courtesy of mx
Ekachai Uekrongtham converses in Tsai Ming-liangs pensive language of melancholia, and unimpressively disintegrates into a laborious simulacrum of aimless pomposity. Made in Singapores most prominent and indiscreet red-light district, Pleasure Factory aims to upset our expectations, with the films clunky title telling all. It takes our countrys most fertile source of iniquity and penitential slaughterhouse of post-coital repasts, and then picks away at it with alarming anaemia.
While a stoic stud paces outside the door of an adolescent damsel and an amorous john, a flustered cadet is canvassed by a troop of whores in a darkened alleyway; elsewhere a leggy strumpet uniformly bounces in a convertible as a furled salivating sluggard occupies her. It all smells like societal entropy. Uekrongthams postured film techniques evocates the malaise of afflicted individuals over a single nights sojourn, in the bustling den of ephemeral pleasures called Geylang, cloistered by (as his camera frequently pans up to) the countrys well-behaved suburbia. Uekrongtham is eager to provide the reflections of this subsection for other capers as well by intertexting the films prose with unneeded mockumentary inserts that only serves to sully the enigma surrounding its patrons and curdling its attempted lyricism.
Sleaze is poignant in Pleasure Factory, its camera sensualises the commodity of flesh by leering and lingering over its nudity a surprisingly fair amount of equal opportunity bareness. Indecision may or may not be its characters problem as the film emphasises the streaks of unhappiness and contentment its dwellers feel, the surging romanticism of loneliness abated coupled with the revulsion of banal commerce. There's a smidgen of directorial scopophilic pleasure derived here when lecherous old men are violent sadists, as the camera turns quickly away to leave us at the mercy of their repulsive grunts, but lovingly caresses the glistening skin of its younger clientele and comparatively more willing ladies of the evening.
Uekrongthams refusal of order and sense is extended not only to his storys flow but to his camera as well. It shoves up close to its characters, with a lack of spatial awareness in the film that seems to have been mistaken for heightened intimacy that ends up being claustrophobic. However, it is consistent in its hysterics and over-wrought touches of melodrama that remain spineless in its obstinate elliptical narrative strands that tenuously crisscross, especially the evidently butchered gay subplot that would have probably served the film better completely excised.
The urban cages of Geylang deserve its long overdue representation but the message is hazy in Uekrongthams film. Its not as transgressive as it supposes, mostly because its so declaratively derivative and detached in its artifice that, unlike its obvious influence, it can never truly express the disenchantment and desperation of its denizens.