Thursday, October 05, 2006

LOVE STORY: More Farty Than Arty

LOVE STORY (arthouse drama in Mandarin)
Cast: Allen Lin Yi-Lun, Evelyn Tan, Erica Lee, Tracy Tan and Amanda Ling
Director: Kelvin Tong
Time: 93 mins
Rating: * 1/2 (out of 4)

Love Story poster
The protagonist is Jiang Qin (Allen Lin), a morose Singaporean writer who stakes out the local library for women and inspiration for his pulp romance novels. His encounters with each woman (his Muse) are told in episodes that are often blurred between real-life and fantasy. This device is fine with me, except that the characters are all two-dimensional and fake, and the situations too ridiculous to be believed. To make matters worse, every one of the writer's Muses faces a horrific end in the books which Jiang Qin likens to the Greek tragedy, Orpheus and Eurydice.
Take the first, a ninja-clad woman (Tracy Tan) for instance. This theatre usherette has her mouth covered with a black cloth, mumbling words that she is trying to memorise from a banned book. Ask her something and she writes the answer on a chalk board! Where the hell did she come from? A Kelvin Tong manga fantasy?
Next, we meet a pretty policewoman (Erica Lee) who seems to have come from nowhere to throw herself at our 'hero', hand-cuffing him to the bed while they try to have sex. She has some of the dumbest lines which are only 'supposed' to be funny. Is she derived from a Kelvin Tong sex fantasy?
The next two female targets are more down-to-earth. They are a librarian (Evelyn Tan) who opts for a 'mundane and lasting' relationship, and a punk rock chick (Amanda Ling) who takes our writer down another dangerous road.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? There is nary a hint of romance or any real emotion in this “Love Story” by Singapore's film critic-turned-film-maker Kelvin Tong. What we have is an arty-farty movie that is more farty than arty. “Love Story” taxes the patience and intellect of even the most ardent movie-goer, except those who profess (read: pretend) to see subtexts and ideas that are barely comprehensible.

HIGHLIGHTS: The scenes are accompanied by a piano score that helps to set the mood for each episode, not unlike Wong Kar Wai's In The Mood For Love that some of Tong's sequences remind us of.

LOWLIGHTS: None of the women in the cast has any charisma or appeal to the audience and the only sequences that has any link to real-life are those of Jiang Qin's meetings with his publisher. Allen Lin's character is infuriating to watch and we have no sympathy for him. Benjamin Heng, who played the lead in Tong's first feature, “Eating Air”, has multiple cameo roles here, as janitor, terrorist, et al.

THE LOWDOWN: Tong's movies, Moveable Feast, Eating Air and The Maid, have won awards and acclaim. But he should not take it as a licence to bore us with such pretentious, pseudo-intellectual stuff like Love Story.


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