Tribeca 2019 Review: On Longing, Reconciliation, and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’

In her short film This Perfect Day (2019), Australian-Chinese Director Lydia Rui paints an intimate, and quietly moving portrait of isolation, longing and reconciliation. We begin with a young adult, Jules, (Michelle Keating) who nervously braces themselves in a car before entering a music store, while their girlfriend (Hannah Koch) assures them that there is a reason why they are here today. They enter the music store and look around anxiously, as if suggesting to the audience that a robbery is about to happen. However, what happens next is a profoundly empathetic study on the desire to reunite with the ones we love, even when there is so much that can no longer be salvaged. Continue reading “Tribeca 2019 Review: On Longing, Reconciliation, and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’”

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‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy

This is a largely spoiler free review.

Nothing about Santa Clarita Diet is supposed to work out logically on television. It is absolutely ludicrous, absurd, and simply downright unbelievable. A woman turns into a cannibal and is worshipped as the messenger of God. Organs grow their own legs and murder people. Somewhere along the way in this season, we have ancient knights fitting in perfectly in a white, suburban, and soccer-mom-dominated neighbourhood. We have characters questioning the point of existence, as if that even matters when cannibals are accepted as the de facto state of affairs in the show. However, not only does Santa Clarita Diet manage to find a coherent logic amidst the chaos, it also shows us that the comedic medium does not need to thrive on bigotry in order to question what it means to live in a world so horribly broken. Continue reading “‘Santa Clarita Diet’ Season Three Perfects The Genre of Comedy”

What ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ Teaches Us About Ethics and Faith

Content Warning: Mentions of trauma, bombings, violence, and death.

Marguerite Duras’ and Alain Renais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) has been most famously celebrated as one of the pioneering films of French New Wave. Two strangers meet wholly by chance, and spend the next twenty-four hours ruminating on the poetics of loss, suffering and memory. Of course, the title itself alludes to the bombing of Hiroshima, which immediately situates the film within the challenging politics of re-presentation. Can we ever do justice to the atrocities of war? Is it crude to talk about Hiroshima through a lover’s discourse? How to talk about Hiroshima? How can we not talk about Hiroshima?

Continue reading “What ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ Teaches Us About Ethics and Faith”

The Triumph of Morally Ambiguous Women in ‘Line of Duty’

Why Do We Hate Morally Ambiguous Women On TV?
The portrayal of morally ambiguous women in television and film has never been particularly well-received by critics and audiences alike. Often, such a portrayal of women evinces misogynistic criticism, without much consideration for actually analysing characterisation, plot or themes. This special consideration seems to be solely reserved for the criticism of morally ambiguous male characters, who are afforded the luxury of being analysed as complex. In contrast, the criticism of morally ambiguous women eschews analysing the technicalities of characterisation altogether. Instead, this criticism is usually directed towards her gender and consequently, how she should behave as a woman within a specific cultural context. It seems that implicit in the word complex, is the de facto accepted face of the white, heterosexual male, whose race, gender, and sexuality no longer matter because they are the norm against which all marginalised groups are measured by. Only when these attributes (i.e. race, gender, sexuality) are backgrounded, can the technicalities of his characterisation be foregrounded and fleshed out in the wider context of criticism. Unfortunately, the rest of us aren’t so lucky. The marginalised are never complex. We are almost always negatively defined in relation to the norm, and that is a definition which lapses back into homogeneity and sameness. Complex is a word which denotes possibilities beyond what is universally accepted, and the idea of the beyond horrifies those in power who rely on the fixity and determinacy of essentialised categories like race, gender and sexuality.

Continue reading “The Triumph of Morally Ambiguous Women in ‘Line of Duty’”

Art, Autobiography, and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’

Many critics of Desiree Akhavan’s The Bisexual have condemned it for not being explicitly subversive enough, somehow implying that because of Akhavan’s bisexuality, she necessarily has to write a neat arc which leads up to a climatic acceptance of main character Leila’s sexuality. I believe that form of criticism in itself is worth interrogating: Why do we expect LGBTQ-centered media (particularly, those by LGBTQ artists) to live up to a totalising and universalising narrative, when all of us have differing experiences on sexuality because of our varied socio-political circumstances? And why do we place the burden on LGBTQ people to figure out all there is to do with sex, gender and sexuality when the world is persistently denying and censoring our access to all these things?  Continue reading “Art, Autobiography, and Sexuality in Desiree Akhavan’s ‘The Bisexual’”

‘Shirkers’ is a Defiant Ode to the Poetics and Politics of Filmmaking

Despite the disorder that permeates Shirkers by Sandi Tan, it ultimately is a defiant ode to the gendered poetics and politics of filmmaking. Above all, it reminds us there is no future in our nostalgia, and no nostalgia in the future of our past, to recall Arthur Yap’s poem on the well-known Singaporean mourning for a past snatched too soon from us.

As a Singaporean film writer, I am acutely aware of the difficulties of breaking out of impossible censorship and a meagre amount of funds granted to independent cinema. It is rare to even see Singaporeans believe in our own artistic potential. That’s why Tan’s internationally-acclaimed work not only holds extreme cultural significance in our country, but also instills hope for the next generation of Singaporean filmmakers. For the first time, I am seeing a piece of Singaporean work talked about by my fellow colleagues here at Much Ado. It may simply be casual chatter to them, but for me this chatter reflected the visibility I have desired so much for Singaporean art. And I did not know how much I have wanted our art to be part of a simple, off-handed discussion on an international stage. Shirkers changed all that.

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Young Sophie Siddique and Sandi Tan in Shirkers (2018)

Continue reading “‘Shirkers’ is a Defiant Ode to the Poetics and Politics of Filmmaking”

Female Director Spotlight: Sally Wainwright Does Everything Right By Complex Women

I first encountered Sally Wainwright through watching a series that she wrote, created and produced entitled Scott and Bailey, which revolves around the powerful friendship forged between three women detectives in a police unit despite their stark differences in hierarchy, age, and personalities. I haven’t looked back since, continuing to watch as much of her filmography as I can. What I received out of it was a profound understanding on the myriad of ways women lift each other up, and how important it is for us to recognise that the bonds between women have to be strong, necessarily so. They have to be filled with kindness, empathy, and love for us to quite literally, survive in a world that isn’t in any hurry to stop men from hurting us. In short, what summarises my tender fondness for her work is this quote put forth succinctly by Wainwright herself:

“Women do have very strong relationships with each other and you don’t often see that dramatised on telly. In fact, friendship itself isn’t dramatised terribly well on television. I’d suppose I do like reflecting on friendships. A lot of warmth and humour can come from the relationships women have with each other.”

For this spotlight, I have decided to focus on Sally Wainwright because I am, frankly, exhausted of seeing women pitted against each other on television. Most shows can spend up to seven seasons churning out feuds between women, reducing our identities to pure cattiness and jealousy, with harmful implications. Such representations perpetuate the false sentiment that there is no room for women to succeed because other women exist, which distracts us from the truth — there is no room for women to succeed because we live in a patriarchal world that simply doesn’t want us to. As a result, it’s all the more imperative that the portrayal of women on television affirms the strength that can be drawn from our love for one another, and this is exactly what Wainwright’s writing offers. I know that my relationships with other women have saved my life, and continue to do so.  Continue reading “Female Director Spotlight: Sally Wainwright Does Everything Right By Complex Women”