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.
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.
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.
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
“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."
for local movie buffs.
by Lim Mun Pong