Sunday, April 26, 2009

Return From The SIFF

This blog has been deathly quiet of late. Apologies, but it's been a whirlwind of a month at the day job, while preparing for a week-long trip to the Singapore International Film Festival. It was nice to be back at the SIFF after missing it for so many years, although the festival isn't quite the same anymore. I did feel a certain lack of excitement now, and the programming in the last, maybe two, years had been less exciting too. After all, this was the festival where I saw my first Kurosawa Kiyoshi film (Kairo) and first met Tsai Ming-liang. If anything, this year's edition, the first post-Philip Cheah festival, seems a little more nationalistic, what with a plethora of Singapore films making their world premieres and sorts, and the Singapore Film Awards.

I saw two Singapore films this year - A Big Road and White Days. Both were disappointments, the former a bigger letdown. A Big Road treads the fine line between unadulterated emotional wringing and artsy pretentiousness, and falls over into the latter more often than not. Ever since Vive L'Amour, everyone's been trying to copy the minutes-long take of a woman crying or engaging in some overly emotional cinematic exercise. A Big Road has such a scene, of a woman trying on clothes in front of a mirror, which started out as having a surprisingly effective context in the film, but soon degenerates into yawn-inducing, artsy static-cam stunt show.

White Days is even more of a Tsai Ming-liang copycat, albeit married with a Kevin Smith sensibility. I mean, how many films do we need to see in which young people drift aimlessly through life, ranting and yakking their way through the runtime? Clerks has done it much better, so does anyone else really need to make another film like that? Admittedly some of the dialogues were fun and entertaining, but they ultimately lead to nothing, and probably says nothing about the reality of youth in Singapore. They felt more like American versions of Singaporean youths, or rather, Clerks and Slackers transported into the heart of the Lion City.

I missed Blind Pig Who Wants To Fly and Rainbow Troops, and a few others, because tickets to those were sold out fast. But the best film I saw at the SIFF was a Malaysian one. I'll write about that later.

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