Judge Joel Pearce likes his eggs over easy.
A peek into a crowded marketplace that you wouldn't want to live—or shop—in.
One of those films that gains critical praise while showing at minor film festivals, Of Love and Eggs is the kind of foreign film that I find hardest to watch. Its amateurish production values and forced style won't win many fans on home video.
Facts of the Case
Of Love and Eggs follows the lives of people living in a crowded marketplace in Jakarta, Indonesia. At the center of this place of business is a mosque, about to receive its first dome. Various characters intersect in this busy place, especially a number of children who are struggling to grow up in such a hectic environment.
Sometimes, I'm convinced that some films get critical recognition out of a sense of pure obligation from the critical community. After all, at a film festival it would be hard to be too harsh with a struggling Indonesian director like Garin Nugroho. He makes films with only a fraction of the resources we are used to seeing, and has united a community in order to create his art. There is also a sense that this is a good-natured, honest production. It uses amateur performers, which gives the audience the feeling of getting a window onto another world. Also, the kids are cute.
Unfortunately, none of these things makes Of Love and Eggs any more enjoyable to watch for the rest of us. It's not that I hate foreign films—a quick perusal of my past contributions to the site is proof of that. Rather, I am old-fashioned in firmly believing that a film should have either a strong plot, or a group of truly compelling characters. In the absence of both, I find films very difficult to watch. Obviously, Of Love and Eggs has a more European character-driven style, which is all well and good, but none of the characters are especially compelling. Even in moments of emotional power, the amateurish nature of the acting really gets in the way.
It took me almost two weeks to watch this film. I started it three times, but the amateur performances, static camera work, and ambling nature of the script kept driving me to other entertainment. I can't really explain the disparity between my experience and all of the critics who have raved about it on the back of the DVD. If it has nothing to do with the "film festival experience," I can only guess that perhaps I haven't fallen victim to that belief that capturing something real is more important than good storytelling and filmmaking technique.
It doesn't help that this is one of the ugliest DVD transfers I've seen in years. The video transfer exhibits all of the things we hate here at Verdict: a letterboxed widescreen transfer that looks like it was recorded directly from a low-quality source. The black levels are non-existent, the colors are drab, and the whole image is fuzzy. The subtitles are burnt onto the print and are nigh-unreadable. The sound, in stereo, is just as bad. Through several scenes it's possible to hear a truck being unloaded in the background, and the dialogue is often harsh and sibilant.
The only extra on the disc is a short study guide, with a brief interview segment with Nugroho and some shallow explanations of the significance of some of Of Love and Eggs's imagery. I would humbly suggest that there are much better choices of films to study, making the study guide a bit useless. I know it's never going to find its way into my classroom.
Some people find themselves enchanted by these realist journeys into foreign cultures. I'm sure those people will find much more value here, but even the most serious fans should consider this disc a rental only. It's a bland little movie on an ugly little DVD.
The motion to have this case decided by international tribunal is hereby
denied. Of Love and Eggs is guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Run Features
• Study Guide
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