Tuesday, 2 September, 2014

Published April 25, 2014
Chinese cinema's eclectic appeal
BT 20140425 DTSCFF25V2NR 1058295

Different strokes: Kara King offers slapstick humour while The Long Goodbye (above) is heartbreaking

  • 1 of 3
BT 20140425 DTSCFF25V2NR 1058295
BT 20140425 DTSCFF25 1059471
BT 20140425 DTSCFF25 1058294

DEPENDING on its origin, Chinese cinema, much like its cuisine, is varied. Each has its own distinctive style and there's a wide range to sample from as the 2nd Singapore Chinese Film Festival heads into its final stretch this weekend.

While Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin (mainland China's answer to Oliver Stone's hyper-violent Natural Born Killers) and aerial photographer Chi Po Lin's breathtaking documentary Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above are sold out, there are still a handful of films with tickets available that are worth checking out.

Malaysian singer-songwriter-filmmaker Namewee's Kara King (Malaysia, 2013) fills the "mo lei tau" (nonsensical) void left by Hong Kong actor-director Stephen Chow, who pioneered the genre.

The slapstick comedy stars Ng Man Tat, who was a frequent collaborator with Chow in the latter's early films, and also features the late Taiwanese pop star Frankie Gao in his final film role.

Both of them play karaoke champions who run into each other decades later to settle an old score in a sing-off. Like most of Namewee's films, it's a colourful and zany affair with the characters often breaking into song and dance. But it's also a heartfelt and nostalgic tribute to the "mo lei tau" genre, one that is bursting with comic energy and has been sorely missing from Chinese cinema since Chow went into semi-retirement mode.

Equally energetic is The Way We Dance (Hong Kong, 2013), a sleeper summer hit that smashed domestic box-office records and won rave reviews for putting the territory's underground street dance scene in the spotlight.

Spunky newcomer Cherry Ngan is a hoot to watch as she twerks and crunks through the film together with a cast of raw talents handpicked by director Adam Wong from over 500 real-life street dancers. With hip hop moves and beats this infectious, the audience might just find it a little difficult to remain still in their seats.

For something a little more sedate, try The Long Goodbye (Taiwan, 2011), Yang Li Chou's documentary about dementia patients living in an old folks' home.

The Golden-Horse-winning director trains his camera on a few interesting subjects including a woman who might have lost her memory but not her sense of humour, an ill-tempered man whose personality has softened since he was struck with the disease, and a constantly paranoid patient who believes he's living in Communist-era Taiwan.

Heartbreaking and touching at once, The Long Goodbye looks at an important issue which nobody really wants to talk about but could eventually become much more common as Asia's ageing population begins to rise. Stay for the coda where Ella Chen from popular Taiwanese pop trio S.H.E. shares her own experience about losing her grandmother to dementia.


Kara King: B-

The Way We Dance: B

The Long Goodbye: B+

For timings and ticketing details, check http://www.sfs.org.sg/scff/schedule.html