismail family. Saturday 30 July 2012, Cinema Lumière - Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian. Hosted by Cecilia Cenciarelli and introduced by Zhang Wenjie and Mrs. XXX (Indonesia).

(Bologna 2012 Catalog): "After the Curfew is a passionate work looking directly at a crucial moment of conflict in Indonesian history: the aftermath of the four-year Republican revolution which brought an end to Dutch rule. This is a visually and dramatically potent film about anger and disillusionment, about the dream of a new society cheapened and misshapen by government repression on the one hand and bourgeois complacency on the other."

"The film’s director, Usmar Ismail, is generally considered to be the father of Indonesian cinema, and his entire body of work was directly engaged with ongoing evolution of Indonesian society. He began as a playwright and founder of Maya, a drama collective that began during the years of Japanese occupation. And it was during this period when Ismail developed an interest in filmmaking. He began making films for Andjar Asmara in the late 40s and then started Perfini (Perusahaan Film Nasional Indonesian) in 1950, which he considered his real beginning as a filmmaker. After the Curfew, a co-production between Perfini and Djamaluddin Malik’s company Persari, was perhaps Ismail’s greatest critical and commercial success."

"The film has been digitally restored at L’Immagine Ritrovata Laboratory using the original 35mm camera & sound negatives, interpositive, and positive prints preserved at the Sinematek Indonesia. The digital restoration began by focusing on fixing instability and flicker followed by the meticulous work of dirt removal, carried out both by automatic tools and by a long manual process of digitally cleaning each image (frame by frame). The film also suffered from signs of mould and vinegar syndrome – the laboratory took great pains to address these problems without damaging the definition of the photographic output, specifically with regards to details and faces."

"The original sound was digitally restored using the 35mm original soundtrack negative. Two reels were missing from the soundtrack negative, and were therefore taken from the combined  interpositive. The last 2 minutes of reel 5 were missing from all available elements, but were recovered from a positive copy. The soundtrack has been scanned using laser technology at 2K definition. The core of the digital sound restoration consists on several phases of manual editing, high resolution de-clicker & de-crackle, and multiple layers of fully automated noise reduction." (Bologna 2012 Catalog)

AA: The movie was scanned in 4K from challenging sources.

The dramatic story of the homecoming of the Indonesian revolutionary officer Iskandar who has fought for the independence. The story takes place during little more than one day in 1949. Iskandar stays with his girlfriend Norma and meets his key friends Gafar, Gunawar and Puja. Gunawar would like Iskandar to be his hitman, to take care of bothersome people at a foreign company. Puja has become a pimp whose protégée is a naive girl from the countryside called Laila. Although Iskandar receives a hero's welcome he has been traumatized and brutalized by the war. Iskandar cannot adjust to sleeping in a normal bed, he cannot focus at a regular job, and he is not good company for women.

During the picture Iskandar is bothered by a traumatic execution he was ordered to commit by Gunawar. "The scream of that woman I shot at dawn." A family Iskandar was commanded to execute were refugees from Jakarta. The confiscation of the properties of refugees and other helpless people was the primitive accumulation of Gunawar's capital. But "the revolution is not over yet" according to Iskandar. He is incapable of constructive action, but in his final delirium he executes Gunawar and during a nocturnal chase after the curfew he is shot by the police and lethally hit by a jeep. "He was a very brave man" is a final verdict on the desperado.

Films that Lewat djam malam brings to mine include Odd Man Out, The Best Years of Our Lives, and Ashes and Diamonds. Lewat djam malam is, however, completely original. There is a fine sense of atmosphere, and the account of estrangement and alienation is powerful. In his own big homecoming party Iskandar is a stranger.

Songs and music are important in this movie. There is an assured touch in the cinematic storytelling.

There are recurrent digital wrinkles in the DCP; reminders from the moulds and the vinegar syndrome that have hit the source materials. These war scars are not entirely inappropriate for a movie like this. Otherwise the visual quality is all right. I look forward to seeing this movie again, and other films by Usmar Ismail, too.

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