Sunday, August 28, 2005

[Screen Singapore] Mee Pok Man

This is probably the movie credited with sparking a comeback of Singapore films, and watching it, you can probably spot various influences this Eric Khoo film had on the other more contemporary attempts by the various local filmmakers like Djinn and Jack Neo (whom of course, were in Eric Khoo movies).

Joe Ng (of local band Padres) front the cast as the title character, and Michelle Goh, in her debut, stars as Bunny, the prostitute he is infatuated with. Being a dim witted noodle seller, he's naturally shy and worships her from afar, as she's one of the regulars at the coffeeshop where his shop is at. Bunny, on the other hand, thinks lowly of the mee pok seller, and in your usual SPG character, goes for the ang-mo Jonathan, some sleazy photographer played by David Brazil.

The storyline's pretty basic, and you might think that at the point when Bunny became a victim of a hit-and-run, that the plot might pick up. Actually it sort of went downhill from there, as the mee pok man carries her injured body off to his home to care for her, to be with her. Alas, you should know what happens without proper medical attention.

Towards the end of the film, it drags with mee pok's man soliloquay, and Bunny didn't have much to do except be there to complete the scene. Somehow with the forced dialogue, it lengthened a scene which should have been shortened to improve the pace, which was quite erratic throughout the movie.

In its day, the language might have the audience taken aback, with characters mouthing off profanities in different dialects. But like I mentioned, it probably had made others sit up and notice that perhaps local movies should feature swearing to give it more street cred? Something else which stood out - while featuring many languages in the movie mirrors our multi-racial / multi-language society, having characters converse in different dialects (like the Fortune Teller scene) sometimes doesn't cut it too realistically.

Another point of controversy at its time was the nudity, or perceived nudity. The opening credits had still shots of a boob, butt and the female pubic region. You might wonder if it's necessary actually - doesn't really serve any purpose or facilitate the plot. Or the fact that Jonathan shoots nude photos. Given today, it'll probably be glossed over without much thought, and given an NC-16 rating.

Characterisation called for attention, as the main characters Bunny and Mee Pok man didn't really have much of a motive, the former seeking inner peace and to leave Singapore, the latter just wanting to be with her until the morbid end. Other characters, like Lim Kay Tong's Mike Kor the Pimp, was stereotyped, as are many of the minor characters in the movie. Cameos were plenty too, like X'Ho, Djinn, S.M.Ong etc.

But I still reckon it's a pretty decent first effort, and marked improvement can already be seen in 12 Storeys. While awaiting eagerly for Eric Khoo's latest offering Be With Me, this movie would allow you to appreciate how much things had changed for the better.

Those interested, there is still one more screening at the Arts House tomorrow 29 Aug 05 at 2130hrs.

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