First Takes - 'Coffee: Black' by Rich Ho

'Coffee : Black' was the topic of a rather titillating debate at the Q & A of First Takes. There were a few things in the equation that generated this stir. First, the 7 min short film had a man toying with his coffee in almost every imaginable way, not too far from being a little voyeuristic. The man would peer into the glossy reflection of the black liquid, almost burying himself in the steam. He would shower sugar not on the drink but on the slope of the saucer. Then he would dip his finger into the coffee and and watch how the liquid trickles down into a blob at the tip of his finger.
Second, the director Rich himself is quite a character. he has literally commanding presence at the Q & A. Perhaps infusing a bit of his church-like camaraderie into Guiness Theatre, he was uninhibited and even loud at many points. Which is quite a distinction from his video that was savvy and graceful. Except for the closing statement which is a blatant appeal to the audience to form our own conclusion.

Last but not least, without the blonde lady's discerning interpretation of the film, the Q & A would have been like err... bland coffee. She likened his film to a kind of masturbation and coffee porn, which I felt was not too far away from the truth, given the sensual black and white treatment coupled with a bevy of blur focus shot and depth-of-field techniques. But Rich himself was too steadfast in his motivation behind the film for the lady to further thwart us off in our perception of it. Perhaps Rich's bio here helped me put his theatricality into some perspective : Rich has spent his life in mainstream education being infamous. After more than 15 films and awards, including being the 1st Singaporean digital short film nominee in the 2004 Taipei Golden Horse Awards, “Coffee: Black” reflects Rich’s mischievous nature in film by playing with the audience’s perceptions.

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