Glen Goei’s second film, in many years since much-loved “Forever Fever”, hides dramatic, performance and tonal flaws under the gorgeous façade of the Blue Mansion. Awkwardly shifting between comedy and Serious Drama, the script does not realise the comic potential of the premise when the death of Wee Bak Chuan reunites the family at the patriarch’s funeral. Also, expected familial secrets and lies are not revealed to the appropriate characters for maximum dramatic (or comic) effect, leaving much satisfaction to be desired. The giving of the story’s biggest revelation to an already deceased character seems futile, and is made a fatal mistake when it has practically no effect on the living, leaving me wondering, truly, why should I care for these characters? The final nail in the coffin is the distractingly bad intonation of the dialogue. Why does everyone end on a higher tone for every sentence? No excuses of “oh, it’s a theatrical put-on”, please. “The Blue Mansion” is architecture built on sand.
“Blood Ties” is a film full of the unnecessary. Capitalising on its supernatural slant, the film is actually a revenge film in disguise. In an over-long first act with flashback after flashback, we witness the brutal killing of an undercover cop, Shun, and his wife, through the eyes of his young sister, Qin. On and on the flashbacks go – we keep seeing the same one with increasing detail, explaining what has transpired – I looked at my watch – when is the movie going to actually start? This playing of timeline and structure is completely arbitrary and slows down the momentum of the film. Isn’t it more exciting for the plot to be revealed in a more active way considering it’s a mystery thriller (why was Shun slained?)
Another unnecessary component is the violence. Violence is usually more effective when we see it once, or even just hear it. When it is repeated over and over (same scene with increasing detail, several times, mind you), it becomes more sickening and senseless – why do we have to keep watching this over and over? Because nothing seems to be engaging and everything is repeated, the mind begins to predict what will happen. And by the hour mark, especially when you keep seeing the girl and Shun’s ex-partner talk, talk and talk, one begins to suspect a twist or two.
With some serious rewriting and restricting, I think “Blood Ties” could have worked. But a genre film is challenging, as the goods have to be delivered and then something original/fresh provided. In “Blood Ties”, the plot is convoluted to no effect except to confuse an otherwise straightforward story; the story itself is uninspired and predictable, the climax lame and tepid. Sever all ties with this film.
“Where Got Ghost?” is a film that offers little enjoyment. It consists of three short stories, “Roadside Got Ghost”, “Forest Got Ghost” and “House Got Ghost” – the last is a sort of continuation of “Money No Enough 2”, which ends in this nearly computer generated (except the actors) car accident in CG rain, trees and roads, which leads to a TV-movie-of-the-week quality CG-ed landslide that nearly kills the three protagonists. See it to believe it!
Anyway, combining genres is tough and require deft knowledge of how they work, how to provide the usual and subvert them. In this film, its horror elements are dated and tepid. Besides being dated, there just seems to be an utter lack of suspense. The film doesn’t feel like it bothers to even illicit any fearful reactions. On the comedy side, as the film was advertised as a “hor-medy”, the one-liners are rare and most of the time, the situational humour is predictable. What do you do then? You try not to fall asleep.
Apparently uncensored of its male frontal nudity when it was released in Singapore (said Yonfan on the DVD commentary), ‘Bugis Street’ is an under-appreciated film that is now banned. It is possible that this film caused Singapore censorship to become strict in the 90’s. Nonetheless, it is one of the most beautifully shot-in-Singapore films I have ever seen. Yonfan clearly has compassion for the real-life transsexual characters in this somewhat episodic yet charming film about a young girl coming of age in what used to be one of Singapore’s seediest districts. Though mostly campy and flamboyant, ‘Bugis Street’ has an emotional core that is truthful and real.
With slowly-paced shots, the opening of “Here” sets the tone of the rest of the movie. A man, He Zhiyuan, suddenly snaps and strangles his wife. Then, he gets sent to Island Hospital where they specialize in a form of therapy called ‘videocure’. With multiple post-modern pokes at filmmaking, the film is a pseudo-documentary that slowly wears out its welcome because we are treated to more and more patients and less and less story points.
Excelling in the areas of mood, visuals and sounds of the medium, “Here” has many threads of subject matter. Hints of a social satire and humour about the craft of filmmaking were not developed and taken advantaged of. Characters are more like symbols or representations of something the movie is trying to say.
Despite scant hints of a love interest in fellow patient, Beatrice, “Here” is like its main character: elliptical and at times frustratingly emotionless. The film, however, fares slightly better than Zhiyuan’s speech impediment. “Here” has many things to say but why does it have to whisper?