This compilation of short films from Royston Tan traces the
creative journey of one of the most promising talents from
Asian Film Archive Collection has recently launched a new
DVD compilation, the first being Singapore Shorts, and now,
a collection of short films by prolific director Royston Tan.
DVD compilation contains three sections - The Shorts, The
Special Features and an "About" section, containing
information about Royton, about the Asian Film Archive, the
funraising effort of the DVD, as well as the credits. Here's
a quick review of the shorts included in this compilation:
Shot in black and white, consisting of many quick edits, and
non distinguishable sounds, perhaps one of the few scenes
which you can make out something, is that yellow shirt hanging
on a telephone pole. Very quirky short, done to the tune of
local band Concave Scream's Benign. Oh, and the dolls used
actually have names, in alphabetical order too.
There's something about a father-son relationship, the love
both individuals have for each other which is never explicitly
expressed, and is quite realistically portrayed from an Asian
context. Beautiful cinematography, and an excellent soundtrack
score using Chinese stringed instruments like the er-hu and
gu-zhen, you feel for the father as he narrates his relationship
with his son, and longs for a forging of closer ties before
his time is up. Easily one of my favourite Royston shorts.
This short is fast becoming one of my favourites, especially
after repeated viewings. The myriad of colours and that Ge
Lan Cha-Cham-Bo! song just blends perfectly, not to forget
the nostalgic 50s-60s setting of the coffeeshop as well as
The title of Royston Tan's short film refers to a coffeeshop
by that name, which has since closed its doors. Like an ode
to the shop and its owners/stallholders, memories of the 60s
heydays are brought back in a song-and-dance routine which
includes the beehives and a-go-go moves.
looked similar to Moveable Feast, with its protagonist taking
in the sights and sounds of the aged-old coffeeshop, and laughter
abound when he breaks into a song, complete with high pitched
girlie voice, kinda like a bollywood movie with numerous male
and female dancers going through their paces in the cramped
short clip, leaving you wanting more.
It's amazing how something so deceptively simple to create,
can evoke emotions of sadness, isolation and loneliness. In
all of 3 minutes, this short contains visuals from Korean
television ads, a beautifully sad musical piece from the movie
Il Mare, and a subtitles-only monologue. I thought this short
had the same style which was used in Eric Khoo's Be With Me,
and called on the same emotions... until the painfully ironic
This short mirrors Sons, yet another sad tale, but one which
many can identify with, especially if we had taken our moms
for granted. This short perhaps has the strongest story of
them all, without actually saying too much. The narration
in itself already worked wonders, recounting events and attitudes,
good or bad, towards Mother, with the visuals and the score
complimenting it all seamlessly. Check out the production
notes and the Interview with Royston (Special Feature) to
learn more about how this short came about and was developed.
Jumping at the chance at collaborating with local band The
Observatory, this is an experimental piece done to the band's
track called Killing Time. Plenty of facial closeups and check
out those freaky eyeballs, but seriously, not very easy to
Blind Trilogy: Blind / Old Parliament House / Capitol Cinema
Three different premises intertwined into one, with a capsuled
look into places which are no longer, like the old Capitol
Cinema at the junction of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road,
with its famed winged horses adorninng the left and right
of the screen, and the old Parliament House, now converted
into a performing arts venue. Together with the last segment
shot in a reserve, it is the ambient sounds, in a natural
environment or manufactured from the past, that is the centerpiece
of this trilogy of shorts. The old parliamentary speeches,
Shaw's old distinct signature theme, or just noisy crickets,
the short ends with Corrinne May's Fly Away.
A memorable reject during the audition stages of the very
first Singapore Idol, Patrick Khoo aka Mr Careless Whisper,
shot to notoriety for his almost inaudible performance of
George Michael's signature tune in the 80s. However, it's
pretty amazing how Royston managed to weave a relatively adequate
performance from this silent man, as a security guard who
wants to impress a girl in his workplace with his singing.
plays with a mat-rocker styled narration to explain the hilarious
visuals of the life of Patrick, which included sight gags
of his guy and girl friends, one pair who is played by Don
Richmond, who contributed the song "You'll Never Have
To Fear", which Patrick sings at the end, audibly, though
I'm not sure if the production team had to increase any volume
to its maximum. The finale, with the crane shot and special
effects, plays like a typical music video about love.
Karen Khoo, the art director on some of Royston's shorts,
stars as New York Girl, an aspiring actress wannabe who's
in a pseudo-casting call. This is one of the most simplest
short of his ever produced (from an audience's point of view),
save from the hilarious tongue-in-cheek redition of Wonder
Woman as the opening credits. It's simple, because there's
only 1 person, Karen herself, engaged in more or less a monologue
of sorts, but it just meant that everything hinged on her
sole performance to make this short work.
it does, as you get to see some of her talents like her demonstration
of various accents, of the English, the French and even the
Japanese. She also got to diss Fann Wong for her "act-cuteness",
as well as Jackie Chan for his monkey antics. Though the part
which was really interesting and funny, is her impersonation
of mat-rockers singing Aerosmith's I Don't Want to Miss a
Thing from Armageddon. Really spot on! But
this short isn't all about fun and games, as it meandered
towards a drama-mama ending, and capped it off with, sort
of like a continuation from Careless Whisperer, her beautiful
rendition of the same Don Richmond song You'll Never Have
To Fear, as the closing credits roll.
Shot on location in Hokkaido, this short marks a collaborative
effort with a mainly Japanese crew. Different cameras were
used, and hence produced a short containing a different look
and feel for scenes, about a man in a monkey suit, looking
for lost love, for that someone or something, in order to
get it back. This is perhaps one of the rare shorts, besides
4A Florence Close, which has the director appear in front
of the camera.
can learn more about this short through the Interview with
Royston included n the Special Features section of the DVD.
A silent film which captures the happy and poignant moments
of a family, in the selling of their home where memories are
abound. No dialogue is necessary when reminiscing the happier
times, set to the constant whirl of a projector, akin to a
walk down memory lane.
Royston's shorts are always well known for their visuals,
and the encoding in this compilation managed a fair job to
showcase those unique visions adopted for the shorts.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which adequately
brings out the many musical pieces used throughout the shorts.
Having gone through the credits for all the shorts, it is
obvious that sound and music plays an integral part of Royston's
Shorts. If anything, the music have all been carefully selected
to add a separate layer to evoke feelings from an audience,
and from Sons, Hock Hiap Leong, and Mother, the music punctuates
the shorts and gives it additional oomph!
interesting to know that there is an options menu for each
short featured, with insights to the director's thought process
on how he came up with the idea, and the list of awards the
particular short has won, if any. It's also apt to have included
the key musical theme used in the options as well. Can't get
enough of the wonderful tunes Royston used which fit most
suitably with his visuals.
special feature included, besides the filmography, awards
and retrospectives listing, is the short 4A Florence Close,
a rarely seen personal short about his own family home, and
his thoughts about the short. There's also a 25 minute interview
with Royston, about his childhood, the insights to his films
like Hock Hiap Leong, Sons, Mother and Monkeylove, including
snippets of 15 and Cut, his influences from television, his
style, the "Royston Emergency Fund", and on Singapore
too. If anything, this short interview is the jewel of all
the features to learn more about the filmmaker. The only gripe
is the slight synchronization issues in video-audio.
is a companion website for the DVD at the Asian Film Archives,
containing more extras like an Online Gallery containing the
film stills, behind the scenes pictures, and a storyboard
for the short Monkeylove, an essay and a bibliography.
felt that all these extras should be packaged into the DVD
itself, and be replicated on the website if deemed necessary,
so that the DVD can be self contained. Also, since I'm on
the "more is good" mentality, more storyboards and
an indepth look into the production process would be much
appreciated by fans, to take a sneak peek into what makes
Royston tick when producing the award winners.
Nonetheless, this DVD contains a neat collection, and an excellent
platform for anyone who wishes to know more about Royston's
Shorts (hence the title), and my take is that it is already
a gem of a collectible to be included in any DVD library,
especially of local movie buffs. So what are you waiting for?
Grab your copy today, now available at good stores.
This dvd can also be purchased here:
DVD RATING :
by Stefan Shih