Let There Be Light!
Basics of Composition
First Thoughts when choosing a Costume
The Sun, Part 1
3rd GenerationMovie Review
by Andrea Tan
Genre: Art house, drama, romance
Art house films are a rarity in Malaysia, considering that commercial films are more likely to appeal to the general audience. It takes time to appreciate art house films, as the storytelling and even cinematography is far different, more artistically filmed, compared to a typical commercial one.
The 3rd Generation is the first Cantonese art house film from Malaysia directed by CL Hor, whose previous works has been TV advertisements and music videos. Despite obviously casting beautiful young people in the film, every frame on screen in itself is beautifully crafted like a piece of artwork.
The film, set in the '60s in Penang, is based on a Chinese proverb that a family's accumulated wealth cannot be maintained beyond the third generation. It captures the essence of the Chinese traditional values and culture, its social complexity within the relationships between father and son, siblings and friends, husband and wife.
The story follows the lives of the Chan family from one generation to another but mainly focuses on Charlie Chan (Nicholas Teo), the third generation in the family and the youngest of three siblings. Charlie returned from his studies overseas with a Westernized girlfriend named Susan (Amber Chia), who eventually becomes his wife. Upon his marriage, he is entrusted by his father Chan Wah (Cheng Kam Cheong) to take over the family business with hopes that it will continue to be more prosperous for the future generation.
On the love front, a secret romantic relationship blossoms between Charlie and Linda (Carmen Soo), a woman he met at his bachelor's party, leaving the faithful Susan neglected.
The film works like a puzzle. Its pacing is slow, with scenes that jumps back and forth (which can be quite confusing). The audience is required to pay attention to details to piece the puzzle of the tale together.
Dialogue is kept to a minimum in this film as most scenes are non-verbal and depends on actions, body language, and expressions to tell the story. But whenever there's dialogue--like the lines between the lovers Charlie and Linda--it flows like poetry. Some dialogue is metaphoric and has double meaning.
The number 3 is very significant and is featured prominently in the film, almost in every frame: the love triangle, three siblings, three best friends, three window panels, the time on the clock or the date on the calendar, etc. You get the picture. Spotting this significance, among others, is kind of fun when watching this film.
Visuals play a major role in art house films. Each frame is crafted to visually tell the story. From set props to costumes, every piece is selected to compliment the storytelling. It's a feast for the eyes if you know how to enjoy it.
This particular film has no wide-view shot (Meaning: Scenes are shot selectively and close-up, and camera pans around in some cases. Translation: In some scenes, you hear a person talking but you don't see the speaker on-screen, which makes the audience feels like an eavesdropper in the conversation. Or the character is talking but his face is unseen, only the rest of the body).
Like any other art house films, the ending is always open to interpretation. Different viewers will come up with a different conclusion. The director doesn't give a final set conclusion but lets the audience the freedom to figure out their own ending.
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