5th Singapore Short Cuts - Come by Kirsten Tan

According to Kirsten in the Q & A, Korea is largely conservative in a Catholic way with a small minority more liberal towards sex. Correspondingly, Come opens with a sanctified, pristine image of Korea - that of glorious natural landscapes and exquisite calligraphy. Then, its flips our expectations around by introducing the real story, that of a little boy who can’t wait to `grow’ up.

Over a quiet dinner table in a family of four, he requests to use the internet for school work. The audience giggles knowingly. Then, the rhythm makes a turn. Borrowing the kaleidoscopic colours of the stained-glass lampshade (that reminds me of Swensens), the camera creates a new mood of discovery as the boy gets on a date with puberty. This is where I learnt porn for minors is made up of anime figures drawn to graceful proportions in milky white colours. Almost as good as the real thing for our chubby protagonist. But you know this is a film, so someone must intrude and catch him red-handed! Sparing him ear-bursting nagging, it was thankfully his father who was going to serve him some bananas (See my comments on My Blue Heaven). The father catches him with his shorts gripping on to his calves and embarrassedly leaves the fruit with him.

Unfolding concurrently to his story is also the story of his sister and his parents… well his whole family basically. No surprise, it feels so TV soap-opera-like. I guess everyone has a little journey to make and little lessons to learn with regards to sexuality. The husband asks his wife if they should teach their son sex education and his conservative wife grunts in disapproval, setting up our expectations for later developments in the narrative. Meanwhile, his sister has graduated from the school of puberty and has started her modules in teenage sex. Her `episodes’ are often noisy causing the boy to complain openly over the dinner table. In an attempt to silence the boy, she threatens him with a similar expose and entices him with his coveted anime porno DVD. And did I forget to mention that the conservative wife is actually quite horny, after all, she was the one who initiated sex with her husband. Gosh, what a big poker game!
At this point, I had somehow switched to TV drama mode because of the heightened drama, complexity of plot and light-heartedness of style. At times, it felt like a montage for its plot was simply taking us on a quick ride across each character. And the colours (like the Swensens lamp) were iridescent. It also felt like a tribute to the style of Park Chan Wook who gave us Old Boy and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, with its quick zoom-ins, the bottom-up angles, the visual hyperboles, the occasional campiness (like the boy in feather boa) etc. It seems either Kirsten has a way with actors being able to draw out very natural, heart-felt performances or it’s just that Korean actors just have it in their system (yeah…. Perhaps with all that hot kimchi, heightened drama is a natural side-effect). And the breadth of styles was rather wide as well. In a subsequent scene where the sister negotiated a pact with her chubby brother, she delivered the dead-pan style not too far from how Lee Young Ae executed her Lady Vengeance persona. The boy was…. well, his succulent cheeks seemed to do more talking. And perhaps, cooperative. I choose the word because he was not remarkable but he delivered the drama. The mum was hysterical when needed but lack-lustre otherwise. And the dad was possibly the most natural actor among the 4, though he looked a little too grungy for for the conservative mother’s liking.

There is a 5th important character in the family. But his presence is often sublime and only appears towards the end in a moment of epiphany tinged with humour. It's Jesus Christ, apparently a Korean superstar among many. While Bae Yong Jun can make women cry, Jesus Christ can make women conceive. In a final scene where friends and relatives attended a new-born child's party, slices of Korean behaviour and psyche are visible. After this, it seemed like more family drama will unfold (if it becomes a feature) while old issues were not resolved. So, naturally, the story felt a little disorientating. I would have thought 9 months later (as flashed on the screen), the boy would have grown up and deepened his relationship with the internet or er hem, learnt more about `himself'.

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