Friday, November 02, 2007

[German Film Festival] Love Under the Sign of the Dragon (Eine Liebe im Zeichen des Drachen)

Thanks for the Party. You Can Now Remove My Sarong

Wong Li-lin has been on our television screens as far back as the days when the Pyramid Game was on the air, and then she burst into more prominence on television with the locally produced Triple Nine cop drama series co-starring James Lye and Lim Yu-beng. Fast forward to recent years, the only cinematical outing I've heard she'd starred in was a yet to be released film called The Leap Years. And out of the blue during the German festival, the credits of Love Under the Sign of the Dragon (what a clunky title) had her billed as one of the leads. Naturally my interest was piqued, and I bought a ticket for it given the support for a co-produced movie by Oak3 and MDA.

But alas, this is the kind of movie that makes one roll the eyes and wonder just exactly what were the merits that were in this movie that was worth making. It's woefully disappointing, and I'm not sure if Li-lin and those involved would be proud of to list in their filmography. Filled with countless cliches that brings to mind very severe, crippled misconceptions, stereotypes and ideals that a typical ill-informed Westerner would have of our country. As always, it will play like a Singapore Tourism Board video with moments that you'd find straight out of their corporate video.

And for convenience, everybody speaks in German, and while I know our society is multi-lingual, cultural, etc, this is stretching it a bit too far - we have aunties and uncles from street stallholders to business executives so fluent with the language, you wonder if German was indeed our mother tongue. What made it worse, you can tell the characters were speaking in their native tongue, so I'm not sure why the need to have dubbers do voice overs. What's wrong with letting the natural language go through, and supporting it via subtitles?

Don't let me get to the story, which reeks of a cheap television soap opera. A bio-tech firm sends its trusted lieutenant Alexander (Erol Sander, doesn't this remind you of HK movies of old?) to Singapore to work on a deal, thereby junking his plan of marrying the daughter of his CEO, Anna (Denise Zich). In Singapore, he looks forward to a good time banging LiLin (starring you know who. Pure laziness, just pure laziness), an illegal immigrant sniffed out by Anna's brother Philipp (Steffen Wink), recruited to be Alexander's PA, to seduce him and obtain the company's secrets. So what it boils down to is bad romance drama, zero chemistry, everyone behaving like robots and going through the motions. You can tell that the Asians in this flick wonder just what the heck they're doing here, like Ezann Lee a hospital employee, Zhu Houren as a corrupt cop who got forgotten, and Cheng Pei Pei (yes, that Pei Pei) here just standing around.

This movie is deeply disturbing. It is steeped in cultural stereotypes, with Europeans living in large colonial houses (get over it, it's not pre-Independence), with chauffeurs dressed up in Kato-styled garb, and given Singapore is located in Asia, it must come with plenty of dragons, people with plasticky smiles permanently plastered on their faces. If you're a Chinese you must own a medicine shop and be illegal immigrants, and must fall head over heels for Westerners at the bat of an eyelid, typical of someone's brush and experience with a Sarong Party Girl. The other races here have token appearances, again boiling down to stereotypes. Showing signs of laziness and the ridiculous, is to state that Singapore has rice paddies, and conveniently avoid the location when the characters are en route, with a car breakdown. Hello? You might as well say Fort Knox is here!

Bottom line, don't waste your time. It's utter rubbish from all fronts from acting to storyline. What an embarrassing effort, and to have the cheek to be featured in a film festival, located in Singapore as well. You can con others overseas, but never anyone who is living here, or who has visited our country. You know the movie's terribly bad when the audience, made up of locals and Westerners, are laughing at the absurdity of it all. Respecting the material means not featuring the Singapore Skyline from an office window, at such an angle that puts the office block right smack in the middle of the Singapore River itself.

Making locally produced Channel 8 telemovies look like Palme d'Or winners, I'm not sure why MDA supported this at all.

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