“Pai Kau” is quite a different film that the other Indonesian ones we have seen in the west, since it deals with the Chinese minority in the country, in an effort that functions much like a soap opera, despite a number of elements that point to other directions.

Pai Kau” screened at Osaka Asian Film Festival 2018

Lucy is the daughter of an important businessman and she is about to get married to Edy. This is their perfect moment and she has prepared the wedding of her dreams. However, her father is actually a mafia guy and has an “assistant” always willing to do his dirty job, and Edy is an uncurable womanizer, with the later being unbeknownst to Lucy. During the wedding, Edy’s past comes knocking at his door in the form of an ex-girlfriend, Siska, who plots her way into the wedding, with a truly villainous plan in her head. Edy finds out about her presence and confronts her, but to his bad luck, Lucy appears at that moment, and through a series of unfortunate situations, Lucy ends up as her bridesmaid.

Sidi Saleh directs a film where the narrative is quite unusual, starting with Siska and her “sisters,” then presenting Lucy and her preparations for her wedding, then Edy and his womanizing attitude, then her father and the fact that he is a mafia man, before the wedding ceremony takes over, highlighting all the customs it includes. During the wedding, the story follows Siska who tries to exact revenge from her ex-boyfriend and to avoid security and anyone else who is on her heels, while during the finale, the script takes a couple of completely unexpected turns. Add to that a recurring sequence that presents a number of people gambling at a round table, and you have the gist of the narrative.

Through all these concepts, the movie becomes somewhat unbalanced, since the wedding procedures have a documentary-like feel, through a distinctly realistic presentation, while the rest of the story lingers between the soap opera and the thriller, with a rather far-fetched script. The former element is stressed by the fact that almost every one appearing on screen seems to be gorgeous, with the director including some minor sensual sequences, and the tendency extends to the production values, with the colors being washed in extreme white light, for the most part, although the focus on the wedding explains both, to some degree. Regarding the production values, the work done is quite good, with Dennis Sutanto’s production design and Dina Donna Forte’s costumes being impressive.

In this setting, not many instances for the actors to shine exist; however, although most of them function quite well. Antony Xie is the embodiment of the playboy as Edy, both in attitude and appearance, Ineke Valentina plays the damsel in distress as Siska nicely while Irina Chiu as the unsuspecting Lucy is quite convincing. The one who steals the show, though, is Verdi Solaiman as Koh Jun, who presents a truly cult character with his sunglasses and violent, but cool ways. 

“Pai Kau” has its merits, and definitely deserves a watch particularly for the presentation of the lives of the Chinese Indonesians, despite some faults in the direction and script.