‘Mee Pok Man’

Standard

So our good friend Connor has another piece for you to read on a film called ‘Mee Pok Man’. When he sent it through to me, he said this- “dont bother sorting out the grammar, youll spend most of your life trying to fix it up”. Well, you heard him guys, and I’m not the kind of person to turn down an opportunity to take it easy. I’m washing my hands of the grammar in this piece, and I hope you enjoy this strange, interesting read as much as I did.

*SPOILER ALERT*
I’m not the kinda guy thats into people writing about spoilers, but its the ‘spoilers’ of this movie that are the reason im writing this in the first place.

for context: i just pick up movies in libraries and check them out. if i dont have to pay for them, then realistically it doesnt matter if theyre no good because they dont need to fulfil any kind of goodness-to-cost ratio. for the average person, theyd probably draw the line when the title of the movie isnt written in english. im not that sort of person though. so, i saw a movie entitled ‘mee pok man’, with a dvd cover that had quite clearly been printed off at home by someone who was just trying to avoid copyrighting issues, and obviously thought i needed to see it. turns out it was a gem. sorta.

the first thing to notice about the copy that i had was that it was SCRATCHED — not the disc, but the image on the screen. really, really, really scratched (which i love), and on checking the faux cover, it does say on the back ’35mm/video’, which basically means that it’s been transferred straight from the rolls of film onto a computer and not ‘remastered’, or even edited in any sense whatsoever. that’s a win in my book.

storyline aside for now, theres something interesting about the filming of this movie, and its not even artistic, its just that the movie was filmed in 1995 in the heart of singapore. 20 years on, that place doesnt look the same at all. in this movie it has that old school sleaze and air of poverty that just isnt there anymore. its got all these little things that portray the kind of living conditions that singapore had at that time in a way that you just couldnt replicate now. the whole place just looks so rundown and unhygienic and hustleybustley and i havent yet seen a modern movie manage that same feeling. i suppose you could try it if you just had a load of close ups of different people eating street stall food, but it wouldnt be the same. if you imagine a backstreet thats hidden behind another secret backstreet in the outskirts of a red light district… its that kind of sleazzzy — triple z sorta sleazzze.

aaaaaaannnd onto the actual movie. theres some guy. unsurprisingly hes a mee pok man. that means he cooks fish ball noodles at a food stall. i dont remember his name, i dont think that matters, hes the titular character. hes a little bit slow, or maybe just reserved, its not really explained well, hes just trying to cope with his fathers death apparently. then theres also this hooker, called bunny. mee pok man likes her, but he doesnt know how to tell her that, so… he doesnt. anyway, one night, bunny gets hit by a car outside the mee pok stall. so now, what seems like a normal enough movie premise slowly becomes weird: rather than taking bunny to a hospital, like a normal person, mee pok decides its obviously a great idea to take her back to his dingy little flat. hes not even that good at all the medical stuff, he just puts a wet towel on her head every time she wakes up in pain, after she has been HIT BY A CAR.

image

anyway, the movies actually nearly over now.
so, there’s one night where mee pok comes home and shes awake and shes all like ‘ooh, heres a great idea, lets kiss and stuff, even though im assuming most of my body is heavily damaged after a serious impact with a giant block of metal’ (she doesnt actually say that), and essentially they start getting physical and…

—SPOILER—

she dies.
its not a hollywood movie, people can die in a non-hollywood movie, thats fine, i get that, she was of course treated for dry-head syndrome when she most likely had a shattered pelvis and spinal cord.
but now it stops being a normal romantic-tragedy…. it gets a bit more norman bates.
the next scene is bunny sitting at a table, and ol mee pok sits down next to her with his breakfast or something and hes sitting there talking to her, and shes all gaunt and… dead and not moving and hes having a normal conversation with her, and then he goes to fix her hair, and then quite a fair bit of it falls out and hes kinda like ‘yeah… thats not totally normal, but i can live with it’.
i think theres some implied necrophilia, but its not explicit enough, he seems just romantic enough for it to not be a certainty.
then right near the end theres a scene with him holding onto and kissing her GREEN and definitely decayed hand and with a couple of final minutes of contemplative philosophy about what it means to be alive…. the movies over.
it wasnt even that bad a movie. thats the weirdest thing about it. its kinda good, but only if youre me, and you can bear bad film quality, bad subtitling, and out-of-nowhere surrealism. thats my kinda stuff. except, i dont think it wouldve been as good if i knew what was coming. maybe its slightly ironic that im writing a review about it, but for the first time in forever i was watching a movie and thinking ‘whaaaaaat the hell?’ because like most people, i google a movie first and have some kind of understanding of the premise and storyline and would therefore know its going to delve into keeping a dead woman in your flat sorta strange. but at the same time, if i did know that was going to happen, i probably wouldnt have been wondering why theres 2 copies of this movie in my uni library, when theres about 100 votes for this movie on imdb, which is after the worldwide place to vote for movies.
i dunno, i feel like its kind of fitting that a movie that was so scratched and so grimy and nostalgic (in terms of asian cinema imagery) turned a little bit odd and kept me fixed.
if i was a cliched movie critic id probably say something pathetic like ‘ill never look at mee pok the same again’. but im 99% sure im not that stupid, so ill just end it with my internal thoughts as i read the synopsis on the back of the case.

SYNOPSIS: a scathing look at singapores sanitised society as well as a moving portrait of perverse obsession and failed love.
ME: thats the fanciest way of describing the human version of finders keepers there will ever be.
SYNOPSIS: an often striking mindf**k…
ME: what’s with the asterisks?

so… a note to people who see a weird looking dvd somewhere… google what the movies about first, otherwise youll probably be surprised — it wont always be a good thing either.

– Connor

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