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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Visiting Filmmakers Anonymous 2, Central Market Annexe

So yes, just as I've mentioned here, I went to Filmmakers Anonymous 2 at the Central Market Annexe last night for the Malaysian premiere of my latest short film, Girl Disconnected.

It was an interesting experience watching my film again on a big screen. It was first screened at Murdoch Uni in Perth last December, but unlike the rushed version shown then, the Girl Disconnected I submitted for last night was pretty much the definitive version that I'm satisfied with (I did some re-editing at the last third of the film, slightly increasing its running time, changed some music during my trip in India earlier this month, and had been working non-stop on it in the few nights leading up to the Filmmakers Anonymous 2 gathering... hence the lack of updates on the blog lately)

Of course, one of the worst things about being a perfectionist is that some of the teeny weeny flaws would bother me greatly. During a ballerina scene towards the end of the film, I almost gasped in horror when I noticed I made an embarrassing editing goof where I didn't manage to cut off a split second of unwanted footage. For a while, I got really scared that other people at the screening would notice my mistake too.

One of the most pleasant surprises was seeing my old friend, Kai Wen, who really managed to make it to the screening, and Danu, a friend of mine I met at Murdoch Uni whom I haven't met for a year since her graduation.

Danu and I at Filmmakers Anonymous 2
Danu and I

Kai Wen And I At Filmmakers Anonymous 2
Kai Wen and I

I looked... stoned.

But anyway, here are some brief thoughts about the films screened last night.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

An Interview With Quentin S. Crisp

Quentin S Crisp

I've talked about Quentin S. Crisp before - he's one of my favorite living writers. His 'demented fiction' is unrivalled for its poetic quality and general, um, dementedness, and I suspect it won't be long before he has a major mainstream breakthrough - not that there's anything particularly 'mainstream' about him, but his stories and novels are certainly of world-class quality. Anyway, I sat down with him recently to discuss his writing, his favorite films, pop music, the meaning of Mishima's death, the real reason why most people study Japanese, and other relevant topics. Suffice it to say that this is probably the most important thing I have yet posted to this site, and it certainly touches on more or less everything Swifty and I have put up here at some point. It is thus mandatory reading. Apart from that, it's probably the last substantial thing I'll post for a while, time constraints being what they are. Read on and learn more...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Malaysian Premiere of my short film, 'Girl Disconnected' this Friday

Reminder to anyone living near Kuala Lumpur: My latest short film, Girl Disconnected, will have its Malaysian premiere this Friday (23rd of February) at Filmmakers Anonymous 2. Screening (which is FREE!) will begin at 8:30pm, the venue is Central Market Annexe. Central Market Annexe is located behind Central Market, near the Pasar Seni LRT station.

The version shown on that very day is the newly edited version of the film different from the one that was screened in Perth last December. (I fixed it while I was traveling at India)

Make sure you arrive early because Girl Disconnected is going to be the FIRST FILM screened at the event.

Hope to see you there! (there will be a Q & A session after the screening)

Here's a teaser of the short film I put together last year, uploaded by my cinematographer, Brian.

Preview of the ballerina scene in Girl Disconnected

You can also check out some screenshots and production photos of Girl Disconnected on my Flick account.

I've also written and posted a video of Filmmakers Anonymous 1 here early last month.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

VERTICAL DISTANCE - A Romantic Comedy By Edmund Yeo

It's Valentine's Day, what better time than this to officially launch my romantic comedy short, Vertical Distance?

Vertical Distance is the first of the two short films I made last year (the other being the often-mentioned Girl Disconnected). Shot in Perth sometime in May last year, with music by Arshi Tope and the popular Malaysian Jazz duo, Rhapsody.

Interestingly, a friend of mine, Crystal Yong aka finkl, the current finalist of Singapore's My DreamD8 II show on MTV, was involved in this production, she and I had cameo roles during the 1:40 minute mark. (all crew members of the film had cameo roles :D)

Vertical Distance

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Watch these music videos during Valentine's Day

Last year, I posted three lists of recommended films to watch on Valentine's Day, one for Hong Kong films, one for other Asian films (Korean, Japanese, etc.), and one for Hollywood films. Until now, I wouldn't really update these posts since they are so bloody awesome (all right, maybe I'll add Before Sunrise and Before Sunset on the list of recommended Hollywood films, but other than that, nope), so yeah, they are a must-read for the hopeless romantics out there.

This year, I'll do something different by compiling a list of nice music videos to watch on Valentine's Day, with your loved one, or by yourself if you like to wade in self-pity by indulging in your loneliness.

The list is compiled with the help of some friends.

Derek Yee's Protégé 门徒

Protege, starring Andy Lau, Daniel Wu and Louis Koo

When I first looked at the poster of Protege, I had expected yet another stylish cop crime thriller in the vein of those Infernal Affairs films or perhaps something like director Derek Yee's previous foray in the genre back in 2004, the fabulous One Nite In Mongkok that roped him a Best Director award at the Hong Kong Awards. And based on the summary I read about the film, Andy Lau playing a big-team drug dealer, Daniel Wu being his apprentice (or protege) who is actually an undercover cop, I thought if this isn't a cop thriller, maybe it'll be like Johnnie To's Election movies, or maybe it might be more like this little-seen 2001 Daniel Wu film, Cop On A Mission, where an undercover cop who infiltrated a triad group gradually becomes a true scum.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


The Holiday poster

And then, there's another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert. Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone? We are the victims of the one sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded. The handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space! Yes, you are looking at one such individual. And I have willingly loved that man for over three miserable years! The absolute worst years of my life! The worst Christmas', the worst Birthday's, New Years Eve's brought in by tears and valium. These years that I have been in love have been the darkest days of my life. All because I've been cursed by being in love with a man who does not and will not love me back. Oh god, just the sight of him! Heart pounding! Throat thickening! Absolutely can't swallow! All the usual symptoms.

I sighed during the opening voiceover of The Holiday (delivered by Iris, played by Kate Winslet). It just hit a little too close to home. Such uneasiness was intensified when I became increasingly conscious of the fact that most people sitting around me in the cinema came in pairs. Such is the pain of being a closet sucker for romantic comedies (the only justification I can come up with is that, well, I'm a Piscean), while watching these fluffy feel-good films in the cinema, I am sometimes unintentionally reminded of my own misery, which, of course, adds more to the saddening poetry of my situation.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Unfair treatment of a certain guest blogger who shall remain anonymous

Swifty has a photo on this blog. (Well, okay, it’s his blog so it’s fair.)

Justin has a photo on this blog. (Well, okay, he is a permanent guest blogger so it’s fair too.)

Swifty-chan has a photo (PHOTOS!) on this blog. (Well, okay, it’s fair because she is a guest blogger related to Swifty and has very cute cheeks.)

Spongebob Squarepants has a photo on this blog. (What do you mean he is not a guest blogger?)

Has anybody thought of *MY* feelings? Oh no, let Justin get the last piece of pie (Justin: You said you were on a diet and food made you cry!), let Swifty see Dalai Lama (Swifty: You were thousand of miles away. How could…how can…what the…?!?!), let Swifty-chan get the big teddy bears (Swifty-chan: Put the sponge down, May Zhee, put the sponge down), what do *I* get?


A small little May Zhee under every sedulous post I make.

Well I don’t care anymore!

No Swifty, Justin or Swifty-chan was hurt in the production of this blog post. However the same cannot be said for Spongebob Squarepants.


Bye people! Swifty said he’ll be back on Feb 9 so my duty as a guest blogger is done. If you miss me, you know where to find me.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Quentin S. Crisp - Rule Dementia!

Quentin S. Crisp is a British writer who ostensibly produces horror or 'weird' fiction, but I don't really care about either of those genres or whether Crisp conforms to them. The reason his writing interests me is because of the personality and worldview underlying it, and the way the language of his fiction conveys them. Crisp has described his own writing as 'demented fiction', but I approached it the same I would any novel, not particularly worrying about the genre.

This is not to suggest Crisp's work isn't often horrific, though, because it is. Mainstream fiction, such as the numerous tedious novels dealing either directly or tangentially with 9/11, admits existential horror and aimlessness only through a kind of trapdoor designed to regulate their impact: things may look bad for a time, but there is always faith, hope, love, the human spirit, conventional middle-class values, etc. to be salvaged at the end. This kind of 'salvaging' goes back as far as something like Conrad, whose Heart of Darkness presented a vision of mindless, insectile oppression but still came down on the side of England and protected innocence. The legacy of this approach can be seen in most current prize-winning novels.

But in Quentin S. Crisp's fiction, much like that of Pierre Guyotat and H.P. Lovecraft, the meaninglessness of the universe is neither a conclusion to be reached nor a straw-man to be attacked; instead it forms the basic kernel of the narrative on which everything else rests. In short, he doesn't discover that the universe is blind and amoral, he begins from there. Through hard experience, his protagonists have come to expect little; they are often nervous, introverted, and subtly wounded. They're frequently nostalgic for a half-remembered past or childhood idyll, but are deeply suspicious and ambivalent about 'normal' human interaction - friendships are often tenuous, romantic and sexual contact is more an ordeal than a pleasure, and family members remain as elusive as the past they seem to represent. If all this sounds too bleak, though, Crisp also displays a sense of humor, although a sense of absurdity would perhaps be a better term for it. The stories in his third book Rule Dementia!, like 'Jellyfish Joe' and 'The Haunted Bicycle', are replete with off-kilter, surreal humor that isn't easy to separate from the more serious content (if such a separation is possible at all).

Crisp's prose style is dense, eloquent, and occasionally florid. He doesn't write the kind of disposable, conversational instant-messager prose style now commonplace; neither does he limit himself to suggestive understatement. There is little dialogue and much reflection; often several pages go by without anyone speaking. This creates a tense, dreamlike atmosphere of consumptive prose: finishing one of these stories (most of them quite long, verging on novellas) feels as much like surfacing from a black pool as it does turning pages. And the stories are often subtly complex in structure, with several containing 'nested' narratives (a literal message-in-a-bottle in 'The Waiting'; journal entries and pamphlets in 'The Tao of Petite Beige'; old letters in 'The Haunted Bicycle'), author introductions, and italic preludes. These devices are less metafiction than they are an evocation of old-style epistolary conceits and formats, present in the earliest of novels and long a staple of horror fiction.

'Jellyfish Joe' opens the collection with the aforementioned humor, concerning a makeshift religion predicated on string vests, bowler hats, and jellyfish. This story is quite different from the rest in the collection, and hints at an almost Monty Python-esque sensibility simmering beneath the surface of Crisp's dark worldview. The eponymous Joe is a kind of fake mystic or charlatan, but his insights into the nature of being and nothingness are conceivably as valid as a more 'serious' religious figure's would be - an insight any Zen fans will be liable to appreciate. This story seems the closest out of any in the collection to suggesting that the absurdity of the universe can be a source of joy and freedom as well as horror. Although I don't know if Crisp has read them or not, this story seems vaguely influenced by Discordianism and R.A. Wilson, or at least sympathetic to them (that's a good thing).

With 'The Haunted Bicycle', Rule Dementia! hits an early peak. This novella is impossible to describe succinctly, due in part to its experimental structure - a kind of picaresque loosely accreting detail - but it most fully demonstrates the range of possibility in Crisp's writing. It begins with an autobiographical introduction, in which Crisp reserves "the right to tell bare-faced lies at any point in this story, in this disclaimer and in life generally, especially to those I owe money." What follows is an account of the narrator's time with his friend Les, as their private jokes about earwigs, mackerel, and ginger-haired women assume the proportions of an absurdist conspiracy. As the narrative progresses in increments, it seems to mirror the process of creating fiction itself, in that random elements and conversations inspire previously unthought-of connections, until a kind of associative mania threatens to contaminate everything. Repeated motifs form their own internal logic and consistency, dreams and reality become indistinguishable, until the whole thing takes on an alternately frightening and laughable urgency, between which Crisp inserts some of his best character development. The conspiracy and the haunted bicycle itself are MacGuffins; the real weight of the story is the incidental scenes of the narrator and Les watching television, drinking tea, and exploring the countryside, two unemployed friends making the best of their time:

Watching Lassie is like going into a coma, falling under a spell of utter and perfect tedium. So we were slack-jawed, occasionally dunking our digestives, until there came the inevitable point in the water torture that passed for a script where Lassie barked at a group of human co-stars and one of them said, 'I think she's trying to tell us something. I think she wants us to follow her.'

Although the gender of the characters is obviously different, 'The Haunted Bicycle' almost reminds me of the film Heavenly Creatures in its depiction of two friends experiencing or giving rise to a private imaginative universe.

The next story, 'Zugzwang', contains shades of Lovecraft's 'The Music of Erich Zann', but soon veers off in its own direction. Proceeding from the fairly conventional setup of a meeting in a bar, the story soon assumes an oppressive atmosphere of suspicion and terror, as the cello-playing, paranoid and possibly schizophrenic protagonist hears secret, inhuman voices emanating from his girlfriend and mother. The atmosphere of hopelessness is difficult to describe, but conveys an almost primal disgust and terror at existence.

'The Tao of Petite Beige' is another highlight, possibly the best story in the collection. This is a classic-style 'weird tale' with a strong narrative and great descriptions. Crisp's prose can occasionally be over-indulgent or excessively, wanderingly introspective, but here it stays on track. It concerns Paul, an English expatriate in Taiwan, who becomes ensnared in both his own dreams and a cult of the goddess Guan Yin. This story is so good it almost feels timeless, easily capable of standing up to the works of Blackwood, Machen, Lovecraft, or Poe. You can almost imagine it being made into a Ringu-style (or The Wicker Man - the original, of course) horror movie as well, and believe it or not, I intend that as a compliment. The pacing is tight, there's plenty of compelling description, and the ending is both fatalistic and completely appropriate. Its themes are varied and interrelated: the danger of depending on fantasy relationships, the perils of exoticizing cultures, the subterranean persistence of folk religions (a very Machen/Blackwood-esque theme), the conflicts of asceticism vs indulgence, etc. Crisp makes the most of the dreamlike imagery, as well as throwing in references to Bettie Page, Thelema, pop art, and more. There's tons of great writing:

And if there is so much power in an obscure phrase such as that, what about a common and time-honoured word like 'girl'? The hard 'g' dangles its legs out of the skirts of the word. The 'ir' in the middle is full of fuzz and bubbles. Then comes the clean, virginal 'l' at the end.

'The Waiting' is another horror story, one that perhaps borrows a motif from some of Thomas Ligotti's 'corporate horror' - it's set in a bank, for one thing. It'd also seem to be the most openly Lovecraftian thing here, what with names like 'Yxthahl' and 'Pnath', but Crisp makes it all his own. The protagonist discovers that his murderous supervisor is capable of leaving the universe at will and travelling to a kind of arcane external universe. As the narrative progresses, the protagonist finds himself able to rely on less and less, to the extent where the past itself, entire individuals and memories are deleted from 'Outside'. The sense of dislocation and hopelessness becomes truly suffocating, mirroring the protagonist's frequent trips into the outer-world of featureless black corridors which seem to extend forever. This story feels like wading through a nightmare, with a sense of palpable suffocation through the worldview it presents: there exists the prospect of hermetic advancement, a kind of parallel to climbing the corporate ladder, but there is no reward or God at the top, just endless, amoral level-building: the metaverse as first-person shooter.

The last story, 'Unimaginable Joys', focuses on a lament for a vanished world of the mind. Difficult to say much about this one without giving it away, but it contains lots of evocative prose and a great ending.

"First, look around you."
She does as instructed.
"What's missing?"
"I don't know. Nothing that I noticed."
"Are you sure?"
"You think this is enough for your needs?"
"This cafe?"
"Well, not just this cafe - the world."
"Well, yes, isn't it enough?"
"No. No, it's not enough. It's not even a start. It's nothing."

You owe it to yourself to go here and buy Rule Dementia!, because you've probably wasted a lot of time reading generic or average books, and this is not one of them. I'll say it again: these stories being 'horror' is the least interesting thing about them. This is not mainstream genre fiction's simplistic good v.s. evil, vampires and werewolves horror, neither is it the sloppily written, gore-filled other end of the spectrum. Crisp's writing is more about atmosphere, mindset, and emotion than it is about monsters or plot mechanics. Quentin S. Crisp will undoubtedly become huge before long, so check him out before that happens.

Incidentally, I'm essentially retiring from book reviews here - I'll probably keep up with the music updates, but I just don't have the time anymore to go into depth about written works. This is because I will soon be returning to Japan for a year or so, to study and teach. Traditional sights like temples and shrines will be ignored. Video games, anime, and idol music will also be ignored. The only thing that will not be ignored is gyaru.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I Just Saw The Dalai Lama At Bodh Gaya!!!!!!

Hello from Bodh Gaya, the place where Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment!

Been here for three nights, will be staying for another night before heading off tomorrow.

And guess what? I saw the Dalai Lama!

Okay, more like, I caught a glimpse of him.

He was in a car, waving to everyone, and the car sped past us.

Couldn't really get a clear video of him.

I do have a video of the car he was in though. Will upload it sometime.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

The power of Swifty's blog is in my hands

I can either use this clout for things like pornography and rankling but I choose not to. For I must not put Swifty’s life in jeopardy. Not until I kill him with my own two hands for stuffing me into a suitcase.

This is an e-mail I received from Yvonne Foong. (Swifty can kill me later for advertising without his knowledge)