festival blog

27 Nov 2016 – SGIFF On The Ground

Dirty Movie #3, very strange very funny Estonian shorts, Festival lounging and a 3 hour visceral odyssey through feverish Bangkok Nites

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I came for the expressive performances. Still from Wet Woman In The Wind

Only chee ko peks will watch a dirty movie so early in the morning. And only true chee ko peks like me will appreciate how lucky we are to see it so clearly in the morning, instead of a late-night boozy evening, where one might not be able to recall the details with clarity. With no apologies, I settled into Dirty Movie #3, Wet Woman In The Wind, part of Nikkatsu’s reboot of their Roman Porno series. It had the wet woman, several of them in fact, in the wind no less. The real inventiveness of the script, which had to adhere to the tenets of this special genre: at least four sex scenes in every hour, centers around an adulterous man who escapes to the woods to avoid his playboy instincts and a mysterious young woman who literally jumps into his arms, forcing him to play a dangerous game with her. After witnessing all that smut gloriously displayed on the big screen Lido 4 theatre, one should credit director Akihiko Shiota for having fun with the whole film, making it such a delightful romp that really brought down the house.

After changing into a fresh pair of jeans, I made my way to Filmgarde Bugis+, where Estonian animator Ülo Pikkov was presenting the second part of a focus on Estonian animation films, works from post-2000s. As my friend Hatta conferred with me after the screening, Estonian animation films are “very very strange, and very very funny.” Freed from the confines of live-action narrative work, the quirky Estonians push boundaries with the content, storyline and characters, to create some truly inventive work. From frame to frame, filled with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it visual puns and comic jokes, all 5 shorts jumped off the screen in an exuberant display of colour and imagination. It was a pity that there wasn’t a bigger crowd that afternoon session, but all who were there stayed to hear Ülo reflect on how fortuitous circumstances enabled Estonia to be one of the leaders in independent animation today.

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Me with Ülo after the screening

Back at the Festival Lounge, I caught Walking Street director Lee Sang-woo musing a hangover on the couch. I quickly introduced myself and he chuckled after I said how I thought he was incredibly inappropriate at his film’s Q&A. ‘Thankfully there were no hard feelings between anyone’ he confided. Sang-woo was also rather down because it was his last day in Singapore and he reiterated the point that he loved the Singapore International Film Festival over most other bigger European festivals because we always made him feel special and not subjugated in lieu of higher-profile guests.

It was at this point that a very well-dressed young man sat beside us on the couch and I couldn’t help noticing how nice his shoes were. I wished I had a photo of those shoes now because they were like nothing I’d seen, a black chrome pair of kicks. Suddenly it dawned on me that this was Justin Tipping, the director of Kicks! Justin was also just hanging out at the Lounge after having done the whole tourist thing in Singapore the last couple of days. I introduced Sang-woo to Justin and we discovered among ourselves that we all had spent time in the Bay Area at some point in our lives, and we talked a bit about America and then the conversation turned somewhat depressedly towards the Trump presidency. When he heard that I was the writer for the Kicks synopses in our official Festival Program, Justin became very excited and grasped my hand, thanking me for the write-up. I blushed.

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Director Lee Sang-woo of Walking Street, me, and Justin Tipping, director of Kicks. Note the qian bian (欠扁) smoldering look by Sang-woo.

Unfortunately I had to leave them for the National Gallery to facilitate that evening’s screening of Bangkok Nites, the rich tapestry of burnt-out yakuzas and Japanese sexpats and one man’s journey from vice-land Bangkok up to Northern Thailand and Vietnam and some utterly gorgeous 183 minutes of neon-lit dark alleys, useless men, strong women and mesmerizing shots of bomb craters in Laos.

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Still from Bangkok Nites

Like the very best kinds of cinema, the film meanders leisurely from character to character, allowing this viewer to settle into a meditative mood, piecing together the images and themes on display. My dialogue session with producer Mattie Do after the screening proved to be a wonderful exposé on director Katsuya Tomita’s process. Mattie revealed how the exacting nature of the director, combined with his big heart and uncanny ability to tease some of the more powerful shots on location in these rural environments, provided Bangkok Nites with a vitality and spirit, honest and aching, a representation of our region on screen in refreshing new ways.

It was the nice Sunday night come-down – if Wet Woman In The Wind was my adrenaline shot to the arm, Bangkok Nites was the perfect film to unwind to – akin to that first pint of cold Beerlao after this fevered Festival weekend.

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