7th Singapore Short Cuts - 'When Almost Winter is Almost the End of Spring' by Sherman Ong

The biggest challenge of this film is to make the staid concrete HDB landscape look picturesque. Urban jungles can be stunning geometrically and evoke certain feelings of grandeur or lust or adventure of even thrill. The most exciting attribute I can allude to HDB landscape is it can be political, esepcially if shot from a helicopter's point of view and you see the militant rows of flats appear like camps. Maybe I am drifting but what this film with troublesome title (let's call it WTEOWIAS) has to contend with is how boring the background looks.

Never mind the graceful interpretations of everyday situations like family tensions and love, the cell-like confines of their places stands out as a fourth character. While the effort put into the choreography is palpable and it is even entertaining to see how little tensions at the dinner table like fighting for a chicken drumstick can be stylised, the cinematography does not always hit the right keys. Sometimes, it reinterprets the space in a surprising manner, sometimes it just looks like it is playing catch up with the choreography. There are also moments when the camera does not do much and the choreography takes centrestage and the movements are laid bare there, to delightfully comical effects.
In a way, the dancer's physical attributes contribute to the visual relief of the film. Quik Swee Boon, with his fine features and dramatically wavy mane makes him stand out from the grey confines of the flat. This is accompanied by the pristinely beautiful Xiao Jing, whose looks scream 'China Beauty'. It is also hard to forget the Chinese song that is serenaded over some entire dance sequences. Top of mind, it is haunting and evocative, but when it is juxtaposed against the longing face of Xiao Jing, I forget the character she plays and imagine her thinking about her real home in China especially when the camera zooms in on her gleamy eyes. In a way, she is a very displaced character who is trying to fit into the landscape and also the narrative of her being the father's new wife. But I would also see this extending to her personifying the general sense of displacement in the whole dramatic set-up of three unlikely family members coming together to share familiar moments.

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