Saturday, April 05, 2008

[SIFF08] Lucky 7 (Asian Premiere)

Just The Two of Us

I want that ringtone!!!

That's the first reaction that Lucky 7 the film managed to elicit from me, where Sun Koh and 6 other directors - K Rajagopal, Boo Junfeng, Brian Gothong Tan, Chew Tze Chuan, Ho Tzu Nyen and Tania Sng, come together to create a movie in exquisite-corpse style. The last time I experienced a movie of such a nature, was with Hong Kong's Triangle, though the output from Lucky 7 is far more vast and varied compared to the three-man Hong Kong team. It's expected of course, having 7 individuals providing their own creative input and story spun from the criterias of having it between 10 to 12 minutes, and in having Sunny Pang (referred to as Mr Liang only in the opening segment) as the lead character throughout.

It's an experimental film, one that I felt was successful as a platform to allow extremely close collaboration between up and coming local indie filmmakers, to foster close camaraderie in sharing ideas, thoughts, and helping one another technically to complete a feature length movie. The intention and objective behind the Lucky 7 movement cannot be faulted at all. However, the end product, the film, is a bit of a mixed bag, which is literally, a roller coaster ride of emotions - fun, poignant, and bewilderment and exasperation all thrown into the mix.

Granted you can't expect a very coherent movie and narrative compared to having a film helmed by just a single filmmaker, but at the end of Lucky 7, if you're unaware of the movement behind the movie, it's easy to dismiss it as a big mess. I felt that if you're looking for one single story out of this, then you're barking up the wrong tree and will come out disappointed. Each individual segments are so diverse, it really is that you'll never gonna know just what you're gonna get. So if you're spoiler wary, then you might want to stop reading right here.

OK, so here I go. Sun started the movie very well, giving it plenty of room for the subsequent filmmakers to take the narrative through. Mr Liang (Sunny Pang) is given the task of looking after an aged father who has disappeared for most parts of his life, and of course there is natural resentment because primarily, his personal life is turned topsy-turvy, and we see as he grudgingly cancels appointment after appointment. With his discovery of a dated letter, Sun lets go and allows the next filmmaker to take over. (I shall refrain from telling you who did what, although you can refer to this from the official website anyway).

But the next segment really took things off to a different planet. The groundwork laid out by Sun, I felt, was totally wasted and thrown out of the window, and we're stuck with something surreal, out of this world, with homoerotic elements and vegetable sex all thrown in. Yes, while artistically, and story-wise, each filmmaker had full control over, but I thought it was a pity, until the next director had to bring things back to Earth again, in having a very poignant, touching story told, with a tinge and a hint at exploring sexual identity. I was initially told by a friend to prepare myself for a preoccupation with sex, and after watching the movie, I couldn't agree more. I guess with wanting to make a statement against the powers that be, such as the Board of Film Censors (quite obviously done in one of the segments), the sex portions just came steamrolling, which I thought was quite unnecessary, though one of the short had it as a primary theme, albeit redeemed with a hilarious computerized song and dance sequence in the mould of Second Life or the SIMS.

If you think the first few did not really fit and gel with one another, the last three will probably baffle you, though by all means, no less fun as I mean it in a positive manner. What I observed personally, and I may be incorrect, is that each filmmaker had tried to stamp their own mark on the movie, and did so by having Sunny's character wake up from moments of sleep. In doing so I thought had destroyed the narrative as a whole, as each segment literally wipes out what had gone before, and started afresh with possibly a new spin on the character, i.e., there is no continuity for the same Mr Liang character that Sun had crafted at the start. It tangents the story and characters in totally different direc\tions, and I would have preferred to see this "waking up" moments banished, possibly as one of the rules of the game to begin with.

While the storyline could have gone in any direction, what took the cake was the pseudo-documentary segment which halted everything in its tracks, and did a recap of everything else that transpired prior to it. I would have thought this was the last segment, but I was wrong and quite surprised at the need to do a recap at this point. While it did hint at being lazy and out of ideas of what to do with the character, what with having him recount in a verbatim manner of discussing themes and the actor's favourite moments from each segment, it brought out something important, despite making it seem quite condescending to a discerning audience. That is to turn the spotlight on Sunny Pang the actor, and having him perform alone "accapella style" sans costumes and supporting cast. He's challenged to reproduce his earlier performances in a simple mime fashion, and here, you'd see why Sunny Pang deserves every bit of accolade he's been getting for his performing of all the different characters.

In all, Lucky 7 is a fun movie to sit through, just to see what kind of stories can get spun from the last minute of each segment, and makes you wonder how things would turn out should the order of the directors be changed. For starters, personally I would like to see how Boo Junfeng would have continued from where Sun Koh left off, and probably like to see how K Rajagopal would have followed up on Chew Tze Chuan's segment, but that's of course a story for another parallel universe.

Lucky 7 in fact is not just seven segments. Don't bolt out the door where the end credits roll. There's a coda after the end credits, and it's anyone's guess who directed that 8th segment!


LtoR: Yuni Hadi (SIFF), Sun Koh, Boo Junfeng, Chew Tze Chuan, Brian Gothong Tan, Ho Tzu Nyen, K Rajagopal, Tania Sng, and Sunny Pang the lead actor

All the directors involved in the project were present for a short Q&A segment after the screening, together with lead actor Sunny Pang. Here's most of the discussion points that were shared, after a brief introduction as to who did which segment (which you can discover here at the official movie website). Statements in parentheses are my own (bitchy) thoughts. As usual with any Q&A, spoiler are abound, so you have been warned!

Q: What was the reaction to the film at Rotterdam, and how does it differ from the one in Singapore (err.. hello? This is the first public screening outside of Rotterdam, shouldn't you be sharing your thoughts about the movie so that the filmmakers can have a good idea about the reception here?)
Sun Koh: They were watching very intensely, analysing every detail and looking out for connecting points which we thought were fairly obvious.

Q: Having seen the final product, would you have done your segments differently?
Boo Junfeng: Sun was the one in charge in terms of putting it all together. I would not have done anything differently for my segment.

Q: How did the production schedule work, given that each of you only saw the last minute of the previous segment?
Sun Koh: It was a 14 day shoot. We did everything at the script stage, where we would single out what we thought would be the last 1 minute, then shown to the next director who would then continue. It was shot in sequence, except for segment 6 due to scheduling and location issues.

Q: What is your fixation with the colour red, and how was the desert created?
K Rajagopal: I've always had an obsession with the colour and I don't know why. The desert is actually the sand quarry at Tampines, and with the sand crisis looming at the time, we had to shoot it before it was gone.

Q: I felt that the 6th segment watered down the interpretation of the movie for the audience. Were you afraid that the audience cannot appreciate the previous segments?
Ho Tzu Nyen: It was actually Sunny's own interpretation of the film, not mine. You can see it as either boxing or opening it all up, and the disparate nature was intentional, and a way of putting the narrative to a stop, hence the shooting location at the train depot. It was also a way for me to find out what the others are doing!

Sun Koh then commented that Lucky 7 was both the film movement, and the film itself. It was supposed to be extremely unpredictable, and a roller coaster ride, given that she had roped in totally different directors for this project. One audience member also commented that almost all the male directors had sex included in their segments, though Chew Tze chuan responded that he would have wanted to start an underground film cinema with sex, violence and gore!

Q: How much prompting did the directors give you, and how did it affect your interpretation of the story and character?
Sunny Pang: I'll talk to the director, read the script, and of course have to understand the direction that they're looking for... I'll not tell you who is the most difficult to work with amongst the seven lest I don't get my pay cheque!

Q: How did you put it all together, and did you consult the others if you had envisioned it correctly?
Sun Koh: Again it is less romantic in practice. Most of them, like Junfeng, Chew and Brian did their own first cut. What I'd do is to ensure that the segments are between 10 to 12 minutes long. I would have to cut some down, and then show it to the director, keeping my fingers crossed! IT was also simple to put them all together because the directors were also on each other's sets to continue the story.

There was also a question on what inspired them to start a movement on Lucky 7, which I again will point you to this link (and this one too, given that it's a broken link from the official page) so that you can read more about it.

Tickets to all four screenings to Lucky 7 are all sold out, but Yuni Hadi of SIFF mentioned that for those who are keen to turn up at the door as there might be some tickets left. This will also probably be the only opportunity to watch Lucky 7 uncut here in Singapore, so those interested, it's time to form that beeline!

The SIFF Singapore Filmmakers Interview Series
Kan Lume, Writer-Director of Dreams From The Third World
HAN Yew Kwang, Writer-Director of 18 Grams of Love
ENG Yee Peng, Director of Diminishing Memories II
Sherman ONG, Screenwriter-Director of Hashi
James LEONG and Lynn LEE, Directors of Homeless FC
Lionel CHOK, Producer of To Speak
Harman HUSSIN, Director of Road to Mecca

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