Monday, March 18, 2013


Use Your Brains Before You Ban

The feeling of being short-changed. MDA should have stuck to its guns and kept the film banned, because that will save the good cinema going public from forking out good money to go watch a film that had neither sex nor violence, and seriously, what family values are you talking about here? Your cock tease in banning, then unbanning this film with that cheap muting and bleeping gimmick requirements, had only resulted in one thing - more people flocking to its screenings than it would ever have had it been screened quietly last year, proof being sold out sessions in its limited one week run now, to witness first hand at what the commotion is all about, then coming away with nowhere being near of getting a hard on.

Lasting about 50 minutes for 3 shots (quite bang for the buck either way you look at it), writer Ken Kwek takes on directing responsibilities for the first time, having contributed to Kelvin Tong and Glen Goei's movies in a writing capacity. And what better way to make a breakthrough than to tackle taboo subjects that the prudes with power will balk at, and typically form committees and panels to try and delegate responsibility in jointly evaluating whether smut like this can be released on screen and corrupting the morals of the innocent and docile movie going public. With special abilities in zapping audio and introducing sounds from Looney Tunes, it radically took the shine off the second shot, where it could have spiced up the narrative a lot more in the first and last as well, given its happy ending.

Featuring a bevy of brave stars and new faces to the big screen, credit has to go where credit is due, and that has to be the language. English language films are always hard in Singapore, with our box office successes coming from predominantly Chinese language based ones. This one went the whole nine yards with less than polished English, and came off sounding really natural and close to the soundscapes that you can tell is most authentic here, which is almost quite the rare thing in Singapore's filmography. That it took this while to get here, only bodes well for inspired artist in the future and grant them confidence to dabble with more English language films.

Narratively, the first shot was a little short, about a mother (Serene Chen) being summoned to meet her son's school teacher (Susan Tordoff) because of something disturbing exhibited in the son's behaviour through his drawings. One can see where things are coming from after a while, confirming it when the paddle got wielded. It suffered from telling rather than showing, with its main punchline being delivered orally when the gag was already out of the bag, probably because of the kids on set. In foreplay terms, this one did a lot, but ultimately didn't quite matter at the end.

The second was of course the highlight, with Adrian Pang playing the sleazy, racist director making his first porno with wife (Pam Oei) as his solo crew member/producer, with Vivian (Vadi PVSS) and student Susie (Lez Ann Chong) as his leads who have hidden secrets that may derail his production dreams. This is the film that was found objectionable, but it's almost akin to pimping it for being a lot more than it is, then when delivered, you wonder just what the hype was all about. Sure, Adrian Pang plays a disgustingly funny character, with twists that you can see coming from miles away. But other than that, it wasn't as entertaining as thought it would be, and was quite the downer to have suffered for those miserly seconds that drew too much attention for things unsaid. And MDA's pretty cool about the racist joke here involving teeth, where the same one got told in Red Numbers, so the air got cleared that their OK with it since it's PG-13 material only.

The final one was probably the longest of the lot, requiring a bit of endurance to finally reach its climax. Amongst the three, it had a lot more flesh, with more characters and bore a lot more skin than the earlier two put together. But somehow, the pole dancing sequences needed a lot more work. I can rattle off a few routines in films like Dancing at the Blue Iguana with Darryl Hannah and a whole host of other anonymous doing a better job in their pole and stripper routines, as does Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me and Rose McGowan in Planet Terror, to name the few at the top of my head. The ones here by Sylvia Ratonel and Vanessa Vanderstraaten hardly oozed any sensuality or sexuality, so to that neighbouring Ah Pek, sorry ah, you came to the wrong film.

But alas whether this film is ultimately good or bad or rake in a million bucks from the box office, forever will it be remembered as the one that went down to wishy-washy decisions by the powers that be, which helped in raising curiosity even amongst the least interested, to want to sneak a peek. And what better way, in the Singapore film landscape, than to earn one's directing stripes, than to have one's film banned. Eric Khoo got banned, Royston Tan too, as did Kan Lume. Now add Ken Kwek amongst that esteemed company.

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