Short Circuit 3 - 'Four Dishes' by Leon Cheo

The setting of a family dinner table can be both reassuring and inhibiting. We hate the doting questions and the occasional awkward stares. On the other hand, we secretly cherish the comfort that you cannot possible get anywhere else. A young family sits down for dinner prepared by mum. Mum is young (played by Janice Koh), so she is not that naggy and interrogative. But she does assert herself occasionally to straighten the boys out on issues. Father is played by a commonly seen local talent who has a rather wise, almost professor-like face. The younger son is cheeky while the older son has a certain maturity beynd his boyish looks. I am beginning to wonder if these characters take after Leon's real family members. I mean Leon has a very gentle, youthful face that will take some years to change. So, I could easily see him in the film with rest of the cast.

Nothing of heightened drama actually happens at the dinner table. The conversations drifts from school to movie tickets to friends, with the first hint of controversy being the older son's mention of his good friend 'Aaron'. Quite appropriately (but this is on hindsight only), the left half of the table is a little more blissfully unaware than the right half (consisting of the father and the elder son). This is also accentuated by the editing which lingers on longer for them.

The sky darkens, almost like a signal that secrets are about to be released. In a blue-walled kitchen that looked nothing like the cheery-coloured house represented earlier, the elder son and his father sit down for a quick dinner. The camera closes in on the styrofoam packets emphasizing the difference with the previous scene. Dinner is more tense and little hastier. After several furtive mutual glances, the boy offers an extra piece of chicken meat to his father. His father's acknowledgement is unspoken but still felt by his son.
I remember missing 'Four Dishes' at Singapore Short Cuts earlier this year but I heard Leon's comment at the Q & A about a certain 'sexual tension' between 2 male characters in Liao Jie Kai's 'Clouds in a Shell'. This seems to put that final meal scene in 'Four Dishes' into a rather skewed perspective for me. It's a real pity about the brevity of the film because the proposition invites too many questions. I felt a little wanting at the end because it seemed to present me with a new genre. Interestingly, because there are altogether 'Four Dishes', I wonder if anything is going on the other half of the table. :p

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