Saturday, February 26, 2011

[SFS Talkies] The Four: Short Films by Woo Ming Jin

Unfortunately the much anticipated The Tiger Factory by Woo Ming Jin is not to be screened during today's session because the Singapore Premiere is due for the Southeast Asian Film Festival, so those who turned up had to make do with an alternate program, showcasing four short films form Woo's filmography instead:

1. Catching the Sea
Exploring the theme of how people reconcile death and sickness, and to move on in life despite their less than pristine surroundings, this short touches upon a sick man (Pete Teo) who's back in his village to recover from an illness, and a separate story starring fellow filmmaker Liew Seng Tat in the role of a bigger brother who cannot get over the loss of his mother, spending time with his brother hanging out from dumpster to dumpster riding their DIY motorbike. There are many scenes that show the grimy side of livelihood, with a stinky looking toilet being the highlight for one of the character arcs, in this tale that boasts striking visuals that would be a hallmark of his feature film Woman on Fire Looks for Water.

It Is Possible Your Heart Cannot Be Broken
My favourite of the lot, this film highlights Woo's wit and humourous side in crating a romantic comedy starring two fellow filmmakers from Da Huang Pictures. I mean, can you imagine Tan Chui Mui and Liew Seng Tat being lovers? The thought itself is funny (no offense!), and the delivery even more so, dealing with the desperation of a home electronics salesperson Ah Tat to try and hook up with this girl Apple he met at the sidewalk, befriending her and going a step at a time to progress their relationship, notwitstanding even selling wares (that she doesn't need) to her.

The narrative was patchy but worked, with talking heads, flashbacks and enactments from each of the couple, which of course paints a different picture on every event depending on whose perspective is bring presented (isn't it always the case), and had both lead actors to thank for in providing their charismatic on screen presence, especially Seng Tat in his portrayal as the man with a lack of self-confidence, and Chui Mui as the lass with the sass, in a tale that deals with the systematic destruction of a relationship, highlighting how busy urban landscapes give rise to loneliness of self.

Blue Roof
Security guard Albert (Chew Kin Wah) is probably the expected norm of the profession, who sleeps on the job when nobody is watching, and frankly is just around just to be around, reactive rather than proactive, having to be told what to do, with his limp and lack of situational awareness being of no use in a security situation. Still, he is employed in a building apartment complex, and whiles the time away collecting pictures from newspaper clippings about road accidents. and frequents the rooftop, contemplating leaping off to probably end what seems to be a life heading nowhere. Quite the pessimistic film in showcasing how routine life can be when we're resigned to and limited by circumstances to break out of a vicious circle.

Love for Dogs
We revisit a fishing village again, and follow the life of a drifter suffering from severe constipation trying to carve a living out of peddling medicinal white tiger paw, and hard at his attempts to try and repair a sour relationship with his mother. In another story arc, Lili is a soft toy peddler who pretends to be mute to elicit compassion and sympathy from customers at a hawker centre, living with her aunt who tries to matchmake her off. Down and out characters seem to be the forte in Woo's shorts in this collection, and deals with the pained absence of family and those without a support structure as they go about their lives. WIth dialogue that unintentionally tickles the funny bone, the highlight here is of course the irony of street peddlers who know eac other's ruse and not buying from each other also because it doesn't make sense to do so.

If you are interested to view these short films, you will be glad to know they are available on DVD and can be purchased here from Da Huang Pictures.

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