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LOVE STORY (Singapore)


  Publicity Stills of "Love Story"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Drama
Director: Kelvin Tong
Starring: Erica Lee, Evelyn Tan, Lin Yi Lun, Tracy Tan, Amanda Ling
RunTime: 1 hr 36 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: NC16 (Scenes of Intimacy)

Opening Day: 25 May 2006

Synopsis :

A theatre usher looks for love and finds it in a library book. A cop chases a killer only to wind up at the end of her own gun. A pulp-romance writer confuses fact with fiction and learns that true love comes only after a great loss. The stories that flows from this ebb of desire to find true love leads us various stories that will be amalgam of time, space, consequences and fact and fiction often are not easily identifiable.

Movie Review:

After a fantastic induction with the offbeat feature Eating Air, local filmmaker and former movie critic, Kelvin Tong had followed up with the less than satisfying but extremely successful commercial horror film in The Maid. He’s now followed up on his cinematic repertoire with Love Story, a Focus Films venture that recently earned him a Best Director nod at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival.

In this incredibly surrealistic tableau of the blurring lines of reality and fiction, Allen Lin plays a pulp romance author struggling to envision his next novel’s heartbreaking romance story and increasingly resorts to meeting women at the local public library he visits in order to reap inspiration. Playing out episodically, the four women (Tracy Tan, Evelyn Tan, Erica Lee and Amanda Ling) are introduced as each of his book’s love interest with each ending up in a tragic way in his fiction and on screen. Needless to say, after each novel he moves on to the next woman in search of his muse, all the while trapped and lost in his own unspoken narrative.

The parallels of time, choices and characters are constantly weaved together with sombrely narrated catechisms to illustrate the writer’s ambivalence and desperation in his actions. Tong’s use of darkness in the visual palette and the often dream-like instances in his settings is naturally reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s influence.

The scorned women are largely one-dimensional and larger than life, never layered and only serve to propel Allen Lin’s character into a spiral of contemplations and rescind into his private narcissistic thoughts of his next great romance. He becomes enchanted with these women through the various attractions he feels when he first meets them.

The first of these women, played by Tracy Tan, is a taciturn theatre usher who covers her mouth with a black cloth while reciting lines from a book that is apparently banned. The protagonist finds her intriguing and mysterious as he romances her, winding down his novel akin to a Greek tragedy along the lines of Orpheus and Eurydice. It is even rounded off with the Mighty Aphrodite-esque throwback of cutting in between scenes with performed recitals from the mythos on a stage.

He meets Erica Lee’s out-of-place coquettish cop character right after his initial tryst. Her tactless statements and callous remarks about him are humourous but serve to mask her growing affection for him. He is drawn to her assertiveness and control but soon finds himself in the arms of Evelyn Tan’s portrayal of the librarian. He then bores of their mundane romance after his final book and through unlikely circumstances, finds himself on the trail of a dangerous and lively Goth stage performer played by Amanda Ling keyboardist for local band, Electrico.

Benjamin Heng, who played the lead in Tong’s introductory Eating Air, steals most of the scenes that he finds himself in with his strangely effective screen presence as an unsettling janitorial worker who becomes acquainted with the writer and literature.

The bulk of the actors’ performances carry out the angst-laden scenes with aplomb. The art direction and musical score had weighty aspirations, and found themselves largely responsible for the successful entree of an extremely difficult narrative. The opening act is delicately layered with contrasting light patterns and a riveting orchestral score.

Unfortunately, Tong’s own lofty ambitions in his script, punches a large dent in this curious and often erratic film. His insistence and overuse of highly derivative, metaphysical and experimental story-telling techniques leave much to be accomplished. The plot meanders too much midway and it starts to become a chore just to keep up with the writer’s own extremities in dealing with the abstract boundaries of fact and fiction. It becomes arrogant in its self-consciousness and is devoid of a personality.

Not quite a love story and not quite the trip it was hoping to be, the film becomes too heavy-handed halfway through, after lines of existential self-musings of love and art. However, Kelvin Tong’s assertion of the demented and lonely world of writers is commendable and is a steady takeoff from his largely commercial projects. It’s a strong inclusion of an arthouse film for Singapore, but it might not find the audience it deserves.

Movie Rating:

(A brave and exciting new direction for local cinema, but becomes too much of an effort even for the most willing)

Review by Justin Deimen

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