YEAR WITHOUT A SUMMER
(Wu Zhi Xia Nian)
Year Without a Summer however has a dullness that goes way beyond even that. It is a film where literally nothing happens. It tells two stories both feature two friends named Azam and Ali. You are not sure if either story is connected or why they concern two friends with the same names. You are not even sure if the second half is meant to be a flashback to the two friends childhood, as both stories seem to be set contemporary.
In the first story, Azam (Namron) abruptly reappears, walking up out of the ocean to join his old friend Ali (Azman Hassan) and Alis wife (Mislina Mustaffa). The three go fishing at night and tell some stories. One of the stories that Ali tells is a legend about a man who found a mermaid (but a mermaid that has a fish body and human legs unlike a Hollywood mermaid, the film is quick to stress), fell in love and went to live underwater for a year, finally returning to his village to find that a hundred years had passed. After losing the magic grain of sand that would allow him to return to his mermaid, the man turned into a crab and started to search every grain of sand on the beach. Finally, Azam jumps overboard and fails to reappear.
The second story concerns two boys, Azam (Mohammed Norsuhaizan Hanafi) and Ali (Mohammed Shahrudin). Azam wants to borrow 100 ringgit to go to Kuala Lumpur, Ali is working as a child labourer at a sawmill. The two of them play in an abandoned truck and wander around through the jungle and along the beach together. On the beach, the boys then come across a mermaid that has a fish body and human legs and see a crab scuttling in the sand, which they set afloat on a shard of rock.
Certainly, Year Without a Summer is made with a reasonable level of professionalism. Most of the film however seems to have been improvised by the cast. More importantly, the lack of plot or dramatic momentum or happening makes the entire show drag to the point of utter tedium. A good half of the audience had walked out at the Vancouver International Film Festival session that I attended.
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)