4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

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4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby hengcs » Sun Apr 30, 2006 1:41 am



Director: Royston Tan
Cast: Xiao Li Yuan, Kim Young Jun

It premiered at Berlin International Film Festival.
The most brief synopsis would simply be ... it is a film revolving around a young boy and his Korean tenant ...

My thoughts ...

I thought the film has a number of interesting food for thought ...

(i) Is it reality or is it all but a dream?
The film succeeds because it feels so real (and strikes a chord in many lonely hearts), yet I humbly think that the film while being real, does drop hints at both reality and "fantasy/dreams" ... let me elaborate ... a lot of scenes can be viewed in "two ways" ...
- e.g., He attended school and wrote his "diary" everyday ... but if you noticed the month, it was December with no schooling! Does that make you wonder if it is all but a figment of his imagination ...
- e.g., Li Yuan painted a picture (nothing but black brush strokes) and remarked "I have no dreams". Again, does that mean he really has no "dreams" (either at night? or about the future? or about reality?) or can it be simply a symptom of self denial? ... he does have "dreams" all along ... of this man that will come into his life (whether it is a fatherly figure or a friend or ...). At the end of the film, he started painting the window panes with similar black brush strokes ... shattered dreams? or no more dreams? (i.e., he has "lost" his dreams/hopes over the relationship ... or he will stop dreaming/fantasizing about this non existent relationship?)
- e.g., Near the end, as Li Yuan thought of those good old days, objects started "vanishing and disappearing" from sight (a common technique in films/TVs) ... but could these also be interpreted differently (i.e., if you look intently, these items have never existed before in the first place?! ... that is why you only see "emptiness" ... (even the oranges get replaced back) ...
- e.g., Also, Li Yuan repeatedly consumed huge dosage of cough medicine, so he could be really ill or the effects of drugs could be working on him (hence, all these events happening ...)
- e.g., And the time is 4:30 ... late at night ... whereby everything could be real but also, a dream ...

(ii) what exactly is the relationship between the kid and the man?
-- Again, the film is rather "tactful" as most of the audience would like to interpret the entire relationship as a lonely kid seeking a fatherly figure ... (thanks also to the casting and great acting of the two protagonists, the man and the kid) ... The film only mentions the mother and drops hints at the father ... could he possibly be an engineer who have died of cancer (that is why Li Yuan hated smoking) ...
-- Could the relationship border precariously on an "identity issue" of a teenage boy growing up? ... having only a mother to take care and no father ... well, there is a scene of the kid and hiding in the "closet" ... and some scenes/behavior could be interpreted in again "two ways" (either innocent childish pranks ... or not ... ) ... also, the Chinese song that was repeatedly sung was more of a love/romance song (but again, love can be a much bigger thing beyond romance ...) ... anyway, the two actors are great such that it is not exactly clear ... and I think most conservative audience would rather leave it that way and ... most unorthodox audience would credit it for its vaguesness and subtlely ... to have dual interpretations ...
-- it could also be a film about two people of different nationalities/cultures trying to feel for one another ... whereby one actively seeks to learn more about the other ... and given the barriers, all that they could do is through their visual connection, emotional connection, actions and behaviors ...

(iii) belying the simplicity of the plot, the film is also about ...
-- instead of dealing with loneliness and relationship, it could also be a film about valuing the moment in time ... every single moment ... and if only time can be stopped ... (e.g., when the kid stops the time; e.g., when the kid holds the clock in his arms ...)
-- it could also be a film to warn of self destruction (e.g., the drugs, the cough medicine, the smoking, and * a spoiler scene * ... etc)
-- there are others ...
e.g., if you have watched the previous film "15", you will realize the use of fish tanks (or home aquarium) again ...
e.g., also, I recall seeing the "teardrop" scene somewhere ... but it is still a very nice scene ...
-- while some people may try comparing the film to Tsai Ming Liang's films (which largely dwell on loneliness), I have to qualify that 4:30 is at least more entertaining (and may appeal to mainstream audience) as there are more comical/funny scenes (very believable and not slapstick). The pacing is slightly faster, and the dialogues slightly more ... albeit not too much.

(iv) Finally, a scene that I thought could be better ... instead of showing the audience the note that is written by the Korean man ... and letting those non Korean audience wonders ... (because it is from the perspective of the kid) ... I feel that the film should have shown the back of the note (or simply a portion of it) so that BOTH Korean and non Korean audience can guess (and can share the perspective of the boy ... i.e., of non comprehension) ... As of now, those who understand Korean will have that "fun/puzzle" unravelled/destroyed ...

Conclusion:
Highly Recommended. It is one of the few films by Singapore that is artsy (due to multiple interpetations), but also commercially viable (due to its entertaining scenes).
hengcs
 


Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby trevor826 » Mon May 01, 2006 8:50 am

Royston Tan's work is certainly interesting and from the two films I've seen not easily definable. I'll certainly see this if I get the opportunity.

By the way, I've just picked up the dvd for 15, haven't had the chance to take a look at it yet but it has a few extras as well including a commentary and deleted scenes.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby A » Sat May 06, 2006 7:37 pm

Thanks for your in-depth comments hengcs. Seems like you liked the film quite a lot.
I had bought a ticket for its screening at the Berlin Film Festival, but I overslept it because of a hangover.
maybe I'll see it somewhere else.
A
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby hengcs » Wed Jun 21, 2006 7:49 am



As agreed, this is my more paragraph review of the film


Synopsis
In its simplest form, the film basically revolves around the relationship of a young boy (Xiao Wu) and his Korean tenant (Jung). Every night, at 4:30, the boy would sneak into his constantly intoxicated tenants room to learn more about him. What exactly is the relationship between the two, and how will it end?

Review
The film is likely to please critics but also mainstream audience. Despite the lack of dialogue, there are numerous light hearted moments and emotionally engaging segments. At the end of the film, audience will feel for the kid, with some after effects still lingering. What brings the film to another level is its ability to generate equivocal interpretations. Willing audiences are always encouraged to ponder and probe further.

Is everything a reality or is it all but a dream? To touch the audience, the plot is realistically grounded, so that one can identify with the characters and events. Every scenario and every occurrence seems so close to heart and feels so genuine. Certain poignant scenes will definitely strike a chord in many lonely hearts. Despite its seemingly real setting, the film never fails to drop hints at the possibility of a fantasy or a dream. Could all these be a figment of Xiao Wus imagination, either due to solidarity and longing, or the overdoses of cough medicine? For example, the dates Xiao Wu has written all depict December. The inquisitive mind would be quick to realize that it is school vacation, at least in Singapore! In yet another scene, Xiao Wu could only conceive black brushstrokes of paint when urged to draw his dream. He remarks that he has no dreams. While it could be literally interpreted, it may suggest self denial. He probably has "dreams" all along, of this man that will come into his life, whether it is a fatherly figure, a partner or simply a friend. These brushstrokes resurface at the end of the film, suggesting that all dreams could have been shattered. Also toward the end of the film, the director employs a common technique in TV/film during scenes of reminiscences -- objects will start vanishing and disappearing from sight. On second thought, these scenes can be explained differently. If one were to look intently, these items have never existed to begin with! That explains why Xiao Wu could only gaze into emptiness and nothingness. With a title such as 4:30, it would not be surprising to know that audiences have been transported into yet another dreamland.

What may really spark controversy and a heated debate is the exact relationship between Xiao Wu and Jung. Apparently, there is a conscientious effort to be "tactful" and cautious. Audience would likely interpret the entire relationship to be that of a lonely kid seeking a fatherly figure. After all, Xiao Wus mother is constantly overseas, leaving him alone at home. In an essay reading, Xiao Wu has based his description of his father predominantly on this Korean man. The credibility of it being a mere father and son relationship should be in part credited to the convincing performance of the two male protagonists. Throughout the film, they are rather controlled in their performance. While this relationship seems to be at the forefront and narrated explicitly, some audience may be perturbed because the relationship borders precariously on an "identity issue" of a teenage boy growing up, with only a mother and no father to emulate. Again, there are numerous hints to this interpretation. The opening Chinese song that is repeatedly sung is often construed as a love song; the kid is shown to return and hide in a "closet"; some of the pranks may be construed as either innocent childish pranks or otherwise. In essence, I believe most conservative audience would rather believe that the film depicts a father and son relationship, while the more unorthodox audience might take liberty with its ambiguity and subtlety. Beyond these two kinds of relationship, it can also parallel the journey two people of different cultures undergo when trying to understand and feel for each another. Without knowing each others language, one can only communicate through visual connections, emotional connections, actions and behaviors.

Belying the simplicity of the plot, there are other messages that the film deals with. Apart from the issues of loneliness, desolation, communication and relationship, it could also be a film about valuing the moment in time. As the kid embraces the clock in his arms, even the audience will pray that time can be stopped. Every single moment counts. And if we should value the present, we should value life. Not surprising, the film warns of self destruction, be it through drugs, such as the cough medicine, smoking, or suicide.

While there will be an attempt by some to compare the film to Tsai Ming Liang's (which largely dwell on loneliness), I have to qualify that 4:30 may appeal to mainstream audience slightly better, with its numerous comical scenes and slightly better pacing and slightly more dialogues, albeit not too much. If I were to nitpick on a scene that could be better, it would be the note that is written by the Jung. The director gives away how he feels for Xiao Wu by depicting the Korean words (even if Xiao Wu does not understand). Told from the perspective of the kid, the puzzle is unraveled for those who understand Korean. Instead, I feel that the director should have shown the back of the note (or simply a portion of it) so that both Korean and non Korean audience can continue to wonder what the Korean man has written, and hence, share the perspective and non comprehension of the boy.

Despite this possible enhancement, I still recommend the film. It is one of the few films by Singapore that is artsy (due to multiple interpretations), but also commercially viable (due to its entertaining scenes).
hengcs
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Fri Jul 07, 2006 9:39 am

I enjoyed your review immensely heng. Thanks for that. Hopefully more international exposure follows. Here's mine for those that might not have read it yet:

-----------------------------------------------

Royston Tans 4:30 is much more than just a character study of a 11-year-old boy whos left in the care of a reclusive Korean tenant who spends more time in a drunken stupor than he does outside his room. Its an intricate and personal look at isolation and loneliness in a bustling and fast-paced society where there are those who impose it upon themselves while there are also others who find it beyond their control. Much like Albert Camuss book, The Stranger, it follows a singular character through a journey of desperate solitude that touches on death, observation and estrangement.

As expected, time plays a significant part of the films motif. Its almost palpable, serving as a boundary for the boy, Xiao Wu (Xiao Li Yuan) to cross the lines that he would not dare pass when there is light. The other and possibly the most essential element of the film that is easily conveyed would be detachment and the general sense of alienation felt by the youth in Singapore. The film is by no means an exposition of this subject but an observation. In the case of Xiao Wu, he yearns for the attention and care of the adults around him, to no avail. Unlike the tenant, Jung (Kim Young Jun) who voluntarily shuts himself from everyone, to a life lacking meaning and affection............

Continues at www.moviexclusive.com/review/430/430.htm

-----------------------------------------------

You know, I've always been cynical about local fimmakers. Eric Khoo, Jack Neo etc. have all been overhyped by the locals just so they can get prop up someone and hail them as the next savior for Singaporean cinema. Even Royston's 15 was overrated.

But after this showing I feel that he might actually be the real deal...artistically viable, it's insight and complexity is miles ahead of Kelvin Tong's Love Story. Although one has to give kudos to Tong for trying out something different and daring and yet not fall completely flat on his face.

Fantastic year.
justindeimen
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby trevor826 » Sat Jun 16, 2007 9:49 pm

What a surprise and delight, 4.30 was, an outstanding experience and despite the previous comments above, I wasn't prepared for such an artistic and ambiguous gem of a film from Royston Tan.

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned Last Life in the Universe with its obvious connection and pacing while for some obscure reason I was also reminded of 3-Iron.

The fact that it was part of the touring films from the 21st Lesbian & Gay film festival just shows how open to interpretation the film is.

An absolute reccomendation, this will almost certainly make my top 10 of the year.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby hengcs » Mon Jun 18, 2007 2:38 am

Quote trevor, "What a surprise and delight, 4.30 was, an outstanding experience and despite the previous comments above, I wasn't prepared for such an artistic and ambiguous gem of a film from Royston Tan.
... The fact that it was part of the touring films from the 21st Lesbian & Gay film festival just shows how open to interpretation the film is.
... An absolute reccomendation, this will almost certainly make my top 10 of the year.
Cheers Trev."

Ha ha ... glad that u like it ...
actually u could tell from the way i write, i would not have wasted my time otherwise crafting a more complete review ... in a way, i also want to help LOCAL directors and their films ...

IMHO, i thought it was better than 15 (although i like the short 15 better than the full feature of 15) ...

as for the "gay" undertones, i was rather careful with my choice of word becos at the time of my review, not many people have watched, and some pple may be detered simply becos of that ...
hengcs
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 19, 2007 12:52 pm

The most you could say in terms of any form of gay association is that Xiao Wu's feelings for his carer? appeared at times to be in the form of a child like crush.

Didn't anyone else see the similarity in Jung's behaviour and actions with that of Kenji (Tadanobu Asano's character) in Last Life in the Universe? Even their appearance was somewhat similar.

Cheers Trev.

P.S. Is Xiao Wu a fairly common Chinese name?
trevor826
 

Re: 4:30 (Singapore) (2005)

Postby hengcs » Thu Jun 21, 2007 1:27 am

Quote trevor, "The most you could say in terms of any form of gay association is that Xiao Wu's feelings for his carer? appeared at times to be in the form of a child like crush. ...

P.S. Is Xiao Wu a fairly common Chinese name?"

(i) yup to your qn.1 ... ... after all, there are only 2 main characters in the film ... the rest are really "miscellaneous" ... ha ha ha

(ii) Xiao Wu ... ha ha ... u must have asked that qn becos of Jia ZhangKe's Xiao Wu ...

well, it all dep on how the chinese characters are written ... i have tried surfing a few chinese websites but none gave the kid's name in writing ... most of them just simply claim that the film is about a small boy blah blah blah ...

but that does not mean i cant hazard a good guess ... most likely the "xiao" is "small" or "little" (sth like Little John, Little Tom, etc) ... and "Wu" is most likely the character "fight"/"martial" (also similar to the japanese name takeshi) ... in essence, exactly the same as Jia ZhangKe's film ... click www.dianying.com/en/title/xw-1997/poster

hmmm ... in sum, it can be claimed to be a common name esp. in the past (sth like John or Tom etc); nowadays, a lot of parents are trying to think of more unique names for their kids ...
hengcs
 


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