7th Singapore Short Cuts - 'Cold Noodles' by Kirsten Tan

Jeremy: Not my favourite at first sight but makes more sense on hindsight. Perhaps it is because it has got a 'don't take the film too seriously' treatment - lazy art-direction, 'token' approach to acting, skit-tish feel. It's like watching Charlie Chaplin but a modern day version that uses a different anti-hero - the Asian immigrant worker. Hey! maybe Kirsten's achieved what she wants, notice in one scene where the worker wears the pants and shoes that are over-sized for him, actually reminds me of Charlie Chaplin! Seriously, I can't decide if this film is clever or just inconsequential.

Colin: "Clever or just inconsequential" - I'd say it's a good helping of both, excepting the "just", and I hope to find more local films that don't see the need to bear themselves down with consequence. Cold Noodles knows this; its title reminds us of an item that gets forgotten in the film's proceedings. The film gets by with the urgent simplicity of its scenario: a man, in just his underpants, gets locked out of his apartment on a windy day. Suddenly his cup of warm noodles aren't a comfort, and hunger isn't a priority. What's a man to do?
Writer-director Kirsten Tan, bless her, sees both the absurd humour and tentative sadness of this scenario, and somehow maintains a delicate sense of balance between the two. Her vision of a Brooklyn neighbourhood exterior (in which Cold Noodles is set) is quiet, austere, divested of human presence, and gorgeously shot in a crisp black-and-white by DP Jose Avila Del Pino. And perhaps I'm overly influenced by other cinematic representations of New York, but a New York neighbourhood with barely a human soul also feels like a place where anything might happen. Like a body falling from above onto the pavement behind you. Or an old woman, pushing her groceries, who steps past the body without missing a beat, but doubles her footsteps at the sight of an approaching, half-naked man. Or someone waking on the street to find himself stripped of his clothes.

It's possible to read all this as a treatise on alienation in the metropolitan city, since the film raises more questions about its three characters, and the setting in which they find themselves, than it answers. It's also possible to avoid any sort of academicising and chuckle at the patent absurdities on display, as in a long take which finds our Asian lead puffing a cigar in the foreground, oblivious to what's happening behind him. The genius of Cold Noodles, which I find heartening indeed, is that I don't see the need to choose between the two.
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