Sex, violence, nudity, repeat. Sounds like something out of a Category-Three-rated (s)exploitation flick which was a mainstay of Hong Kong cinema during the Nineties?
Not quite. Instead, it's the eyebrow-raising trailer of Lang Tong, a raunchy new local thriller that will make its world premiere at the upcoming Singapore International Film Festival.
Directed by Sam Loh, the film is his second feature after 2004's Outsiders, which was also selected to debut at the Fest but was yanked after he did not agree to screen it with cuts. That experience, however, didn't make Loh think twice about watering down the raunchier elements of Lang Tong, which means "nice soup" in Cantonese.
"I just went for it and didn't try to self-censor at all," admits the 46-year-old when asked about the extremely NSFW ("not safe for work") trailer which features plenty of bare breasts and sex scenes. To his relief, the film has been passed uncut. It caught him by surprise, in fact. "To be honest, I really didn't expect it to be passed, (so) I guess you can say that censorship here has changed a bit from 10 years ago when I made Outsiders."
Even if it had been banned, it wouldn't have thwarted Loh's plans for the thriller which stars darling of the local indie film scene, Vivienne Tseng. That's because the freelance TV director - who has more than 15 years' experience working on the small screen and whose credits include series like Cold Blood and Code of Law - wasn't thinking of a local audience while making it.
Instead, he reveals Lang Tong is meant for genre fans like himself looking for something other than the usual Hollywood blockbusters, and he has always planned to release it in territories like Europe and Hong Kong.
Also, he feels the industry here is too small, so it would be better for local filmmakers to set their sights beyond Singapore. "Most films have only a two-week run - that's cruel and usually barely enough to cover the (production) cost!" exclaims Loh, who raised Lang Tong's S$500,000 budget independently.
Inspired by Japanese auteur Takashi Miike's Audition (1999) and indie Hong Kong director Fruit Chan's Dumplings (2004), Lang Tong's deliciously (pun intended) twisted plot takes cues from both cult slasher flicks and revolves around sex, betrayal, murder and bak kut teh (pork rib soup). It is also part of a planned femme fatale trilogy which Loh hopes to complete by next year.
Conceived and written seven years ago, he defends the sex scenes and nudity as being integral to the plot and not there to just titillate the audience. He also had to audition countless actresses before landing daring newcomer Angeline Yap, who was willing to take on the challenge of dropping her clothes for the camera. Incidentally, she also has a role in Jason Lai's Ms J Contemplates Her Choice (see other story below).
Loh adds Lang Tong is also a reaction to local cinema, which more often than not tends to be "too safe". He explains: "There are too many similar heartland comedies and dramas, and I personally feel there is a need for other kinds of films - in my case, a (local) Chinese-language genre film that has never been made or seen before."
Although Loh acknowledges he's taking a huge risk by dabbling in something that has never been attempted by anybody in the local film industry, he hopes what he's doing will eventually open doors for other filmmakers like himself to dare to try something out of the norm.
"Different filmmakers should do different things . . . My hope for Lang Tong is that it will let the international film world know that Singaporeans are capable of making high-quality films and something other than just (commercial heartlander) movies."
"Lang Tong" will be screened at the National Museum of Singapore on Dec 13 at 11.30pm. Tickets at S$12 available from Sistic. For more details, check www.sgiff.com
This article was first published on November 28, 2014.
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