Friday, May 25, 2007

Singapore Dreams

Welcome to Singapore! says Capt Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat) in The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

In this third part in the Pirates trilogy, Chow Yun Fat plays a Chinese buccaneer whose base is a fishing village once known as Temasek.

And that is just the beginning.

Felix Cheong writes about the Singaporean invasion of Hollywood cinema and says that the trend is picking up (a pleasant coincidence for the country's tourism department?):

This is the third year running that the island republic figures in a blockbuster.

In 2005's Batman Begins, Singapore is mentioned as the last port of call for an illegal shipment bound for Gotham City.

In King Kong, released in November that year, a steamer carrying the main characters headed for Singapore ends up on Skull Island, where the king of apes awaits.

And of course, last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest refers to Singapore as a prelude to At World's End.

Suddenly, this little red dot is red-hot.

No wonder the STB has rolled out a marketing blitz in nine countries in conjunction with Buena Vista International, the distributor of At World's End.

The hook: 60 winners will be picked for an all-expenses-paid, four-day trip here.

Of course, the Singapore as depicted in At World's End is a Hollywood construct. To be exact, a kampung built on a huge soundstage in Los Angeles with 22 thatched houses over a pool of murky water.

Meanwhile, Singapore is also making a little ripple at this year's Cannes Film Festival with its movies.

The Hollywood Reporter notes:

Singapore has an unprecedented profile on the Croisette this year, with three films selected for the Festival de Cannes across various categories, including an official competition slot in the short film line-up.

Singapore-based Thai Director Ekachai Uekrongtham's "Pleasure Factory," (pic above) which was selected for a slot in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, stars Golden Horse Best Actress Yang Kuei-Mei in a story about pleasure seekers and providers in Singapore's red light district of Geylang.

Anthony Chen's short film "Ah Ma" ("Grandma"), a 14-minute film inspired by the death of Chen's grandmother, will screen in the short film official competition (Les Courts Metrages en Competition). This the first Singapore film ever to screen in the short film competition.

And Pok Yue Weng's "SuperDONG," a four-minute animated short, will screen as part of the Directors Fortnight. "SuperDONG," which Pok describes as "gritty but within the limits of Singapore censorship," looks at what happens when toilet-graffiti comes off the wall and develops a life of its own.

However, Variety does not seem to be much pleased with Singapore-Netherlands co-production, Pleasure Factory:

Neither sexual nor audience satisfaction is guaranteed in "Pleasure Factory" a shoddy Singapore-set HD product masquerading as a meller-cum-social expose. Follow-up to "Beautiful Boxer" by the island state's Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham, pic takes a peek at Singapore's seedy prostitution scene. Making Herman Yau's recent dreadful Hong Kong film on a similar subject, "Whispers and Moans" looks like a narrative masterpiece by comparison, this pic borders on the inept. Clout of distrib Fortissimo will see this effort arrive at fest assembly line but export elsewhere is unlikely. Homoerotic elements will make domestic release nearly impossible.

Multiple sparse, barely sketched anecdotes set in and around the alleyways of Singapore's Geyland red-light district reveal that prostitution is not as glamorous as it might seem. Thesps, looking amateurish and stranded with nothing and no one to guide them, give tentative perfs. Clumsy helming suggests Uekrongtham has yet to transcend his legit origins. Some docu inserts are superfluous. HD lensing is grainy and poorly lit. Camerawork is as erratically indecisive as the characters it is shooting. Like many Asian indie HD efforts, sound is generally of poor quality and is frequently mismatched within scenes.

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