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River of Exploding Durians - Trailer 【榴梿忘返】 预告片

《榴槤忘返》主要讲述一群中六生面对即将袭来的稀土厂一阵慌乱,人生产生了变化之余,在反对稀土厂的过程中,这群学生产生革命情感和一些单纯的爱慕情怀。A coastal town is turned upside down by the construction of a radioactive rare earth plant. An idealistic teacher and a group of high school students find themselves battling for the soul of their hometown. Based on real-life events, River of Exploding Durians is a sweeping tale of Malaysian history and its youth, where people are enveloped by politics and sadness while searching for love. #riverofexplodingduriansStarring: Zhu Zhi-Ying 朱芷瑩, Koe Shern 高圣, Daphne Low, Joey 梁祖仪Written, directed and edited by Edmund YeoProduced by Woo Ming Jin and Edmund Yeo Executive producer: Eric YeoDirector of Photography: Kong PahurakProduction designer: Edward Yu Chee BoonMake-up and wardrobe: Kay WongSound: Minimal Yossy PrapapanMusic: Woan Foong Wong

Posted by River of Exploding Durians 榴莲忘返 on Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monday, March 16, 2009

WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER shoot begins, tentative Chinese title

Well, today's my dad's birthday, so happy birthday, dad. Too bad he's KO'd by a bad case of flu and had been sleeping the whole time in his room.

I'm heading off to Kuala Selangor in a few hours for the WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKING FOR WATER shoot. The shoot will begin tomorrow, and will last until the 30th. However, there will be 2-3 days of break, so I'm looking at a 10 to 11-day shoot instead of a non-stop 14-day one. I'm quite excited, but I feel a little regretful that I have to, once again, miss ANOTHER local screening of CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY (well, if they're still screening it despite my absence) I'm not THAT elusive, but it's just unfortunate that all these tend to happen while I'm not in Malaysia, or when I have something else to deal with, like this film.

I've posted on Twitter and Facebook asking for help with translating the film title, WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKING FOR WATER, into Chinese... because it is, after all, a Chinese-language film. Most friends translated it literally and I got some really amusing titles, like:

欲女止渴记 (sounds like a Hong Kong Category 3 film)
火烧女郎寻觅水 (totally literal translation, funny)
火女求水记 (also a cute and literal translation)
猛女灭火 (feels like another Hong Kong exploitative film, like Chicks in prison or something)

So, ah, noticing that most Chinese film titles aren't literal translation of the English titles, I eventually settled for something simpler and more relevant to the story. So the film's Chinese title, for now will be called 遗情.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The pain of replacing an actor

An excerpt from the journal I wrote in 2006 during the making of GIRL DISCONNECTED, my student short film.

Few days before shooting commenced, we were horrified to know that Mr. C, the intended actor for Wiler, was actually moving to England FOR GOOD on October instead of for just a vacation as we initially thought.

This left us with only two weeks to complete the entire shoot AND post-production just before C could leave. Since there were schedule clashes, and location difficulties, and also because of the ambitious scope of the project, it was impossible. The most logical solution to this, suggested by Brian the Cinematographer, was to recast the role.

C had displayed a lot of enthusiasm for the project that I thought would have been conducive for the film. I wanted an actor who could put in some emotional investment into his role (as opposed to viewing it as merely a 'job' or an 'exercise' to put in their showreels), someone who could internalize.

However, the rehearsal sessions, which he had attended without fail, and worked with very diligently, allowed me to know his working style more, and I had a growing worry that C's total confidence towards his own acting skills and himself might be a little disruptive towards the team chemistry. He was constantly repeating the acting theories he had learnt from acting classes and workshops to other cast members, which was helpful to some, patronizing to some. I noted some uneasiness in the other cast members' faces. I felt a little uncomfortable as well.

He wouldn't be an easy person to work with. In addition to focusing on the acting aspects and the characterization (which I had appreciated, I didn't mind having an actor going into an in-depth discussion with me about the character he or she is playing, I welcome it, even), he began to show concern towards other aspects of the production. Making an effort to call me almost everyday just to give me suggestions on how a scene would be directed, or telling me to tell Brian the Cinematographer how a scene should be shot (C had some interest in cinematography).

It also had to do with my own ego. I started feeling uncomfortable when he constantly compared our film to the previous productions he was involved in (C liked telling me how things were done by the production team of 'Qipao', a 3rd year production he was involved in the year before, a role that got him an award nomination at Murdoch University's awards night that year). C's suggestions and ideas of cinematography weren't entirely disregarded, I made an attempt to evaluate them, but didn't think that they fitted what I wanted to do.

I had always attempted to be civil and attempt to forge a friendly and jovial working relationship with C (something I did with every single other cast member) regardless of my personal doubts, hoping that this would serve well as a motivation for him to excel in his performance. (My personal belief was that if they feel special enough about their role in my production, which I also worked hard to make them believe was something special, they would be more motivated to give a good performance) Although this may have worked with most, I wondered sometimes whether my actions were misinterpreted by C as deference.

I had to make a phone call to C (the day before a supposed shoot with him), telling him the bad news, that it was impossible for any of us, both the cast and the crew, to wrap up the shoot AND complete post-production in 2-3 weeks. We had to replace him with another actor, even though we felt bad about it. C, understandably, was furious with our decision, saying that after so much he had given up for the film (insisting that he did some of his own location hunting for the film too), it was preposterous for us to do this to him. I said that the only thing I could do was to let him do the voice for 'Jaric', the supercomputer whom Maya had been chasing after in the film.

“No. I only do Wiler.” C challenged.

Angry words were exchanged, with him declaring that if he had compromised so much for the film, everyone else should have done the same for him.

I wasn't happy. "Do you think that I'm so stupid that I'm incapable of appreciating a person's dedication to the film? And that I did all these in purpose?".

While it was inadvisable for me to lose my temper as well, snapping at him like that (I remember my lines were more profanity-laced). I felt that this may be necessary to stand my ground. Not that it helped.

C refused to relent, demanding to go to the shoot on the next day.

After the phone exchange with C, I told Brian and Yun Chin our predicament, that we may have to cancel the shoot to speak to him, to convince him of our position.

The entire crew arrived at the shooting location early. Brian the Cinematographer, Yun Chin the Producer/ Assistant Director/ Boom Operator and I, along with Crystal, friend of mine and Yun Chin's, who was supposed to be there that day to help out with the make-up. We waited for him and Sarah (actress of Maya) to arrive, so we could discuss this matter properly in person.

C came, apologetic for the night before, shaking hands with me, attempting to discuss this situation with us all as calmly as possible. We made it clear to him that we had exhausted all possibilities that we could come up with if we had to work with him. The risk was too high, we couldn't do any re-shoots, or have him around during postproduction, not all cast members were free on September, everyone had different commitments (Sarah having her own mid-semester tests).

C was hurt. He asked whether we were doubting his skills (we said no). Why not use two cameras so that shooting sessions could be accelerated (Brian reminded him that there is only ONE camera operator for the production... Brian himself), why Sarah cannot just bring her own books over to study during a shoot (I said I didn't want my production to be blamed for affecting someone's academic grades, especially when they were helping me for free)

I felt guilty that I had to do this to C, I promised him that his name would remain in the credits (either under special thanks, or casting coach, in recognition to the 'acting tips' he had so kindly dispensed to the other cast members).

C then said he would make his sacrifice for the 'good of the production', even though he 'knew clearly well that it would be impossible for me to find a better actor in Perth to do the Wiler role'. And that merely having his name in the credits wouldn't be enough, he wanted the script to be rewritten so that he could be either the narrator of the film (“I have a good voice!” C said. I frowned), or a Greek chorus of sorts ("just let me appear in those important scenes, I don't need any lines, I'll just sit there and look mysterious, a little like Giovanni Ribisi in The Virgin Suicides” C said. I frowned).

"I'll think about it." I said.

I never did.

"Why do you think C had acted this way?" Mel (my lecturer) had asked me during a meeting a week or two later. C's early dedication and enthusiasm to the project should never be questioned. I knew he would have given his all for the film, even if he would've been a very difficult person to work with, not only with the crew (Yun Chin had complained that C had been less than polite every time she called him to inform something about the production, making it clear that he was interested only in hearing from me than from her, Yun Chin found difficult to bear). One can say that he tried too hard to gain the favour of the director in most productions he was in (an observation made by a friend of Brian's, who was the crew member of a production C was in), thus making any disappointment too much to swallow. Hence being removed from the production became something personal instead of something entirely professional.

Picking C was, in truth, solely my mistake, and my fault. Instead of truly choosing him based on his merits, I picked him as a foolish attempt to 'challenge myself'. I thought that by casting an actor against-type, and drawing a good performance from him, it could be a testament of my own glorious directing skills. Even though he didn't 'look right' for the role, an observation made by the crew, I thought this could have been rectified by asking Brian to think of something that could make Chau look 'more sympathetic' through the camera lens and lighting. Or that my own creativity in directing his acting would yield some interesting results. I disregarded Yun Chin's early objections towards his casting (she wasn't impressed with his audition), and for that, I paid dearly.

Recent incidents in the past two days made me dig out my long-ago filmmaking memoirs of my student film (more on that incident later).

Looking at it again, I am bemused by how defensive I was when it came to justifying my actions. It's almost as if I had resorted to character assassination to make what I did more acceptable.

It's also highly ridiculous that I deemed 3 weeks too short for the making of a short film. Especially when my subsequent works were shot in a matter of days (CHICKEN RICE MYSTERY needed 2.5 days, LOVE SUICIDES needed 1.5 days, KINGYO took only 4 days). But then, student productions were different. I was less experienced then, much less efficient.

Regardless of what sort of person C was, being cut out of a production just before principal photography, and especially after having gone through so many strenuous rehearsing sessions, is a cruel thing to do. After getting yourself mentally and physically prepared for the production, after possibly taking leave from your day job, and after people who know you knew that you had a leading role in a production, how is it possible for you to handle this calmly?

Back in secondary school, when I was president of this English Club, I tried to push for a comedic sketch for some school event. I can't remember it clearly but it was a riff on DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE. The skit was originally a duet play that two friends of mine did for an inter-school competition, but it was modified so I could join in the fun, instead of having one guy play both DR JEKYLL and MR HYDE, I would play MR HYDE instead. So we went through a rehearsal or two, went for auditions, got a slot for the performance, and then, just a night before performance, the teacher-advisor of my club called and asked me NOT to do it because it was meant to be a DUET. After being so excited, and after preparing myself so much for the role, I ended up getting shafted by the teacher advisor of a school club I presided over... for a performancce supposed to be put up by my school club. A memorable way to end my year in secondary school.

In retrospect, I probably brought the whole performance down, I probably overacted the crap out of things, I was probably a lousy actor. But the me of the past never really had the chance to mull over all these possibilities, I was merely shellshocked and disgusted by the phone call.

(And I'm still writing about it in my blog even though 8 years have passed since the incident, whoa...)

Something similar happened with WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKING FOR WATER in the past few days. Less than a week before we begin the shoot, after three rehearsing sessions, we came to the unfortunate conclusion that we had to replace our actor. The chemistry, the dynamics he had with the co-stars just weren't right, despite how hard he tried. To recast his role was a cruel thing to do, but necessary.

While seeking his replacement at such short notice was tough, breaking the bad news to him was even tougher. Ming Jin and I, along with Gan the Production Manager, met him at a nearby restaurant for dinner.

As we waited for his arrival, I mentioned to Ming Jin about the whole incident with C nearly three years ago. How ugly things ended then, because I didn't have the maturity nor the experience to settle things amiably. C had all the rights to be ugly, just like how Stuart Townsend was pissed about being replaced by Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn just before LORD OF THE RINGS started shooting.

This was his quote:

I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began. After that I was told they wouldn't pay me because I was in breach of contract due to not having worked long enough. I had been having a rough time with them, so I was almost relieved to be leaving until they told me I wouldn't be paid. I have no good feelings for those people in charge, I really don't. The director wanted me and then apparently thought better of it because he really wanted someone 20 years older than me and completely different.

All right, it was messier with Stuart because they wouldn't even pay him.

When our original actor arrived, and when we told him the news, he accepted it gracefully and calmly despite the disappointment on his face. Ming Jin apologized, but he said he understood. He asked whether he wasn't good enough for the role. Or whether he looked wrong, and I just came out with another one of those weird analogies of my own.

"There's nothing wrong, but acting is like a ballgame between two sides. Your co-stars are great badminton players, while you're a great tennis player. No matter how good all of you are at your own individual skills, you are all still playing different games, and there's still something wrong, especially when this is a badminton tournament." I said.

But the guy was a true gentleman, we had dinner, we chatted, we laughed, and he then went off to catch Jack Neo's new film. Ming Jin apologized again, he shrugged it off and wished us luck with the shoot.

Gan later told us that when both of them went off for a smoke (while Ming Jin and I ordered more drinks), he had wept.

That's what filmmaking is like. Not everything is beautiful, not every step is a step towards eternal glory on the annals of film history, towards cinematic immortality, towards box-office success, towards the embrace of film festivals, towards awards, towards the love of audiences. Some steps that are taken can be ugly, resulting in the shattering of hearts, the shedding of tears, the crushing of dreams, all for the sake of wanting to make the one right film in mind.

I can only hope that this will be a great film.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Swifty Reviews '20th Century Boys: Chapter 2 - The Last Hope 20世紀少年<第2章> 最後の希望'

20th Century Boys: Chapter 2 - The Last Hope film poster

I made sure I was able to catch a film in Tokyo when I went back, and I ended up seeing 20TH CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER 2 - THE LAST HOPE, the second film of the planned trilogy directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi. I saw the first film last September, which I rather enjoyed despite its flaws (read my review).

Set 15 years after the events in the first film, the protagonist of this film is the now-adult Kanna, played by Taira Airi, whose hairstyle in the film made me gape in awe.

Kanna, played by Taira Airi 平愛梨

I had wondered whether she was wearing a wig, or the hair stylists really spent hours styling her hair. Of course, aside from her hair, and her good looks, Taira Airi is quite decent as an actress, even though she spends most of the film angry, angsty and morose, all because of her missing uncle Kenji (Toshiaki Karasawa). She gave a solid performance, and I don't think she's acted off the screen by her much more-established and experienced co-stars. I'm actually quite surprised, considering the fact that she's relatively a newcomer. Jason Gray had predicted the birth of a star
, I might actually agree. (It's just a pity that she doesn't seem to be given much to do in the script)

Taira Airi 平愛梨

The first film spent more time dwelling into the past, of Kenji and his gang of childhood friends. This film is more on a dystopic future where the all-powerful Tomodachi had became Japan's ruler and global hero after thwarting the evil terrorists (Kenji and gang), and the entire country has turned cult-like in their constant worshipping of Tomodachi. It's quite an interesting setting. Some questions from the previous film have been answered here, but more questions are raised as well.

This film, without the need of setting the stage and introducing the characters, moves in a brisker pace. The last third of the film is quite compelling, even though there's no major setpiece of mass destruction like the giant robots in the previous film. In many ways, the adaptation of the manga is quite ambitious, reminds me of the WATCHMEN adaptation. I thought it's appropriate that three films are made to adapt the whole series, instead of trying to cram everything into one film (pretty impossible). However, the problem I have with 20TH CENTURY BOYS: CHAPTER 2, is the same as what what I felt about the WATCHMEN film.

Having not read the original manga, I have no idea how faithful an adaptation this is, but I can definitely say that the weaker parts of the film are where the filmmakers try to be faithful to the source material (the script is, after all, written by the original manga author Naoki Urasawa). The tone of the film is a mixture of realism and cartoonish, realism in a sense that it's meant to be a satire of pop culture, cult worship etc. in a world similar to our own, but cartoonishly stylized because of the devotion to the text, so in the end, most characters seem to act more like manga archetype characters than real humans. The comic reliefs become much too over-the-top, the angsty characters are much too broody, when subtlety is conjured only by actors and not because of the script, it's hard to feel emotionally invested. An attempt to create a dystopic world similar to our own lacks emotional impact because of the glossiness.

This comes from a guy who grew up watching anime and J-dorama, reading manga, playing Japanese video games etc. But the actions displayed by the characters like Kanna's classmate (Haruka Kinami) or the young detective (Naohito Fujiki) are unnecessarily annoying! The characters in the DEATH NOTE live-action films almost seem realistic in comparison! Once again, I don't think the quality of a film should be judged by how faithful it is to the source material, when things that work on manga don't necessarily work well on film.

Even so, I'm still going to look forward to the next film.

Here's the trailer.

You can also check out Mark Schilling's film review on Japan Times.

Swifty Reviews 'Watchmen'

Watchmen movie poster

To the woman sitting behind me with her kid when I saw WATCHMEN two days ago:

Normally, I don't give a crap about the Malaysian rating system. Films that are rated 18 and above in Malaysia are mostly heavily-butchered, and tamer than most films that are rated PG in other countries. So I'm unsurprised that you overlooked the fact that this film is rated 18-PL (for overseas audience, this rating is reserved for films contain more than one element, either violence, sex or political/ religious content) and brought your kid along to see the film with you.

I have nothing against that, considering that ever since I was a child, I had always gone to the cinema with my dad. It was almost a weekly thing. Hell, I was actually with my dad when I was seeing WATCHMEN too.

However, I started feeling a little worried when your kid started making some loud noises during the Transformers 2 teaser, screaming "THAT'S DECEPTICON!! YAAAAAARRRR!". Fine, I'm kinda excited too, despite the lack of Megan Fox shots, and of course, being a mere child, I can understand that he cannot contain his excitement like I did.

But then, having read the original WATCHMEN graphic novel by Alan Moore two years ago, I knew silently, even before the film started, that you may have brought your child to the wrong film. Blame it on the film's local campaign, and the posters, and also the proud declaration that WATCHMEN is directed by the 'visionary director of 300, Zack Snyder', so you probably fell for it and thought that WATCHMEN is probably some non-stop, intellectually bankrupt non-stop action film like its Spartan predecessor.

Even though some scenes were censored in the cinemas, like Dr Manhattan's blue penis getting blurred off, or most of the nudity and sex scenes getting cut off, our dear censorship board remains much more liberal with gruesome violence, so most of the violent scenes were retained, and the burst of violence that punctuated the film MIGHT have satiated your kid's bloodlust, inappropriate it may seem for a kid to see this film. But then, it's just my opinion, you are his parent, not I.

I'm fine if you allow your kid to be exposed to all these hardcore violence in the film that wasn't really in the graphic novel, it's cool to have an open mind. I'm sure the trademark slow-mo/fast-mo action scenes that Zack Snyder tossed into the film to entertain the masses were the only parts that your child enjoyed.

But how could the kid had understood the bloody (somewhat) complex plot? The fragmented storytelling method employed in the film to flesh out the back story of each main character? Your kid had remained loud as usual throughout the film, asking questions like "Eh? Is that the Comedian? Why is he appearing again? I thought he's dead! Oh, that's the Comedian too! Is that another Comedian? Wow, that's the Comedian!"

Now, because he's a kid, I can stomach the fact that he didn't know that he was seeing multiple flashbacks of the Comedian (played wonderfully by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who does look like Robert Downey Jr.), that he couldn't understand that these were methods to show the complexity of this character, a seemingly heartless monster who had grown disillusioned with the dystopic alternative world depicted in the film (Snyder chose to remain faithful to the graphic novel and set the film in an alternative 1985 where Nixon is serving his fourth term as president and the Cold War is still looming, older versions of the screenplay were set in the present, where they had the War On Terror instead of the Cold War, but I won't even dwell into these details because, screw it, wherever it's set in is lost to your kid), capable of so much evil, yet unexpectedly human... an apt representation of humanity's ugliness and unexpected vulnerability)

I'm fine with him asking so many questions, I used to do that too when I was a child and my mind was less developed. But I cannot stand it when your child was asking so loudly and you choosing to answer him incoherently without even lowering your voice. I was befuddled, annoyed, frustrated, and trying very hard to remain courteous and not ask you and your kid to lower your voices. If I want commentary, I'll wait for a DVD so I can have a bloody director's commentary. But in truth, I'm not a huge fan of director's commentary, when I don't even like that, do you think I really enjoyed hearing you and the kid's commentary?

The 2 hour 45 minute is NOT a non-stop action film, you probably discovered that too late, along with your child. You may have been taken in by the drama, but your kid wasn't, and he was sighing and groaning and moaning really loudly. The kid showed no restraint. He was kicking my seat, he was putting his stupid legs on the seat beside me, and despite turning around repeatedly to stare at him, he seemed too thick to understand my baleful look. But can't you just keep an eye on your kid if you knew that he's such a hyperactive little monster? Can't you at least make an effort to minimize the damage the kid was causing?

The film had its flaws, the pacing was a little off, and perhaps the Snyder-style glossiness didn't really work most of the time. But I had enjoyed most of the damned film, when there were some really transcendental moments. Like the stylish opening title montage set to Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" (a pleasant surprise for my dad), where the alternative history of United States and the costumed superheroes are shown in a series of nicely composed static shots.

WATCHMEN's much-heralded opening sequence

Or Dr Manhattan's origins, a series of flashbacks that, to me, were some of the most surprisingly poetic and affective moments of the film. (Since I had loved the same scene in the graphic novel, I had looked forward to how it would be translated to big screen, I wasn't disappointed at all)

I am, after all, a filmmaker too, so there are times when I would try to study a film closely, absorbing the technique, understanding the craft, drawing it for inspiration, and the two wonderful moments of the film had left me quite dazzled, and I was more than a little thankful that the child had been silent then.

The performances aren't uniformly great, like most, I think Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre 2) and Matthew Goode (Ozymandias) were quite underwhelming, but based on the reactions from the audiences, I think they were just as taken in as I was by Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Rorschach. Such an iconic character, and so brilliantly performed! I like his monologues, and I thought the Rorschach voice he did is much better than the Batman voice Christian Bale did in The Dark Knight. And he made the most of the moments he got unmasked. I think it's a towering performance that can be mentioned in the same breath as Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker, or Robert Downey Jr's as Tony Stark. Performances like his, along with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's, and Billy Crudup's (Dr Manhattan) are what elevated the film.

Unfortunately, just as I was appreciating these aspects of the film, your child continued making a nuisance out of himself, and your phone actually rang. It RANG! Gosh, did you NOT read the numerous warnings of turning your phone to silent mode before the film started? I mean, do you choose to deliberately ignore that so that you can annoy the crap out of me when your phone suddenly rang while I was trying to enjoy the film?

It was probably just an honest mistake, but it was hard for me to remain calm when you yourself could not set a good example for your child, talking almost just as loudly as he did, making oh-so-obvious observations for him ("OHHHH! So The Comedian is the father of _________!") As if the boy gave a crap, I'm sure his attention had wavered after The Comedian got tossed out of the window, sheesh.

It is a little unfair of me to single you out for this, since there were a couple of other audience members who did stupid crap that annoyed me then, you know, like stupidly writing text messages on their shiny mobile phones? Is being considerate a foreign concept for local cinemagoers?

But because both of you sat right behind me, I was most bothered by your kid's appallingly monstrous actions. What a way to pull a Rorschach, 'no compromise even in the face of Armageddon'. You would continue letting him terrorize other cinemagoers? Can't you just educate him and tell him that it is basic courtesy to, you know, be as quiet and less distracting as possible in cinemas so that a poor guy like me can just concentrate on watching the film?

The more annoyed I was with your child, the more apparent the flaws of the film were to me. Like the aforementioned problems with pacing, and the less-than-stellar performances from some cast members. I normally don't try to compare a film to its source material, preferring to appreciate it for what it is. Zack Snyder's flair with visuals is all right in reproducing many moments of the graphic novel, but I did get a little worn out by his trademark slow-mo/ fast-mo action scenes, and I had wondered whether remaining so faithful to the text was detrimental to the film. Some of the best adaptations I know are those where numerous creative liberties were taken, in order to maximize the potential of film as medium, like, say, THE DARK KNIGHT, or LORD OF THE RINGS, or BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, or, ah, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. These films work not because they are slavishly devoted to the text, but because filmmakers opt to explore and experiment with the films, expanding upon certain things that were barely mentioned in the literary source, and cutting away those that won't work as well in a visual medium.

It's great that Zack Snyder didn't create something disastrous when adapting such a difficult source material. It's a commendable effort. This is probably the best adaptation of an Alan Moore work, I think Snyder had made a good enough film, it's just that for me, because he was so faithful to most parts of the graphic novel, anything he tried to change stuck out like a sore thumb. And even if I disregard the existence of the graphic novel, the film, as visually stunning as it is, is quite hollow to me.

(As for you, the woman who sat behind me with your annoying child. When the credits ended, I chose to remain seated so you could make a graceful exit without me having to confront you. It's not that I'm non-confrontational, just that I find it better to preserve this for my film review.)

That's all I have to say.

What do you guys think about the film?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I've returned to Malaysia last night. The postproduction of my Japanese film, KINGYO, has to be postponed until April.

The main reason why I'm in Malaysia right now is because I'm producing Ming Jin's new feature film, WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER (good title huh?). This is his official feature film since THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA (KURUS and CINTA TIGA SEGI were TV movies).

This film is one of the six recipients of coin from the 'Independent Feature Film Incubating Fund' section in last year's Pusan International Film Festival Asia's Cinema Fund.

We are shooting at Kuala Selangor again, it's the same place where THE ELEPHANT AND THE SEA and my own short film, LOVE SUICIDES, were shot. I just went to do some location scouting with Ming Jin this afternoon.

The place is always fascinating, and exotic even to a local like me.

Lots of greenery

There's even some abandoned boat lying in the middle of the forest.

Abandoned boat

Ming Jin's standing by the river where many scenes of the film will be shot.

Ming Jin by the river

The river

I like this location too. We might shoot here.


Seaside 1

I saw some mudcrawlers too, somewhere near a restaurant by the sea.

Mud crawler

There was also a poor dead fish. :(

Dead fish

For me, the coolest thing I saw today was a Chinese Opera performance. Ming Jin and I were excited to see a group of elderly actors preparing on this stage beside a temple, so I went over to check them out. I spoke to a woman who is supposed to be the lead actress. Due to some miscommunication, I thought they have performances like this everyday, Ming Jin and I were excited, he was already planning to incorporate their performance into the film, I was already pondering the possibilities of shooting a short film that revolves around them.

But I would later find out that what she meant was that the theater troupe will be performing everyday FOR THE NEXT FOUR DAYS, because of some Taoist (I assume) festival. They are performing twice a day, 2pm and 8pm, each performance lasting for two hours. We were disappointed.

But we sat and watched the opera for a while, actually, there really weren't any audiences around. They have already started performing despite the fact that there weren't anyone around before Ming Jin and I arrived. However, there were a few people resting on hammocks underneath the stage. Occasionally, some bikers would pass by, and stop for a while to watch. Like the woman in blue below.

Chinese opera

I'll be conducting rehearsal sessions tomorrow. Funnily, we didn't really confirm our lead actor until dinner just now.

The film will be interesting, and I will be updating you folks about this for the next few weeks, hopefully.

I'm not going to reveal the cast yet. There will be some newcomers, and there will also be some well-known veteran actors who were on lots of local TV series in the past, one we coaxed out of semi-retirement. I'm excited.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Production stills from my Japanese film, KINGYO

I've spent the last two days editing my Japanese film, Kingyo, which I finished shooting end of January a day before flying back to Malaysia for Chinese New Year, I have posted some stills from the dailies few weeks ago ('dailies' is the term used to describe raw, unedited film footage, it's known as 'rushes' in UK and Aus, I normally call it 'rushes' too). I only have two more nights left in Tokyo, so am trying to do as much as possible. It took me a while to familiarize myself with Final Cut Pro, and also the Mac, since all these while, everything I've done have been edited on Adobe Premiere Pro. Thankfully, it didn't really take that long for me to get used to things.

Progress is smooth, although I'm unlikely to finish anything until I return to Tokyo again in April. For the time being, I'll just share some production stills taken by Chou-san (he's from China, the surname 张 'Zhang' is read as Chou in Japan, which is what everyone calls him). My last post only had a single picture of my lead actress, Rukino Fukisaki ("Hellevator: Bottled Fools"), so I'll put some here.

[kingyo] "Life is so complicated!"
"Life is complicated!" A conversation at an empty carpark.

[kingyo] A nocturnal conversation at the carpark
More conversation at the same empty carpark

[Kingyo] Setting up the scene on the bridge
Setting up the scene on the bridge that overlooks the Akihabara night view

[kingyo] Standing on the bridge of Akihabara

[kingyo] She is brooding
A brooding scene at Inokashira Park

[kingyo] Winter Sonata wannabe
Unintentional WINTER SONATA wannabe shot that thankfully will not be in my actual film

[kingyo] Me rehearsing the two leads
Me watching the two leads rehearse a scene before shoot

[kingyo] Shooting a scene at Inokashira Park
Setting up a scene at Inokashira Park

An odd, unexpected dream

On the first night I returned to Tokyo, I dreamed of someone I never thought I would dream of again. The last time I dreamed of her was two years ago, which I had chronicled in painstaking detail to my friend Sebastian during a melancholic rant in Valentine's Day 2008.

In my dream, she and I were both in some sort of a bare living room adorned with illogically minimalistic decoration and furnitures, bathed in ethereal white glow. Even though it had been nearly three years since I've last seen her, when she had seemingly vanished from my life with inevitable finality, and I myself never making any effort to find out where she was, meeting the dream-her again made me joyous, a joy mirrored by the smile on her face that I have seldom seen on the face of her real-life counterpart.

Together we spoke, about many things, all kinds of things, but none of them I can really remember. Perhaps we spoke about nothing, yet because we were merely speaking, nothing felt like many things, or everything, or anything. Her voice from my memories used to sound like a lilting whisper, yet the voice of the dream-her was boisterous and snappy.

All of a sudden I told her about a film project I had been preparing for, I described about it in detail, and she listened attentively, more than she ever had in our real-life interactions.

The next exchange were the only lines I remember clearly from this damnably surrealistic dream.

"Are you shooting your film on HD? I did with mine, and when I applied for this grant, I was given a hundred thousand dollars, and then I kept most of the money for myself, spending just a few hundred for the film." She said with a mischievous smile on her face unlike anything I've ever seen from her real-life counterpart.

"Damn girl, you're a genius, no wonder I had loved you for more than two years." I said, I fixed my gaze upon her, wanting to get a clear look of her face, hoping to preserve another fleeting moment of her. As if I knew that I was in a dream.

Everything was clearly a dream. She had the face of the person buried deep within my memories, but not the distinctive birthmark on the left side of her chin. The dream-her was a more cheerful and feisty version of the real her, who was never cheerful nor feisty at all. The real her was a phlegmatic soul, and she was never a filmmaker like the dream-her.

In response to my remark, her laughter rang in the air, and even though she then asked me to shut up, a tiny flower had started growing within the inhospitable barren wasteland that was my heart.

Then I woke up to the sounds of raindrops outside my room on a Thursday morning.
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