Digital Homelands in my mind

The New World by K Rajagopal


I have saved the top spot for my review on Raja's video because I liked it very much. I have always wanted to see how Raja's shots were pieced together in a coherent video simply because if you have been at his shoots, you are never really sure where it is leading to. Lucky 7, the feature film is an exquisite corpse film made up of 7 filmlets of contrasting genres pieced together. Raja's shot list is an exqusite corpse in itself.
Guy in red underwear runs across desert...... guy dances with mannequin in bridal shop....... video appears on boy's shirt............ you get the idea.Yet's I have heard enough from Sun (Koh) already about how Raja's segment in Lucky 7 seems the best. Watching the New World answers this fully. Incidentally, I watched `The Diving Bell and The Butterfly' 1 day before this. It has a few common stylistic threads. The juxtapositive use of images, surrealism, sudden visual breakaways from the focal activity and mmm..... costumes (which I really suspect is the theatrical influence in him, which I wholly empathise with).

Raja has gracefully and I must say cleverly married stop-motion photography, puppetry, straight-laced drama, vintage photograps, text, titillating sound design into a video that actually still told a logical and coherent story! It traces a personal account (this time, Raja makes no secret of whose account it is) of a boy's fascination for The New World and his relationship with his father who often brought him there.
I have only been to the New World once in 1986. I remember the Viking, the Ferris Wheel and a elusive Ghost House which I did not enter. But the video featured a string of movie sound effects across different genres while showing the a visual of the boy in the cinema watching movies. But visually, the movie seemed to played on his shirt.... see what I mean about Raja's shtick. But the sounds were very reminiscent of these things I mentioned (Ghost House, Viking etc), so they helped me see myself in that little boy.
But the piece de resistance must have been the dancing scene with the boy as a grown up teenager and the caberet dancer. This is where I feel more than half the screen magic was made in the editing room. I attach a few of my favourite screen shots here. Jacintha's rendition of `Moon River' in Mandarin is played over the grace, nostalgic, haunting series of images. I think my fancy for it arose because it was both sensual and sad. A cominbation not easily achieved without bordering on contrivance.
The last screen shot above is interesting. I remember the young man (who played the boy) having a little reaction after a very tender scene shot in the playing room of the old school on Mount Sophia. I am not sure what was going on in his mind. It might have been .... `damn spotlights!' , but for me watching on the other side of his perspective in a fully closed up shot, it was a earnest reaction that captured my heart.

Chapters of Rain Tree by Ina Chang
I read somewhere that Ina Chang was writer before viewing the video. (hey wait, the `somewhere' must be the same website, Silly me!) It was no surprise the Rain Tree fulfilled the some expectations on narrative structure and spoken text. Many surprising lessons can be learnt from the existence of rain trees in Singapore and their symbiosis with our lives.

However, the video reminds me of the difference between play and screenplay. There were really many shots of trees. Many many. Like a tree `porn' video, you see trees in their full glory, in close ups and wide shots. But they failed to bring out the little pockets of wisdom gently delivered from the voice of Ina Chang, a voice that was patient, nurturing, mature and spiritually contented. Ina also has a very charismatic face (doesn she resemble MP Irene Ng?), which compliments the balmy and reflective feel of the video.
It always takes a foreigner to appreciate the immediate gems of Singapore - our foliage. Coming from a concrete jungle like Hong Kong, it is not difficult to understand why.
Just an observation though (side-tracking here), we always hear of big cities like London, HK, Tokyo, NY being home to the edgiest, most radical and progressive thinkers, creators, designers, writers, etc. Yet, when some of them choose to find work and settle in in Singapore, they become tame and settle for visits to the Botonic Gardens, Singapore Zoo, sip Singapore Sling in languid bars and tell the press they abosolutely love Singapore.... it's got great weather, great sun, great FOLIAGE, great food. Is Singapore too comfortable and homely for any kind of creative breakthroughs to happen here? Or are these expats, by adverse selection(cos they chose to work here), the lower crop of the world-class movers and shakers?

Well, Ina, I am sure, if you continue living in Singapore for a longer time, given your life experiences and wisdom gathered from a bigger city, you will find a voice that speaks for the more pressing issues affecting lives in our little own urban jungle.

I love this tree below. It must be the `diva' rain tree.

5 by 5 by Sanif Olek

5 by 5 by Sanif Olek is a distant observer's look at Boon Lay in the wee hours of the morning just like the time I am writing this now. The time-frame starts at 22:00. Risking maldigestion and physical detriment to the waistline, hordes of `Boon Layans' are seen lining up for the Power Nasi Lemak. I guess I should not be reading too much into the lines of this video because of the matter-of-fact angle it takes. Together with the fast-forwarded editing, it supposedly aims to infect you with the rhythm of Boon Lay. It's interesting that an strident Classical piece is used against the montage because Power Nasi Lemak aside, were quick cuts to sleepless chess players and homeless uncles.

Somehow, I was hoping to understand more of the emotional attachment to Boon Lay of the creator. But because he has chosen such a genre, it was difficult for it to leave an impression on me. Boon Lay has a special spot in my heart sometime 10 years ago when I was still serving the army. I had a short attachment to Sungei Gedong camp and booking on Sunday nights always brought me to Boon Lay. It was the only place to take a direct bus to the camp. And driving through screens of nothing but vegetation always made me feel depressed.

The screen shot attached here shows a little clever touch by Sanif in which he lists the human traffic hotspots of Boon Lay like the cinema and swimming pool but punctuates the screen quickly with the words `(closed)'. Leaving us with a question.
Also seen : Ah beng behavious captured on video. Guy plays chess.... after a while, lifts both legs and squat on chair like how some people would use the toilet bowl. Bryan, your type!


Time Capsule by Darren Ong

The 'Time Capsule' story by Darren Ong is a linear and simplistic account of how a boy tries to preserve his personal effects. His first artifact was a little drawing of a figure(above). Think I woul feel goosebumps if I opened up an relic-worthy old drawing of mine. The childish strokes and blotchy colouring of typical child's piece of art speak so much.

But having unearthed his first time capsule artifact, he goes to insert quite a few more items, mostly stationery. Not sure, some looked quite lame like the compass. I mean, maybe it helped him pass his Maths exam. But honestly, on hindsight, why did he need a time capsule to keep a drawing? He could have just .... er kept it in the house??? I have some truly amazing `time-weathered'` products at home, like the dog-earred exercise books from RI. My favourite being the one for Literature (taught by Miko Tan, Sumiko Tan's sister). It contains hard evidence of the beginings of my subverted ways.

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