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, about a coffeeshop on Armenian Street that was facing closure after 55 years in business, one of the many casualties of ‘urban renewal’.The first part of the film gives us quotidian shots of the coffeeshop: frying woks, stocking strainers, customers chewing while huddled at round tables.
A commission by the River Hongbao 2011, the film showcases three different eras: the 60’s, when the lead was a young boy, the 70’s (a late teenager) and the late 90’s and early 00’s (when he becomes a father himself).
One can practically play a game of spot-the-object, the ‘object’ being the sign of an era: hair rollers, railway tracks, school satchel, thermos flask, spring cradle, bottle of Green Spot, currency notes, acid-wash denim, bus stop, etc.
The aesthetic of a VHS home video strains against the genre of melodrama.
The actors mug for the camera as if their lives depended on it.
Beyond the narrative, there was the landscape, made all the more arresting by the fact that much of it has vanished.
In an interview with the website sindie.com, the extraordinarily conscientious film historian Toh Hun Ping was asked what in his opinion were the ‘most fascinating film locations that have already disappeared’“The kampongs and the former coastline of Singapore. Massive transformation on the coastlines of Singapore.
And somehow the very idea of a family outing to Haw Par Villa—that eccentric public attraction of moralistic parables and ratings-free dioramas of tortures in Hell—seems quaint on hindsight, a demonstration of a more careless but also rugged mode of parenting.
That same hindsight will also give us a more sinister framing to the image of a young Indian child getting lost in park dedicated to statuary based on Chinese legends.
The second part is a reverie: at the cry of ‘ja jambo’, the film’s colours become desaturated, loud prints and hairbands make an appearance, and we get a campy homage to 50’s and 60’s Hong Kong musicals.
, detailing the angst, disorientation and numbness of members of a family who are vacating their unit at the Pearl Bank Apartments (1976-2019).