Saturday, April 29, 2006

Noriko's Dinner Table

The story is about what happens to a Japanese family when one of the daughters, Noriko, ran away from home to Tokyo and got involved in a "family rental" business headed by her online friend, Kumiko.

Noriko felt disconnected with her family and wanted to go to different places and see new things. When she reached Tokyo, she sells her service to lonely people by pretending to be their family members. The film questions what it means to be a family by comparing the real family before Noriko ran away and the virtual families with Noriko as a member.

The situation in the family is seen from several perspectives: Noriko, her younger sister Yuka and the father. In each perspective, a different voice is used to narrate what happened to them. Yuka had the nicest voice in my opinion! She quickly understood why her elder sister left but her father was clueless for a long time. I felt very sad for the father when he desperately tried to find out the reason for her daughters' disapperance.

I think the use of flashbacks, dream sequences and telling the story in multiple perspectives very much enhanced the experience of watching this film. Very nice ending! Tension is built up to keep the audience guessing what would happen next but when the tension ends, a very good closure is provided.

Highly recommended!

Internet Movie Database Link

In Search of a Road

This is a docudrama about the past 100 years of history in Sri Lanka with a big focus on the railway line.

Not too used to watching docudramas as I find it strange to see bits of drama interspersed with the documentary. Didn't quite follow the story of the drama, so I didn't feel much for the characters. For the documentary part, the narrator spoke in a very monotonous tone and I fell asleep at some parts partly because of the heavy lunch that I took. The ending is quite nicely done though.

Chinese Restaurants: Beyond Frontiers

The story is about the life of overseas Chinese who survive by running Chinese restaurants. Two families are interviewed from India and one from Brazil.

Interesting to see how the families blend in to the local community and yet maintain their Chinese culture. They train local people to help in the kitchen and serve food but their homes are decorated in a very Chinese style. The families in India also talk about hard times during the Sino-India conflict in 1962 when the foreigners are sent to live in camps.

Internet Movie Database Link

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Short Film About Indio Nacional

This is a black and white silent movie about life in Phillipines during the 1890s. Events that happened during that era were shown in a very indirect manner.

Liked the nice music but the pacing is very slow! Preceding the silent segment, there is a very long take on someone trying to sleep but could not. Quite ironic as I was trying very hard not to sleep when watching this part.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Magdalena The Unholy Saint

The story is about the transformation of a girl called Magdalena after experiencing several major incidents in her life.

Very nice storyline! Was touched by how the characters managed to cope in a crisis situation! Great acting by the actress who played Magdalena!

The Sentinel

An inside look at how the president of United States is kept safe by a group of security professionals and what happened when they found a security breach!

Had fun guessing who is the one that caused the security breach! Shortlisted to a few possibilities but all of them were wrong! Pity that Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria didn't have a bigger role as they were just like "flower vases".

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's Only Talk

The story is about the life of a woman in her mid thirties who is suffering from manic depression since the death of her parents. She lives off her savings, spends her time taking pictures on her digital camera to post on her blog, goes out with friends and visits the bath house once in a while.

Liked how well the director captures the emotions of the characters as they interact with each other! I think the different men that the woman goes out with represents her different needs. They include a pervert, a university friend who is a budding politician, a cousin and a fellow manic depression sufferer who is a yakuza. The bath house is a good quiet place for her to relax when she feels tense.

KAFA Animations

A series of animation by the Korean Academy of Fine Arts:

The Woman with Busy Hands
Gas City
Who are You?
Swimming Days
The Wall
Soul's Milk Spring Outing

Liked "Who are You?" the best! It involves a papa bear, a mama bear and a baby bear. The papa bear has deserted his family but he felt lonely and decides to visit them one day. Baby bear refuses to acknowledge her dad unless he can answer some simple personal questions about her. He fails to answer any of them and is kept out of the door. Liked the bears who are cutely drawn and the interesting questions asked by the baby bear!

If You Were Me 2

This is a series of shorts produced for the National Human Rights Commision of Korea.

Seaside Flower is about the life of a child with Down's Syndrome. She studies in a normal school where she gets teased once in a while and she has fun telling ghost stories at home. Liked the realistic account of her day which shows that she is as normal as any other kid!

Hey Man is about what happens when a group of friends gather for a drink and one of them starts to criticise people around him: foreign workers, the unemployed, high school grads and homosexuals. His friends left him one by one and he himself felt ostracised for being so successful in life! Liked the clever setup and the interesting dialogue!

A Boy with the Knapsack is about the unfair treatment of North Koreans living in South Korea. A North Korean girl works at a Karaoke bar and her boss short changed her pay. She asked a North Korean guy who is a great motorbike rider for help. They stole almost 50 cans of coke from the bar, put them in a knapsack and rode off together! Liked the depiction of the friendship between the guy and the girl!

Someone Grateful is about the relationship between an interrogator and his case who is a student activist. Chief Kim had given up trying to extract information from his case through torture and ended up confiding his troubles to him as he is supposed to hand him over to his colleague. Liked how the two guys bonded during the last few hours!

Jongno Winter is about how employers cheated Chinese Koreans working in South Korea of their pay and that many of them froze to death and died of unnatural causes each year. Liked the documentary like story telling that recounted how one particular Chinese Korean froze to death and the events that led to it!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dictator's Cut / Nine Lives of Korean Cinema

DC is about the history of film making in North Korea while NLKC is about the history of film making in South Korea.

North Korea is a closed society and its leader has a lot of say on what is shown in films. They encourage people to be nationalistic and is very pro-military. South Korea had very strict censorship too at one time but things changed after Seoul held the Olympics in 1988. The artistic freedom given to the filmmakers coupled with the screen quota system that forces cinemas to screen a certain number of Korean films per year has led to the huge commercial success of Korean films today.

Liked the large number of film clips shown in the two documentaries and the interviews with the directors, actors and actresses! Some of the directors featured like Im Kwon Taek, Kim Ki Duk and Hong Sang Soo are my favorite directors and I gained a better understanding towards their films when they explained their rationale of doing certain things.

Gone To a Good Home / Operation Babylift

Decided last minute to catch the 7pm screening at the National Museum as I thought I may not be able to make it on time. This is my first screening at the National Museum which has been newly renovated.

GTGH is about how unmarried mothers were forced to give up their babies for adoption from the 50s to 70s in Australia and the impact on these people many years down the road.

Liked the interviews where many personal stories were told and the re-enactment of what happened almost forty years ago!

OB is about how abandoned babies and children were airlifted from Vietnam to the Western countries for adoption during the Vietnam War.

The theme is somewhat similar to GTGH but the situation is slightly different as it is during an emergency where lives could be lost when nothing is done. Liked the interviews with the Vietnamese children who had grown up now and the news clips of that era which was incorporated in the film.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Perpetual Motion

The story is about how four friends spent their Lunar New Year together. They are successful middle aged women and each of them has been closely connected to the host's husband at one time.

Has always been fascinated by the beauty of the Chinese language in describing intimacy and it is reflected in this show. Liked the stories recounted by the women as they reflected back on their youth! The Lunar New Year special shown on TV is interesting too!

Internet Movie Database Link

Sunday, April 16, 2006


This is the second part of a trilogy directed by Danish director, Lars Von Trier. The first part was "Dogville" starring Nicole Kidman which was shown here commercially about a year ago. The story is about how a gangster's daughter discovered that there were slaves in a town called Manderlay and tried to use her powers to liberate them.

Very interesting study into human nature as the film shows how people of different characters react to different situations! Liked the narration, the music and the minimalist style for the set! Many things are just drawn and labelled on the ground and there are no roofs or doors for the buildings! This allows the audience to have full view of what all the chracters are doing at the same time and be less distracted by unnecessary details.

Internet Movie Database Link

Tale of the Three Jewels

Interesting tale about the life of a Palestinian boy living in the Gaza Strip. The place that he lives in is not peaceful and fully armed soldiers can be seen everywhere. Despite all this, he lives a happy life and became friends with a Gypsy girl who asked him to search for three jewels that were lost from her Grandmother's necklace.

Liked the enthusiasm showed by the boy in the things that he does and how well fantasy and reality are blended together! Was pleasantly surprised by the ending that had a nice religious and philosophical touch to it.

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Glamorous Life Of Sachiko Hanai

The story is about how the life of a woman called Sachiko Hanai has changed after being hit by a bullet in the head. She becomes super-smart and gets involved with something that affects the whole world.

There is quite a bit of deadpan humour in this film! It even features president George Bush as a man in a mask! Animation and puppet figures are used effectively to depict how absurdly powerful the US forces have become and how they like to show off their strength to other countries. Many scenes are also exaggerated to look unrealistic to highlight how chaotic the world has become.

After being shot by the bullet, Sachiko is unable to synchronise her actions with her feelings. I think it signifies the apathy that young people have with this world and the grave consequences that could follow. People can also look inside her bullet-hole head to see the ideal world that they like to live in.

Sachiko was a call-girl who play-acted as a home tutor before the bullet incident happened. After the incident, she became very knowledgeable and was much more qualified in her role. There are many sex scenes in the film which seem redundant but they are important to show how boring life has become and the men are looking towards Sachiko as a figure of authority and someone whom they can cuddle with, like a baby in a mother's arms.

The ending is very interesting with Sachiko swallowing up the world, perhaps in a dream sequence. I interpret it to mean that she has become mother nature herself and the cycle of life and death has finally completed.

Internet Movie Database Link

Friday, April 14, 2006

I Did Not Kill Gandhi

The story is about how a family cope when their father, a retired professor, shows symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and suffers from a childhood trauma. He was accused of murdering Gandhi, who is the Father of India.

Was touched by the sacrifices made by the daughter to look after her father. She broke up with her finace, quit her job and hunted for the best doctors. Great acting by the actor who played the father! There is also nice documentary footage of Gandhi towards the end!

We Feed the World

This is a documentary on how the agriculture industry and food industry is affected by globalisation.

There are many unusual practices:
1. Truck loads of bread are being thrown away although they are just a few days old.
2. Maize is grown to be burnt as fuel.
3. Large areas of rainforests in Brazil are being cleared to plant soya that is used for chicken feed in European countries.

From the interviews of poor starving people, one can tell how bad conditions are by looking at their dog which is really very skinny! There is also quite a lengthy footage on how chickens are factory farmed.

Very surprised that the little chickens are transported along the factory line like commodities! I also felt sad when one of the workers described how they are slaughtered. The chickens are hung upside down, dipped in water to be electric-shocked and had their throats slit by a sharp rotating blade.

Internet Movie Database Link

If You Were Me: Anima Vision

Six animated films are made for the Human Rights Commission of Korea and each film has a different director and deals with different issues.

Day Dream is about discrimination against handicapped children. It shows a father and a handicapped daughter having an afternoon nap and the day dreams that they are having. Very nicely drawn with a water color painting feel and the stories are well narrated!

Animal Farm is about accepting diversity and not ostracising the odd-one-out. It shows a goat trying very hard to join a flock of sheep in the things that they do but is prevented by the chief sheep. Quite cute to see how the goat comes up with very innovative ideas!

At Her House is about the stresses faced by women doing the housework and looking after the child. It depicts how the wife gets drowned in all the chores that she has to do while the husband just relaxes and watches TV. Liked how the emotional states of the couple are depicted figuratively!

The Flesh and Bone is about discrimination against ugly people. It describes how an ugly family came about through the genes inherited from their great grandfather generation. Very interesting narration on the family history!

Bicycle Trip is about discrimination against illegal immigrants as employers exploit them because of their status. A driverless bicycle rides through the streets and flashbacks are shown at the locations that it stops. Very effective use of flashbacks!

Be A Human Being is about discrimination against people with low academic qualifications. A bunch of animals attend cram school with a human as a teacher and they are told that they can only become human beings when they complete university. The main character is a gorilla who liked collecting insects and discovers one day that he could transform to a human being when he pursues his interest in the forest! There is a twist in the end which I won't reveal here but I felt that it is very touching!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

SIFF Opening Film

Caught this year's Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) opening film at Lido. This year's opening film is a Malaysian short film "My Beautiful Rambutan Tree in Tanjung Rambutan" and a Lebanese film "Kiss Me Not On The Eyes".

MBRTTR is about sibling love/rivalry and describes how a rambutan tree came to grow in a family's garden under very unusual circumstances. Liked how the director builds up tension in the film through the little things that the brothers and sisters do!

KMNOTE is about how a young woman prepared for a dance competition and studied poetry at the same time. It is also about her journey in finding herself in the process. My favorite scenes are those with the dancing coach teaching Dunia how to dance! Very nice dancing movements where she sways her body like a sinusoidal curve on an oscilloscope! Also liked the pulsating drum beats that accompanied the dance!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Speaking Up

Saw this on the first day of the Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) fringe held at the Goethe Institute. The organisers had prepared a mini-buffet feast for the audience before the show started with bread, cheese, fruits and drinks as it was the opening day! Very nice of them!

The film consists of interviews of ordinary people from all walks of life on various topics that affected Hong Kong. It also showed major events like the '97 Hong Kong handing over, newspaper reports on the Tiananmen incident, people staging rallies in the streets etc.

It is interesting to hear the candid responses from these people and how their answers differed due to their different backgrounds! Gained a better understanding of Hong Kong through this film.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Summer Tale

Saw this at the "swedenmade film 2006" organised by Singapore Film Society. Decided to watch this as it was recommended by movie critic, Dr Wong Lung Hsiung, on channel 8 the day before.

The story is about how two orphans spent their summer holidays with a local undertaker, Mr Johansson. He was quite strict with them at first but the orphans soon became friends with each other and had many interesting encounters with the village people.

Liked the simple story and the life affirming lessons taught by the children!

Internet Movie Database Link

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Three Times

Watched this at the newly furbished Picturehouse. Only the ticket sales and cinemas are open on the 5th and 6th floor. The rest of the shops are not ready for business yet.

There are three short stories in TT and they have different themes and set in different eras: "A Time of Love" in 1966, "A Time of Freedom" in 1911 and "A Time of Youth" in 2005.

ATOL is about an NS guy's search for a billiard ball assistant whom he had a game before. ATOF is about the life of a prostitute and it describes the incidents that lead to the fall of Taiwan to Japan through her client. ATOY is about a complicated love triangle in the Taipei city.

Liked the '60s music in ATOL and the nice costume worn by the billiard ball assistants! The opera music in ATOF was interesting and the theme was expressed pretty well through both the loss of freedom of a country and that of a person! Didn't really like ATOY as I thought the music sounded terrible and there was nothing special about the plain citylife scenery.

Internet Movie Database Link