Xiao Wu's existence revolves around school, an empty apartment
and the dubious comforts in instant noodles. One day, his
routine is subtly transformed by a tenant in the apartment
who is nursing a heartache. Their paths cross only once in
a while. Longing for human contact Xiao Wu tries all he can
to make a connection through physical and metaphorical walls
in that hour between night and day.
is a mood piece because we see the protagonists go through
their freaky life, shot in well-composed long takes, with
a conspicuous lack of dialogue. They like to do weird stuff
like picking body hair, peeing in the bathtub, self-mutilating
and disturbing public order: by and large doing things that
normal people don’t do, not even when they are traumatized
by a crazy alarm clock that rings at 4:30 am every morning.
a local mood piece though, there are three pre-requisites:
firstly, you must have a very arty nostalgic feel. Dirty grimy
toilet walls, kinky wallpaper and retro phones are a must.
No one shall stay in your typical colourful freshly-painted
HDB four-room flat. A really old-school clinic façade
and aged secondary school is a bonus. The ability of the 11
year-old protagonist to recite retro movie dialogues line
for line and hold a Theresa Teng tune is a heaven-sent. Secondly,
the protagonist must have an obsession. The sillier, the better.
4:30 has Xiao Wu, quite bizarrely, repeatedly disturbing a
congregation of senior citizen qi-gong enthusiasts. Lastly,
the protagonists must be urban-alienated. No two ways about
it. They are suicidal (try hanging yourself on a bamboo stick
with nylon string), don’t have friends, don’t
have family and they cannot sleep. No wonder last I heard,
there is a local film school teaching students such stuff.
By the way, having a plot is optional.
to the story at hand. 4:30 is the story of two tortured souls
colliding at the namesake witching hour. For the first part
of the movie, we are treated to chunky semi-comedic scenes
that painted Xiao Wu as a very lonesome youth and his co-tenant
Jung as a suicidal love-sick Korean drama-mama stereotype.
Xiao Wu sees Jung as the absent father-figure in his world
and is obsessed with finding out more about him. There is
also an undercurrent of homoerotic tension in the movie as
well, probably due to the fact that the protagonists are both
skinny vulnerable people in singlets and short shorts. The
film only managed to pick up its emotional gravitas 40 minutes
into the show where in a memorable scene, Xiao Wu began to
cry sitting next to a fish tank. Ah, the wonders of the heart-wrenching
score by Vichaya Vatanasapt. Then the dams broke. Xiao Wu
and Jung began crying all the time. Misery reigns in the little
is a tad pretentious and over-wrought, but it is a solid movie
and preferable to any of Jack Neo's. It may even be a good
show if it has a storyline.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
There is a 32-second teaser, a trailer, a MTV of
the centerpiece score, a photo gallery and a making of documentary.
Shot in Mandarin, it is a great look at how local filmmakers
and production folks work their asses off behind the scenes.
We understand that Xiao Li Yuan is really a normal human being
like us and not some wunderkind crying machine. I loved the
way he interacted with Royston Tan too.
The audio is in Dolby Digital and works just fine with the
ambient sound prevalent in the movie. We can choose between
Chinese or English subtitles but the visual transfer is nothing
to shout about.
by Lim Mun Pong