Eric Khoo turns up the heat with R21 movie

Local film-maker Eric Khoo.
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - Local film-maker Eric Khoo's first feature film, Mee Pok Man, was rated R(A) for its local release in 1995.

But 20 years on, the 50-year-old believes he has upped the sexy quotient with his latest offering, In The Room.

Set in the fictional Singapura Hotel and spanning the 1940s to the not-too-distant future, the erotic drama consists of six short stories taking place in Room 27.

In one story, striptease artist Orchid shows off the power of female sexuality in the 1950s. In another, set in the 1980s, a lonely housewife has an affair with a young man.

In The Room boasts a Pan-Asian cast, including Singapore-based Koh Boon Pin, George Young and Ian Tan, Josie Ho (Hong Kong), Show Nishino (Japan), Choi Woo Shik (Korea) and Lawrence Wong (Malaysia).

It is rated R21 and will be screened at the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) on Dec 1 as a special presentation at Marina Bay Sands.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and had its Asian premiere at the Busan International Film Festival this month.

Khoo, whose last feature was the 2011 animation Tatsumi, told M yesterday at the SGIFF press conference: "Definitely, In The Room is my sexiest film yet. I was almost embarrassed while making it and (was) closing my eyes. But I am very pleased that we have managed to screen the film at SGIFF without any cuts.

"I did say in a previous interview that I was aiming to film the sex scenes in a PG way but it was a joke. It was always going to be R21."

In the Room features many foreign actors. Was it difficult to cast locals?

It was a challenge for my producer to find the cast because a lot of actors hesitated about the nude scenes. But we made sure they were tastefully done and beautiful. It is not just sex for sex. In all my films, I am always talking about love and longing. And, of course, love comes with sex.

The person who had to put in a lot of effort was Wong, who got a backache after his shoot. His excuse was that he bent over and hurt himself, but I think his back gave out because of the contortions we made him do.

Is it awkward to shoot sex scenes or really fun?

It was a closed set, so it felt intimate for us. My stills photographer, ND Chow, was really good at making the actors feel relaxed by shooting their photos before we started filming.

Essentially, we all had such a good time on the shoot and became good friends. It didn't really get awkward.

In The Room features your first orgy scenein which a rock band in the 1960s is having a wild party in their room...

We gave everyone a lot of alcohol for that scene. We had spirits, beer, wine... There was a real party going on. We had to use our imagination to figure out what would happen.

We got some tips from Vernon Cornelius (from local 60s rock band The Quests, who has a cameo in the movie) about the wild parties the band would have.

How did Young take to the orgy scene?

He had a lot of fun. Our intern, who was playing one of his partners, thought he was really handsome and said she needed to kiss him. And Young said he was okay with that. Then during rehearsals, he got sore lips because she was just going for his lips. (laughs)

Are you concerned that local audiences will focus more on the sex than the themes of the film?

Well, I hope they will enjoy the erotic parts because we put a lot of effort into them. But In The Room is tame compared to what's on the Internet. You need a mix of elements - love, sex, art and so on. It is the right blend of ingredients that makes the dish.

This article was first published on Oct 21, 2015.
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