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Always on his mind
Around the world and back
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Filmmakers Ask, Filmmakers Answer
Three’s not a Crowd, it’s Good Company
The Ladies of Indonesia
A Good Mix in the Bag
An Act of History

The 21st Singapore International Film Festival runs from 4 – 14 April and free programmes begins 28 March – 3 April.
More information can be found here

Call Sistic at 6348-5555 for tickets, or log on here for online bookings. Citigold clients and Citibank Ultima Credit Cardmembers will receive $2 off every purchase of one festival ticket. Citibank Clear and Platinum Credit Cardmembers will receive $1 off every purchase
of one festival ticket.

Look out for movieXclusive.com’s capsule reviews and exclusive interviews with filmmakers.

The Coming of Age Event
Remember your 21st birthday? The friends and family members who attended your party? The larger-than-life birthday cake? The happy and joyful celebration that took place? Come April, the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) celebrates its 21st edition, and you can be sure there will be highlights as memorable as your 21st birthday.

Expect an exciting lineup of award-winning films, workshops and other related activities – right here in Singapore from 4 to 14 April. Film buffs can look forward to over 200 films from 40 countries over the festival’s 11 days.

USA’s The Princess of Nabraska directed by Wayne Wang will open the festival on while China’s Road to Dawn directed by Derek Chiu will close the annual event. These two films are part of are "Citibank's Choice” selection.

Other than the opening and closing films, another film included in the abovementioned selection is Singapore’s very own “Dreams From The Third World” directed by Kan Lume, who helmed the controversial “Solos” last year. This local production is also part of the “Singapore Panorama” segment which celebrates local talent. It is joined by other films like the much-anticipated “Lucky 7” by seven different filmmakers headed by Sun Koh, the football documentary “Homeless FC” by James Leong and Lynn Lee, the haunting drama “To Speak” by Craig Ower and the innovative love drama “18 Grams of Love” by Han Yew Kwang.

Look out for generous servings of Asian and world cinema, which include critically-acclaimed works from Vietnam (“55 Years of Vietnam Film”) and Australia (“Australia Film Focus”), as well as an exhilarating helping of films focusing on music (“Seeing Music, Hearing Film”). There is also a tribute to Indonesian filmmaker Bung Sjumandjaya and a platter of Middle Eastern films in the segment “Secret Life of Arabia”.

So mark your calendars and get ready for the coming of age event that is the SIFF.

Lucky 7 ˆTOP
Coherence and consistency are intentionally sacrificed, in exchange for a challenging and crazy ride. To appreciate this film, one has to be aware that it is a film made by 7 Singapore directors, with each knowing only what has happened in the last 1 minute of the previous segment. Because the 7 directors were intentionally chosen for their vastly diversified style and taste, it is not difficult to identify when each segment starts and stops. Finding a common theme is trickier, though not impossible. My vote goes to the 2nd segment. It simply sizzles in style and surrealism! The 4th segment perturbs with its perversion and plot, but amuses with its animated additions. The 5th segment sticks, not because of its satirical scorn at censorship, but rather its bloody and gory scenes. In sum, I would have preferred them to separate as shorts. 3 Stars out of 5 – Heng C S

Shadows ˆTOP
Despite a car crash, the protagonist survived miraculously. It could be a blessing in disguise, as he seemed to suffer from visions of the dead. Aptly titled as "Shadows", the film is not just about the supernatural, but also about living in the shadows of the others and the past. Unless one is well versed with the history of Macedonia, one may overlook the parabolic plot and symbolic signs, dismissing it simply as a horror film. The first half thrills and chills indeed, but the dead keeps dying repeatedly and reappearing unscathed, such that the scares soon sedate. In essence, the revelation comes too late, but it is an important one. At this stage, audience would have to reconcile their prior assumption of simply a horror film with the important message about humanity and history. In depicting devastation of the dead, the film celebrates life. An ambitious film that may not get its potential depth fully analyzed or appreciated. 3½ Stars out of 5 – Heng C S

The Last Mistress ˆTOP
An elderly couple (Yolande Moreau and Michael Lonsdale) commences the film amidst idle chatter and bloodied fowls, proudly earning their stripes as 19th century versions of Gladys and Abner Kravitz with the newly engaged libertine Ryno de Marigny's (Fu'ad Ait Aattou) torrid 10-year long amour with Italian-Spanish coquette Lady Vellini (Asia Argento) as their scandal du jour. The hot-blooded Vellini finds out soon enough that her overweening extra-pallid dandy is soon out to marry his way into higher circles through the fragile heart of virginal Hermangarde (Breillat devotee Roxane Mesquida) and through the sprightly imaginations of her household’s feisty matriarch (Claude Sarraute). And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Especially when the woman in question is directed by agent provocateur Catherine Breillat, she of “Anatomy of Hell”, “Romance X” and “Fat Girl” infamy. But here, Breillat tones down the transgressions of venereal shock for the (comparatively) sumptuous reservoirs of rapturous passion and fervent sexual anxieties – a refined take on the stock battle-of-the-sexes formula with arthouse cinephiles’ wet dream Argento as Breillat’s latest codpiece in her intense dissection of Parisian high society’s cannibalism and its mordant gender politics. Argento’s Velli is no less than a force of nature as she ascends into a conduit for Breillat’s declarations and shouts it from the rafters; her sexual aggressiveness play tricks on masculine insecurities and her vociferousness, a conscious affront to feminine coyness. At the peak of her captivating sensuality and at the height of her enigmatic inscrutability, Argento’s magnificence here is one of furious defiance. 4½ Stars out of 5 – Justin Deimen

You, The Living ˆTOP
The large bell in a bar intermittently rings for last orders and the inevitable rush to queue forms at the counter – do we want what we need only when it’s too late? Or is the irony of the opening scene’s wailing Cassandra a more resonant reflection of our perceptions on individual existence? There’s an endless fascination about where writer-director Roy Andersson wants to take us in his fourth feature, “You, The Living”. With fifty or so semi-related vignettes strung together by a penchant for tragicomic hyper-reality, its wistful interpretations and symbolic instances of life that bind us all in this great big cosmic Sisyphean struggle. The sheer simplicity of these vignettes act to dramatise the tenuity and immense preciousness of being apart of the symbiotic relationships we have with one another. Andersson might whittle down the complexity of the human condition through harsh and fast cynicism more than he should, but he also reminds us of the inherent, reassuring glory of waking up each morning to a new tomorrow when we’re all aware of our own distinct forms of arrested development.
Stars out of 5 – Justin Deimen

Lady Chatterley ˆTOP
Pascale Ferran's “Lady Chatterley” arouses the intentions of an intellectual mind rather than the consummate capitulations to the cataract of passion, and other sensual stimuli. Arriving with a brag sheet that includes five 2007 Cesar Awards, including ones for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Photography, the Ferran’s overreaching adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s “John Thomas And Lady Jane”, clearly has pedigree and an elegantly realised French sensibility. But there has to be something said for its lack of transgressions, an unwelcoming throwback to the days of muddled visions of carnal congress that was better served by the imagination in bodice-ripping erotic literature. Even by the nature of its anti-revisionist material and its ideas of sexual awakening as a process that by extension has to entail bridled fervour, the film’s divisions are so neatly devised that there's nothing left for us to react to in its hollow exercise in ardent romanticism.
3 Stars out of 5 –
Justin Deimen

Red Road ˆTOP
Echoes of “The Lives of Others” pervade this well-made debut from writer-director Andrea Arnold, an otherwise indulgent psychological thriller propped up by a compelling central performance by Kate Dickie as Jackie, a surveillance-room operator in Glasgow’s inner sanctums. The veritable witness to life, purveyor of misanthropy and observing through isolation, Jackie is the centre of Arnold’s slow-burn whispers for need and control, fantasy and madness. Envisioned as the first film in a new incarnation of Dogme 95-style cinema-realism protocols, it does become reminiscent of ambiguously serpentine arthouse chic; the more it crawls up its own hole, the more aseptic it becomes. When it turns itself inside out with a dispassionate affair that cries wolf while pulling the rug from under, its subtle seduction becomes clear, locking its characters within a labyrinth of remorse, obsession and disfigured memory. Stars out of 5– Justin Deimen

Tuya’s Marriage ˆTOP
Wang Quanan’s fascinating film “Tuya’s Marriage” is a quietly powerful story of female reverence, shot on location against the arresting landscapes of deepest Mongolia, with its immensely graceful protaganist being the prepossessing shepherdess Tuya (Nan Yu), caught between a marital loophole and the tightening grip of subsistence when she’s forced to look for a new husband willing to take care of her young children and an invalid ex-husband. Austere and gorgeous, Wang’s observations on the encroaching capitalism in a rural land so entrenched in tradition and its collective, scuttles from background to foreground when Tuya explores her options and their economic viability. Wisely eschewing a formal romanticism of the arena, Wang takes us deeper into the wide-open humanism of the film, when he chooses a cogitative docu-drama approach to the film, a striking reminder that a film’s aesthetics are part of its ethos and message. Triumphing at the 2007 Berlinale with the festival’s top prize, Wang delivers a film so complex and rich that it finds its tracts in the human capacity for compassion and sorrow.
4 Stars out of 5 –
Justin Deimen

18 Grams of Love ˆTOP
If you have loved director Han Yew Kwang’s outrageous comedy feature Unarmed Combat (2005), you’d adore his latest feature about two men who write anonymous love letters to investigate whether their wives are faithful. Originally produced as a High Definition (HD) telemovie, the talky but engaging movie has deservedly clinched awards at the Lyon Asian Film Festival. While the story plays out like a staged theatre production, the truthful and winning dialogues are more than welcome in this day and age of clichéd writing. Because of the HD technology used, expect lighting that is appealingly comfortable to the eyes. Male leads Adam Chen and Alaric Tay deliver empathizing performances, while Yeo Yann Yann (881) appears to be more remarkably striking than fellow female lead Magdalene See. A commendable piece of effort that deserves a wider audience, this movie will appeal to the locals as well as those who want to explore more about themes of love and commitment - the fun way. – John Li

Flower in the Pocket ˆTOP
A piece of gem that is waiting to be uncovered, Liew Seng Tat’s charming little picture tells the story of two Malaysian Chinese boys who grow up without their mother. Their father is a workaholic and the boys want to reach out to him. Along the way, we get introduced to a puppy, a fatherless Malay girl and lots of authentic and natural charm. The kids give wonderfully engaging performances, and they prove the point that under good direction, movies about kids always go down well with viewers. Do not expect a movie with high production values – what you are going to get is real independent filmmaking that makes you forget all the glitz and glamour of high-budget pictures. With this crowd favourite at Pusan and Rotterdam, director Liew has joined his friends from Da Huang Pictures James Lee (who gives a melancholic performance as the father in the movie), Tan Chui Mui and Amir Muhammad as the emerging New Wave of Malaysian cinema. – John Li

I’m Not There ˆTOP
On route to redefining the modern biopic, Todd Haynes has also made one of the most memorable American filmic exercises of the past year by fusing style, substance while finally being percipient on Bob Dylan’s once mythic hipster groove. A cast list that drew bated breaths is also one that complements Haynes’s dauntless reach beyond the boundaries of narratives, performances and subject. His portrait of Dylan, is an interwoven collage of inhabited incarnations that not only pays tribute to a singular artist’s personal and social identities, but to the many instances of creative process and its resulting capricious chaos that have left its slippery mark in our minds and as such, is as much about Todd Haynes as it is about Bob Dylan. With droll narrative swagger reminiscent of Todd Solondz’s equally mind-bending “Palindromes”, where multiple actors play a single character through different forms and times, Haynes gleefully glides through the eras, remarking on the cults of celebrity that have defined them and the fantasia we prefer to remember. 4 Stars out of 5 – Justin Deimen

I Just Didn’t Do It ˆTOP

Japan’s foreign-film entry to the 2008 Academy Awards is a doozy and arrives from one of the country’s preeminent filmmakers, Masayuki Suo. In his first film since 1996’s “Shall We Dansu?”, he brings the same discriminating eye back to Japan’s cultural and social norms and in “I Just Didn’t Do It”, zeros in on its oppressively rigid judicial system. Observed on a level that can only be described as stark realism, a true departure from Suo’s august social comedies and a distinct legal procedural going by its narrative trajectory of showing the inciting incident, investigation and to the courtroom in its various stages of due process – Teppei Kaneko (Ryo Kase) is accused of molesting a schoolgirl on his way to a job interview, subsequently coerced by weary detectives to accept the charge and pay the fine instead of pursuing vindication – a system that Suo notes as the reason for Japan’s almost perfect conviction rate and institutionalised prejudice against the accused.
4 Stars out of 5 –
Justin Deimen

Irina Palm ˆTOP
Silly crowd-pleaser that finds widowed grandma Maggie (Marianne Faithfull) giving handjobs to strangers through a hole in the wall at a seedy Soho club – its premise is meticulously handled for maximum satirical result, while paid sexual release is drained of lewdness in place of quaintness. The best hands in the biz, says smitten pimp-with-a-conscience Miki (Miki Manojlovic) and dubs her: Irina Palm. Endless sad-happy tropes of “The Full Monty” follow courtesy of its backstory that involves requiring some quick funds for grandson Ollie’s (Corey Burke) urgent life-saving procedure in Australia. Director Sam Garbarski’s idea of injecting social commentary involves doors shutting in Maggie’s face hours before she brings new meaning to "working with one's hands" or the "daily grind". For all of Faithfull’s magnificent performance and her chemistry with best pal Jane (Jenny Agutter), “Irina Palm” is just too self-satisfied in its outlandish one-joke set-up and much too disingenuous in presenting its dingy low-end sex trade as lucrative and worst yet, as the reason for Maggie’s self-empowerment after years of marriage and child-rearing. 2.5 Stars out of 5 Justin Deimen

Brand Upon the Brain! ˆTOP
Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin’s ecstatically perverse jaunt into childhood’s protracted gestation period is a hypnotic murk-fest filled to the brim with Sturm und Drang neo-psychedelia. Guy (Erik Steffen Maahs) returns to his childhood homestead, a lighthouse to restore it with two coats of paint for an ailing mother. Outsized delirium takes over: ghoulish rituals, surreptitious experiments, demented ghosts, social vampires and other phantasms of psychosis of an overextended memory is underpinned by distinctly Freudian impulses turned into artistic statements. The miscegenation of silent-era aesthetics, a mosaic of encoded visual cues and Maddin’s continued fascination with high theatricality punctuated with trippy pop iconography delivers a gothic fever dream that remains etched in your mind, whether you like it or not. 4 Stars out of 5 Justin Deimen

The Band's Visit ˆTOP
Famously disqualified as Israel's foreign-language entry to the 2008 Academy Awards for containing a surplus of English dialogue, “The Band’s Visit” could have been a worthy winner. But the reason for its exclusion is as ironically fitting a reminder of any when the crux of the film exists in the void of communication and the yearning for common ground. This charming and utterly profound take on the Arab-Israeli divide is sensitive, patient, compassionate and inherently funny. Two pillars of immense performances hold up this remarkable film: stoic conductor Commander Tewfiq (Sasson Gabai) leads his eight-man Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra to the opening of the Arab Cultural Center in Israel where they get stranded in a desolate town with the mysterious Dina (Ronit Elkabetz), the owner of a small café who boards them for the night. Minor events turn into life-changing ones. Every frame in writer-director Eran Kolirin’s soulful feature debut has a double entendre – an embedded moral code with social and romantic significance. Even with a residual feeling of suppressed conflict, everyone connects with each other on a human level, translating the quiet awkwardness into silent understanding to modestly point out our universal commonalities. 4 Stars out of 5 Justin Deimen

Road to Dawn ˆTOP
The first thing that catches your attention is the familiar backdrop of this Derek Chiu-directed film about the fictionalized tale about Chinese revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s exile in Penang in 1910. You see colonial buildings, people speaking Malay, Cantonese and Hokkien, as well as Chinese, Malay and Indian passers-by in the crowded streets of Penang. Winston Chao plays the respected historical figure effortlessly, while Angelica Lee plays his supporter Danrong with gusto. Wu Yue carries enough weight to play the compelling character of Dr. Sun’s lover Chen Cui Fen. The directing is sure-handed, while the scenic backdrops are complemented with a lush cinematography. If you are no history buff, the film comes off as just another film about the struggles of a revolutionary leader. If you are like Danrong, this film may make you pick up your history books to re-live Dr. Sun’s glorious years and patriotic past. – John Li

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers ˆTOP
Chinese American Wayne Wang’s latest independent feature is a bittersweet drama filled with touching and melancholic moments that will have you reflecting your own outlooks and values. The story tells of a father travels from Beijing to America to visit his just-divorced daughter. There, he experiences communication problems, feels out of place, and sees a clash of values between the Asian and Western cultures. There are simple yet poignant scenes of the father’s interactions with an Iranian woman in the park and two American students in the apartment. Engagingly played out, these affecting scenes make you feel for the old man’s predicaments. What also leaves you feeling for this picture is the theme of communication and how it bridges two human beings together. The unrushed and steady pace of the film is accompanied by a solid cinematography and reliable performances from Henry Q and Faye Yu’s central characters. – John Li

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