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Ben Slater
229 Pages
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Editions (2006)
ISBN: 9789812610690
Price: S$19.95 (Available in Borders)
Links: www.marshallcavendish.com/genref




The making of Saint Jack would have been a MDA-sponsored spectacle with 24-hour STOMP coverage and STB spin-offs in today’s Singapore. Unfortunately, the film was 27 years too early of its time. Instead, it became something of a clandestine operation with a pair of feuding producer and director, drunken actors, real-life prostitutes and loveable Singaporeans that are just in for the experience.

Most Singaporeans probably have not heard of the movie, but Saint Jack, based on a novel of the same name by Paul Theroux, was a critically acclaimed movie that inspired folks like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. It was a collaboration of Hollywood stalwarts, such as co-writer/director Peter Bogdanovich (Targets, The Cat’s Meow), leading man Ben Gazzara (The Thomas Crown Affair, Dogville) and director of photography Robby Muller (Dancer in the Dark, Coffee and Cigarettes). What we would give to get another group of similar professionals to our shores again.

From about five years ago, Ben Slater, an arty type ex-pat in Singapore, decided to wipe the fog from our collective eyes and show us what we have missed out in the time period between P. Ramlee and Jack Neo. The result is Kinda Hot: The Making of Saint Jack in Singapore, a neat little piece of gumshoe history work that provides a compelling look back at a time when the authorities were trying to transform the country from a sordid exotic port into a manufacturing and trading hub. Kinda Hot is wonderfully detailed and honest: it does not sugarcoat the petty arguments among the chief production members nor does it hide the fact that the foreign crew members were sampling a fair bit of the local vices too.

Along the way, the book managed to capture the seedy atmosphere of Singapore in the 70s and more importantly, the can-do spirit and easy camaraderie that permeated the production crew in the face of official disapproval and wild logistical nightmares. Even though the author’s voice of nostalgia for the Singapore lost in thirty years of tabula rasa may be too whiny at times, this book is an important record of our country’s history.


“Before he takes a congratulatory call from John Cassavetes who had seen Saint Jack the night before, Bogdanovich tells the interviewer, ‘Some of the best things are things that just happen once and then don’t happen again. They just don’t. No matter how much you want them to."


Must-read for local movie buffs.

Review by Lim Mun Pong



. Singapore Cinema



This review is made possible with the kind support from BORDERS


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