SIFF Singapore Shorts Showcase #3

`Clouds In The Shell' by Liao Jiekai

One should look at this film like a feature length film due to its lingering takes on many scenes. Otherwise, you may start checking your watch. Clouds In The Shell is story of 2 characters who live next to each other and are `orphaned’ by their circumstances. One is a girl who is a real orphan and is adopted by a woman who can never see her as blood-kin. The other is a National Serviceman who books out but cannot get home because he did not have his keys and his mum seems to have gone away (perhaps a holiday). Turned off her foster mother’s insensitive treatment of her, she dreads coming home. She takes a directionless walk around the HDB estate to dissipate her angst but does return in the end. She fishes out photos of the deceased real daughter helplessly studies the photo in envy and resentment. NS boy had a bad week in camp and is dealing with the double whammy of being locked out. Driven by his angst, he decides to AWOL (not turn up at camp). In reaction, his outraged buddy tries to shake the sensibilities out of him reminding him of the detention consequences of going AWOL. Then, a quiet resolution closes this chapter for both characters – a simple dinner, a Asian sanctuary for normalizing feelings. Army boy comes to his senses and sets a time to return to camp. Orphan girl’s succumbs to her feelings of gratitude with tears.

Peeving its contrived `Tarkovsky-an’ track shots and pockets of deliberateness in its visual signaling of the issues, the film still had a really weird and haunting effect on me. This is why I leave my last comment as one on the characterization. They are both well-thought characters with their contradictions and internal struggles made vivid enough to live in my memory.

`Sardine Talks To Children' by Sara Yang

I really enjoyed this documentary. The interviewees are questioned on their relationships (albeitnon-existent) with their fathers and how each one of them feel towards him. It was filled with honest and heartfelt dialogue but the constant unnecessary swearing in the background and judgmental exclamations of "huh!" by the interviewer were a let down.

`Tango Heels' by Denise Chan

Filmed in the US, this is a film about remembering a friend who made a difference to a life. Ex-Tango dancer becomes crippled from an incident and meets a man who captures her heart but fate keeps them separate for years. At a later time, when both have grown older, she receives a present that contains an exquisite pair of shoes. It was exquisitely made by the man who actually contracted cancer but wanted to express his love for her in a way that mattered most to her. This is a `hallmark-cards-sweet’ film that dedicates its feel-good message to all who have friends with cancer.

Okay, I will not resist my naughty comment now. It reminds me of Sunset Strip, this erotic movie I watched at Yangtze Cinema about different type of dance – strip - pole dancing (hence the name!). Maybe it’s the orange-hued soft-lighting visuals. I will not explain why I was watching Sunset Strip here.

`Her Ballerina Story' by Melissa Ho

If I wrote something bad, I am sure I would be on the run from a entourage of supporters. They were literally screaming out beloved names of people involved when the credits rolled. Like your high school production. But high school production? This is definitely not, displaying a adept understanding of camera visual styles in relation to dance, this short was as graceful as ballerina’s performance in the film. Without resorting to visual clich├ęs, the film glides from the character in her tutu to her ordinary self as an observer of a ballet class, her musings and finally back to her moments under the spotlight as the ballerina. Like a serenade, I think the filmmaker has succeeded in making me remember the beauty of this dance subliminally and quite consciously as well. My favourite shot, when the camera back tracked as she did her jump-turns with her legs flayed out in the direction of the camera. A word you would normally not use to describe ballet, compelling.
Toll' by David Liu

This film chronicles the drama which erupts after the young son of a police chief is kidnapped and how he goes to great lengths to rescue him. He breaks the law in the process when he holds the family of the kidnapper hostage and kills them in order to force the kidnapper to disclose where his son is held. Although the plot borders on being rather far fetched and pretentious at times, good acting and "CSI" filming techniques (quick cuts and fast camera movements) manage to save the film from becoming a let down.

`En' by Adam Abdullah

Adam are you half-Chinese? You look a little Chinese. Or maybe it is the how the film gives away your fascination Bruce Lee and martial arts. En is a about a boy who is torn between his desire to learn Chinese Opera and his responsibility to carry the family tradition of learning martial arts. It is a Ngee Ann final year project that looks expensive to put up, mainly because of the real Chinese Opera stage. I felt Sunny Pang was at one of his best in this film because the kung fu master and disciplinarian in him came out. The storyline treaded safe territory and made it too easy to guess what was going to happen next. Watching this the second time, I thought maybe better framed shots and more interesting camera angles (like POV shots and cutaways) could have helped the storytelling.

`Larut Road, A Peddler’s Enduring Legacy' by Eoin Ee

I guess this is where production values (or the lack of it) make a difference. Larut is an interview with a peddler who has been selling his ware for ages at Larut Road. The images were somehow quite a strain on the eyes, though we know the subject has a rich personal history to be uncovered. Also, I felt it was more like a token glimpse at someone interesting, a snapshot from tourist’s point of view. Not that these were not covered in his answers but the visuals failed to match up to legacy his tries to share.
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