881 (2007)

Director:  Royston Tan
Cast:  Qi YuwuMindee Ong, Yeo Yann Yann
Plot:  Two wannabe singers dream of the big stage in getai. But at what cost?

Genre:  Comedy / Drama / Musical

Awards:  -
Runtime:  116min
Rating:  PG for some sexual references.



IN RETROSPECT (Short Review)

It's a good career move for Singapore's premier filmmaker, Royston Tan (RT), to helm 881. He has been living in the shadows for too long, often being obscured by more popular local directors such as Eric Khoo and Jack Neo. But talent-wise, RT is arguably the best Singapore has produced so far. The reason why he's not as well-known as his compatriots is because he does a lot of short films (many participating in film festivals worldwide), which are not very well marketed in the local scene.

Speaking of which, 881 is a prime example of first-rate marketing in the Singapore context. The fact that it's still pulling the crowds in droves almost a month after its release is a strong testament to the impressive marketability of the film. 881 is essentially a tear-jerking drama with comedic elements. Not the other way round which some might suggest. The storyline is modest at best - to dream big, live life to the fullest, and most importantly, to have a circle of true supportive friends - however, the remarkable acting abilities of the cast far surpass what these kinds of stories can typically offer.

881 is culturally vibrant with colorful sets, and an admirable sound design production. RT's fluid camera is there to capture all the goodness that getai (a Chinese tradition in which singers perform songs that are sung usually in dialect on stage at a public level) can offer. A minor letdown from 881 is that the songs get too repetitive (viewers will lose some focus eventually). Nevertheless, 881 is able to exude warmth and be outright funny at the same time, using special visual effects to enhance the film without taking away its essence. It's the best local production to date. I'm glad that RT's fan base is multiplying, because he simply deserves it.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

Click here to go back to Central Station.


Popular Posts