5th Singapore Short Cuts - My Blue Heaven by Chai Yee Wei

There was no time think before you even say the famous 7 word Hokkien phrase that your mother would not be proud to hear. It must be fun to be on the set of `My Blue Heaven’. Every character gets his or even her chance to say it. Which must be one reason why the film (this appeared in the end credits) was `not supported, assisted, funded by the Singapore Film Commission’. But who cares! It was by far the crowd favourite. If they kept this version or maybe trimmed it a little, it could even be a hit beyond the boundaries of Singlish, Hokkien, Southeast Asian-Mandarin speaking territories.

Insiders to the production will know Yee Wei has several cuts of `My Blue Heaven’. I wonder…… First Cut, Director’s cut, MDA cut, YouTube cut, XTube cut…. Oops! I was no stranger to the production having visited the set and read the script. The final film that I saw today was a surprise from the script because it allowed me to visualize how a pandemonium of ideas could still blend so well together into a coherent film. His synopsis read that this film was supposed to be tribute to 80s porn, old HDB flats, Ah Kuas and basically everything on that late 70s, early 80s era. I am generally skeptical of tributes simply because they often lack invention and tend to be too convenient. Even the use of the familiar `Blue Danube’ in the trailer reinforced the idea of a borrowed ambience.

`My Blue Heaven’ follows a strong story thread, unlike what its loose synopsis suggests. A restless little boy (quite a sparkle on the screen) lives with his singlet-wearing pot-bellied violent father who drinks, smokes, deals in drugs and watches porn. The house is plastered with erotic posters of Japanese porn stars amidst other old-fashioned furniture ups the retro-quotient of the production. They live in a HDB flat where the lift is often spoilt and colourful characters are abound. There is the never-say-die `Ah Soh’ video-tape saleswoman played by Catherine Sng. She sports a `Kung Fu Hustle-inspired curly hairdo’ and behaves with the same amount of theatrics. Then, there are the 3 `Ah Kua’s or faggots who loiter around on the ground floor. Evidently, the environment is `complicated’ and growing up is either a tough or colourful experience, which sets up the story for its explosive confrontation later on.

In an establishing scene, while the father is making his way home, the boy is ploughing through stacks of `Lao Fu Zi’ comics, signaling his boredom in the most remarkable way – a second’s glance at each comic cover and a repetitive sarcastic laugh. When the father comes home, within a second , he starts getting abusive verbally in an auto-pilot fashion, only to get his son to eat his lunch (guffaw!). Earlier on, the Ah Soh was knocking doors trying to clear her stock. Then comes one of its definitive scenes – closing the deal with the abusive father. Words will not do justice to the wittiness of it and the electrifying acting. On word, it will be a classic! Moments later, the boy is watching Pinocchio on video while his father is wasting no time in putting his purchase to good use – in the toilet. Here comes one of the many sub-climaxes. Oops, I did again! Another unintended phallic pun. You can’t blame me. Pinocchio. Bananas. And `spanking the monkey in the toilet’. All happening at the same time.
The other aspect of the film which I thought was noteworthy is the ability to meld several subplots coherently. In the build up to the climax, the father received a call from some dubious characters about some stocks of drugs and has to keave the house for a while. This sets up the opportunity for our endearing boy lead to check out the videotape `My Blue Heaven' which his Dad bought from the Ah Soh. At this time, a new character is introduced, the policeman (albeit more like an NPCC boy). And Ah Soh is still working hard floor to floor and gets trapped in the faulty lift (already established right at the beginning). So the policeman comes to the rescue. Meanwhile, on watching `My Blue Heaven', things are happening to him below the waist. Father completes his `mission' faster than expected and heads back. In the living room, the tape stops working and er..... o-oh, the tape strips are stuck! I guess by now, it is not difficult to expect something explosive to happen.

Okay, perhaps the climax was not too surprising but the well-timed execution and bold direction delivered what was a potent mix of suspense and laughs. If you expected a caning scene from the father, you are not too far from the answer but this child is clever! And somehow, both the Ah Soh and the rookie-looking policeman get involved in the assault. An assault on the senses. And your funny bones.

I had one grouse though, too much info after the explosion. And the lingering on necessitated some visuals which were filled by stills (that seem to suggest the lack of motion shots). Yee Wei needs another cut that I call the `short cut'. To leave the audience with a drop of what happens and let us do the `fantasizing'.

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