we all have our untold stories: the days (tre movie-impressions)

Thanks to the swell folks at Originasian Pictures (producers of the movie - thanks, Randy!), I had the opportunity to attend the Gala Premiere of THE DAYS (歲月) [blogged] - Wednesday last @ ViVo City Golden Village (unrated as of screening), and was swept away in the retro-drama that unfolded on the silver screen - with equal parts pathos, gangster action, and the relish of embracing the latent "Ah Beng" in me...

CLICK THRU to read my personal impressions of THE DAYS, or check out ANutshellReview for a "proper" movie review by Stefan S. instead (I is not fully delusional of my "abilities", yo! :p)

"Based on a true story - 歲月 THE DAYS tells a cautionary tale between two brothers, set between 1989 and 1990. In a misguided effort to teach BABY (Ivan Lim) independence, and to make him feel protected, ZI LONG (Justin Chan) brings him into his gang of delinquents, introducing him to his group nicknamed "The 4 Heavenly Kings" - DOG, the silent fighter, COCKROACH, the loudmouth and TAUPER, the motorbike riding free soul together with their surogate leader JEREMY TAN. Unknowingly, his decision has thrown them both into a tumultuous and violent world that will, in different ways, imprison them both."

[Cinema Trailer]

The 90's were a blur to me ... muddled with being enlisted in the Army (fair thee well, thy innocence *cough*) celebrating my 21st with a mint cake (I used to hate mint) and shortly after that, stepping into the working world, neck deep into a turbulent rat race, earning coin and fighting for respect ... aaah, those heady years ...

The early 90's In Singapore was also a period mired with street gangsterism, with it's reach enveloping the teenagers on "the fringe". Director and Co-scriptwriter Boi Kwong dug deep into his checkered past to provide the movie with a level of believability and authenticity. The 90's were also about the pervasiveness of "branded goods", from flashy Armani shirts to Brand-logo-belt buckles and sharp handled-combs kept in the back pocket of many a teenagers and students (a throwaway from the late 80's - and yes, I had one too :p) - and perhaps a era of fashion loads of folks would want to disassociate with now LOL).

I reckon I missed out on quite a few iconic-to-Singapore activities in the 90's - including Tea Dances (only attended one, for my Army POP / Passing-Out-Parade) and even Arcade Games, but I had me my MTV-Pager ("MTV" becoz there was a logo on it, won from a lucky draw I'd forgotten where from), and the "Language Of Surviving The Army" learnt from my time in National Service - which was predominantly in Hokkien, with heaps smatterings of Malay, Indian, Singlish et al - aka all manners of cussing and words-not-to-be-spoken in front of parentals and senior citizens, least they freak out. heh.

And a Singlish-Hokkien guilt-pleasure The Days is - riddled with slang and "colorful expressions" (but never with overt "body-parts" vulgarity, interestingly enough) and the swagger of the Ah Bengs (aka the "never-do-well delinquents-slash-ruffians") - which typify the era then, and permissive even til now (a local "cultural heritage" the masses choose to abandon and frowned upon) - spouted thru the mouths of the mostly new and non-professional actors - and they dribble like honey, with relish and unrestrained abandon.

Kudos to Director Boi for guiding the mass ensemble of actors thru their paces and performances. Locals would recognize the language instantly, while non-Singaporeans may find it harder to understand, IMHO.

Solid performances came thru from the veterans, most noticeably Richard Low, as the world-wisely ex-gangster turned durian-seller - effortlessly nuanced - and voice of reason and experience. Adele Wong as "Shan Shan" was another steadfast performer poised to shine brightly, IMHO. Anthony Levi Kho's "Xiao Lao Da / Jeremy Tan" was the standout among the group of ruffians, whose performance and delivery makes him a talent to watch out for. Inner angst was provided by newcomer Justin Chan - who had the juiciest role as the main protagonist in the movie; "Zi Long" aka "Tai Zi" aka "Prince" - with performance penduluming between simmer and boil.

Adora Wong (Sister to Adele in both real and reel-life) was the epitome of a googlebox-villainess, whose explosive performance somewhat overshadowed the rest of the young cast. But there could be no other way to take her a notch down, and she shines as the resident Ah Lian "Valerie". ("Ah Lian" is the equivalent to "Ah Beng"). Especially when it's "revealed" that Adora is more fluent in English (peep promo video below) - whose diction was "masked" by her performance = *steady, lor!* ... The women are pretty "strong" characters in this movie, even tho the focus is predominantly on the males.

[Promo featuring Adele and Adora Wong]

Nothing could touch the sheer variety and recognizability of the characters. From the see-wanna-slap "Rat", to the "4 Heavenly Kings" - they seem to inhibit their roles like a second skin (or would it be first?) and the sincerity was evident, and it elevates the movie above the "expected" average local gangster flick to be.

As an actioneer, the movie delivers it's fair share of gang-clashes and fights (I was told the cast did their own stunts!) without the obvious blood-shed. The Days too had it's fair share of pathos, in fact the sentiment was permissive throughout the film, a heavy air of regret lingers, from Justin's voice-overs, to the treatment and situations the characters find themselves in. Very dramamama some, which sometimes makes for compelling viewing, at the very least.

Comedic elements pepper throughout the film, primarily from the language used and the delivery of the lines. And subconsciously, thru the character's fashion sense! Kudos to Costume Designer Meredith Lee for dragging us (kick and screaming) back to the heyday of high-waisted pants, ornate belt-buckles and flashy clothes (Gotta lurve the sandals tho! LOL).

Director of Photography John Lim Beng Huat (a veteran of local films - this is his first movie as a DOP) sweetens the view with sweeping camera moves, delicate and emotive close-ups, and an even tempo of moving visuals. Crispy sweet, indeed.

What was exceptional, were the Opening and Closing Credits, animated with frenzied visceralness inspired by retro kungfu-manhua (aka Chinese comics), especially the Closing animation. A sharp salute to Josef Lee of Mojo for the motion graphics, and illustrations by Sokkuan and Hanwen, I reckon!

[Opening Titles glimsped in this music video trailer]

To be utterly unbiased, the movie has it's fair share of flaws, from uneven pacing in some minor instances, to "special stylized film effects"-sequences (aka time-lapse effect et al), though delicious eye-candy, detracted a tad from the movie's overall pace - but they be minor quibbles ... Though let us not dwell on the negative (as most local films are subjected to - we are our own harshest critic, and everyone's a critic, innit? Least of all me lor! heh) but perhaps embrace the sheer possibilities of the development of filmmaking in Singapore, and with this, The Days stands out loud and proud, with a dollop of panache and a touch of glitz. Sibeh Steady Lor!

THE DAYS premieres islandwide September 11th. Weekend sneaks on now at GV Cinemas. Go watch it and let it bring out the Beng and Lian in you, with relish. Mai Tan Lieow!

Website: www.thedaysmovie.com
Social Network: thedays.ning.com
Facebook-Group: http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=16840522146

Some Music Videos for y'all! (with scenes from the movie)

["My Freedom" by Black Forest]

["Knowing" - performed by Adele Wong / produced by Jim Lim]

["Crossroads" - performed by Justin Chan / produced by Jim Lim]


None said…
wah! lucky to watch the gala! i want to watch this!!! so nostalgic!! haaaa
Random said…
The motion graphics were done by Mojo helm by Josef Lee (www.mojo.sg), with illustrations by Sokkuan and Hanwen.

Thanks Andy for the fantastic insights!
toysrevil said…
@9 . really lucky lor - in my 10+ years in this "industry", i've only had less than a handful of gala invites lor lol

@Radny > paiseh for the slack - info updated and congrats again on the movie duder!