Sunday, September 14, 2008

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Note: Film Space has postponed their previously scheduled September showings of the “Colors” trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski to December, in order not to conflict with the showings of these same three films by the Alliance Française in September. Film Space is now showing “A Month of Asian Films” throughout September. October, in a last-minute change, will offer “A Month of Musicians.”

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space on September 20, 7 pm: Be With Me (2005) by Eric Khoo – Singapore Drama/ Romance – 93 mins. In Cantonese, English, Hokkien, and Mandarin with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 67/69 out of 100.

Be With Me consists of three stories of love vs. solitude: 1) An aging, lonesome shopkeeper doesn't believe in life any more since his wife died. But he is saved from desperation by reading an autobiographical book and meeting its author, a deaf and dumb lady of his own age. 2) Fatty, a security guard in his fifties, lives for two things: good food and love for a pretty executive living in his block of flats. But, if it is easy to satisfy his first need winning the heart of the distant belle is a horse of another color. 3) Two teenage schoolgirls get to know each other on the Internet. Soon they fall in love.

NYTimes: Although four stories, three fictional and one real, are folded together in Eric Khoo’s elliptical film Be With Me, the tale that gives this delicate, melancholic movie its backbone is the true one of its courageous central character, Theresa Chan. A deaf and blind Singaporean woman in her early 60’s who plays herself in the movie, Ms. Chan is an indomitable life force and charismatic screen presence. Even after she concludes her account of transcending the “silent, dark prison” of her disabilities with the help of gifted teachers, you are left wondering how she did it.

Wikipedia: Be With Me is a 2005 Singaporean drama film directed by Eric Khoo. The film is inspired by the life of deaf-and-blind teacher Theresa Chan, and premiered in the Director's Fortnight selection in the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. It was also the official entry from Singapore for the 78th Academy Awards in the foreign-language category. In December 2005, the Academy body disqualified the film on grounds that it was not "foreign" enough as the dialogue is mainly in English. Out of ninety-three minutes, the film only has two and a half minutes of dialogue. Be With Me is the first film in Singapore to explicitly feature a lesbian relationship.

About the director, Eric Khoo:

Wikipedia: Khoo Kim Hai [aka “Eric” – pronounced "Air-lick" in Singlish] was born 27 March 1965, and is the youngest son of the Singapore billionaire Khoo Teck Puat.

A film director from Singapore, he was introduced to the world of cinema at a very early age. He attended City Art Institute in Sydney, Australia where he pursued cinematography. Khoo began his career with short films, directing works like “When the Magic Dies” (1985), “Barbie Digs Joe” (1990), “August” (1991), “Carcass” (1992), “Symphony 92.4” (1993), “Pain” (1994), and “Home VDO” (2000). A large number of his prize-winning shows have been screened at various film festivals around the world. He has also produced and/or directed made-for-television films, music videos and television advertisements. In February 1999, Khoo was named in Asiaweek magazine as one of 25 exceptional Asians for his influence on film and television. In June of the same year, he received the Singapore Youth Award in recognition of his contribution to the country's film industry.

Kinema: Eric Khoo was born in 1965 to a well-to-do family in Singapore. According to Khoo, his mother started taking him to the movies at the age of two, developing in him a love for the cinema. When he was about eight years old, he chanced upon his mother's Super 8 camera, started making "little animated films" on it, and has since been unable to put his camera down. Khoo's interest led him to study cinematography at the City Art Institute in Sydney, Australia. Back in Singapore, he began making award-winning short films before venturing into feature film-making.

Dr Kenneth Paul Tan: “Khoo's films explore a set of hard-hitting themes, including a sense of alienation in contemporary Singapore, nostalgia for a humane past, and the centrality and complexity of human sexuality. Influenced by Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Khoo often features a complex anti-hero as the protagonist of his films: the lonely old man who commits suicide on his birthday in “Symphony 92.4,” the pork-seller in “Carcass” who takes comfort in television dramas and regular sex with a prostitute, the outcast necrophilic hawker in Mee Pok Man, the model citizen who breaks down in 12 Storeys - all dysfunctional individuals struggling to cope in a rigid and yet fast-paced society administered by harsh norms. Khoo usually captures grittier, less sanitized images of Singapore's underbelly that contrast starkly with the projected images of tourism-hungry Singapore. Yet, Khoo possesses the remarkable ability to invest tremendous aesthetic beauty into the dilapidated back alleys, crumbling old buildings, and seedy prostitute dens, without trivializing them.”

Eric Khoo will be one of the jurors in the upcoming Bangkok International Film Festival, which I will be attending next week.

At Film Space on September 27, 7 pm: Eating Air / Chi feng (1999) by Jasmine Ng Kin Kia, Kelvin Tong – Singapore Action/ Romance – 100 mins. In English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Malay with English subtitles.

A motorcycle-kongfu-comedy.”

A Nutshell Review (Singapore)

Following the chronicles of Ah Bengs, Ah Boy, our anti-hero protagonist played by Benjamin Heng, introduces to us his gang of arcade playing, motorcycle riding, and rooftop gathering friends. While street corner gangs are not as sophisticated as organized hoodlums, they too practice their own brand of honor. Petty fights are common, and so are motorcycle challenges. But when his best friend Ah Gu chances upon drugs and borrows from loan sharks, what will happen to their friendship, as the challenges that they face become more and more dangerous.

Romance is in contrast to the reality and ugliness of street gangs, With Ah Bengs, there surely is their Ah Lians hugging their torsos on bike rides (jiak hong in Hokkien, for joyrides). Alvina Toh plays Ah Girl, Ah Boy's main squeeze. The moments together are bittersweet, boy-meets-girl, falls in love, boy-loses-girl, punctuated with an excellent soundtrack done by local acts like the Boredphucks. It's back to the old days where mobile phones are not as prevalent, and calls are made to each other using early technology like pagers and voice messages, which was nostalgic.

Heng brought life to Ah Boy, with his crazy kung-fu imagination as he evolves from an aimless wanderer, to crazed street kid with a huge dose of "yi qi"/honour. Toh too plays her role convincingly, as a schoolgirl seduced by Ah Boy's carefree ways, to becoming someone with inner strength.

This film manages to gel its subplots together, adding much to its depth. While its protagonists are street gangsters, it makes no attempt to glorify nor condone their actions, and therefore doesn't feel preachy on what's right or wrong.


The young people who dominate the film are recognizable from Singapore to Japan, their lives imprinted by popular culture (manga, kung-fu movies), their jobs either nonexistent or time-wasters and their escape symbolized by careening on motorbikes in the night streets. Essentially, Tong and Ng's film gathers together a group of such lonesome dreamers and works out their short destinies within a Singaporean context. Picture's Chinese title is local Hokkien-dialect slang for having a good time.

Boy (Benjamin Heng) is a teenage fantasist who imagines himself (in red-tinted sequences) as a martial arts hero. One of his pals, Gu (Joseph Cheong), who has ambitions to become a punk gangster, becomes involved in selling what he thinks is a packet of drugs when he falls into arrears on his bike payments.

About the directors, Jasmine Ng Kin Kia and Kelvin Tong:

Kelvin Tong

Best known for his award-winning 1999 kung-fu motorcycle movie, Eating Air, Kelvin Tong is a brand name in cutting-edge Singapore cinema. Named as the best Singapore movie to date in October 2003 by Singapore’s Mandarin national broadsheet, Lianhe Zaobao, Eating Air represented Singapore extensively in the international film-festival circuit.

His direction and original screenplay saw the Singapore movie winning The Young Cinema Award at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival and the FIPRESCI prize at the 2000 Stockholm International Film Festival. Kelvin has directed several other films such as Moveable Feast, The Maid, Love Story, Men in White and Rule #1.

Jasmine Ng

Having studied Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, Jasmine has worked on award -winning TV commercials and feature- length films with some of the best in the region, including local feature film 12 Storeys. After working with Kelvin Tong on Moveable Feast, Jasmine continue to co-write, co -direct, edit and produce the Singapore feature film, Eating Air with Kelvin.

As a creative director and executive producer with VHQ-TV, she has also created the award-winning “Afterlife” presented on Discovery Networks Asia and recently completed a documentary, “Pink Paddlers.”

At Film Space on October 4, 7 pm: Last Days (2005) by Gus Van Sant – US Music/ Drama – 97 mins. A Seattle-set rock & roll drama about a musician whose life and career is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain's, the lead singer of the popular Seattle-based rock band Nirvana who committed suicide in 1994. It’s a meditative journey through the last days in the life of fictional musician Blake (Michael Pitt). In a bewildered state of drug withdrawal, Blake stumbles through deep woods groaning and mumbling quietly. His words are only occasionally audible, and even less occasionally coherent. The focus is on Blake's tortured, slow-motion movements and his tangle of chin-length blond hair, which hangs like a mask over his face. Reaching a clearing, Blake enters a dilapidated mansion where he lives with four similarly confused young rockers. A string of foggy events follows in partially chronological order. Scenes overlap, allowing for minor details to be added later. This style hints at the insignificance of time—and of everything—from Blake's perspective. Avoiding human contact, taking long walks, playing music, and hiding in the greenhouse, Blake nears his inevitable end. He digs up a parcel from the backyard, smokes a cigarette and painstakingly pours a bowl of Cocoa Krispies, changes into a black evening gown and grabs a rifle, answers the phone and says nothing when a voice asks him about an upcoming tour. Blake then descends into a bizarre, barely conscious state during which people come and go from the house. But none of it seems to register, as he is already lost. Last Days finds melancholic beauty in green trees reflecting in windowpanes, and the sound of rippling lake water echoing the ambient noise in Blake's head; and Pitt shows chameleon expertise in his mutely charismatic depiction of the unreachable Blake, whose resemblance to Cobain is both haunting and magical. While the minimalist style is not for all viewers, those who appreciate experimentalism will find Last Days hypnotic. Rated R in the US for language and some sexual content. Generally favorable reviews: 67/60 out of 100.

At Film Space on October 11, 7 pm: I'm Not There (2007) by Todd Haynes – US/Germany Biography/ Drama/ Music – 135 mins. Starring Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin. I'm Not There is a film that dramatizes the life and music of Bob Dylan as a series of shifting personae, each performed by a different actor—poet, prophet, outlaw, fake, star of electricity, rock and roll, martyr born-again Christian—seven identities braided together. The unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life. Rated R in the US for language, some sexuality, and nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 73/71 out of 100.

At Film Space on October 18, 7 pm: Sid and Nancy (1986) by Alex Cox – UK Biography/ Drama/ Music – 112 mins. Alex Cox's biopic tells the bleak, heroin-drenched story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his disturbed American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman delivers a bravura performance as Sid, matched by Chloe Webb's grating, clearly unhinged Nancy. The two lovers' childlike tenderness with each other contrasts sharply with their bleak, violent nihilism, and while the script implies that Nancy's death was accidental, the line between intention and accident is deliberately blurred. By turns romantic and horrific, Sid and Nancy is often grueling to watch, but always compelling. Cox's romantic vision draws us in while throwing us back in time to London and New York at the inception of the drug-laden British punk era. The film's dreamlike style and a hypnotic score dramatize the schism between Sid and Nancy’s world and the world around them--and the inevitable horror when those worlds collide. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100.

At Film Space on October 25, 7 pm: Linda Linda Linda (2005) by Nobuhiro Yamashita – Japan Comedy/ Drama/ Music – 114 mins. A somewhat beguiling teenage charmer that follows the antics of four high school friends, all girls, who decide to form a band only three days before a potential gig at the annual school festival. Unburdened by plot or hormonal drama, the movie follows the girls through lengthy rehearsals, minor setbacks, and painfully awkward encounters with boys and teachers. With the title taken from a catchy 1980s tune by Japanese punk icons The Blue Hearts, Yamashita's film is as unconventional and understated as a teenage drama can be, yet it's fairly enjoyable with moments of painfully awkward humor, and solid performances by the four lead actresses.

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