Singapore Comedy: “18 Grams of Love”

Yew Kwang Han of Singapore is, to me, one heck of a writer—and director—of farce, farce being what the film 18 Grams of Love (2007) is. Herein: “Two men [Ah Hui and Zihua] write anonymous love letters to test if their wives are faithful. When their wives actually respond, the two men are left in a fix of what to do” ( The marriages are hardly satisfying. The wives, Michelle and Xiao Tong, are insensitive and tired. The men, even so, are not the same as they were during the couples’ courtships, and Zihua, in fact, is a hothead. The attempt at self-justification naturally comes about, but so does soul-searching. “When we have problems,” says Zihua, “why don’t we think back to when we fell in love?”

Problems there are, explored with playful, eccentric direction by Yew, whose plot never gets inert or too thin. And there is good farceur acting from everyone: Adam Chen (Ah Hui), for example—spot-on as a handsome but ordinary and confused hubby. Magdalene See, as Xiao Tong, performs as though she’s been doing farce for two decades. For good measure, the pic features the longest scene of literal finger pointing I will probably ever see.

(Available on Tubi)

No Hollywood “Magic”

In 1978, we should have had American movies, art works or not, that were powerful and ambitious and intelligent, not un-chaste and often unconvincing thrillers like Magic. Even a failure such as ’78’s The Deer Hunter is a limited example of what I’m venerating. Magic is the one about a mentally unbalanced ventriloquist (Anthony Hopkins) whom we do not quite believe in, and his vulgar dummy. It’s a rather adolescent nonentity, put together by some talented technicians but much, much weaker than Hitchcock’s Psycho. By ’78, movies were pathetically weak.

Cool Caper, “The Big Caper”

In The Big Caper, a 1957 picture I saw on Tubi, a conning couple pose as husband and wife while aiming to participate with their associates in a bank heist. The make-believe family, however, grows dysfunctional. For one thing, posing as an uncle, Zimmer, a bomb expert, is the thirstiest alcoholic on the planet.

James Gregory is an intelligent actor here in the role of a mob boss. With a cool head he means business. Directed by Robert Stevens, Caper is never less than interesting and involving. All the same, as an actor Rory Calhoun (the phony husband, Frank) keeps threatening to do a disappearing act.

Enter “Paris in the Present Tense”

Mark Helprin‘s fine and important novel, Paris in the Present Tense (2017), presents, among other things, an elderly man in Paris who unexpectedly kills two Arab anti-Semites engaged in badly beating a Jewish man. In the vision wrought here, “the facts of life,” as Margaret Thatcher said, “are conservative.” Which is why the elderly man admits that “When civilization turned a corner or two, I didn’t.” Too, he believes in God.

A Recent “Macbeth” On Film

On Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth:

Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) stands in the midst of war slaughter. How is it possible for the man to gaze at the Weird Sisters without being cut down by an enemy soldier? Well, because the Weird Sisters are witches with their deceptive magic. No doubt they are keeping Macbeth alive by their dark arts.

It becomes evident that this 2015 effort is Macbeth as cosmic nightmare: figuratively, of course. Two blinded sinners, Macbeth and his wife, are observers of, and culpable for, much violent death. Fassbender is memorable: his Macbeth is a less than stable mediocrity, a gullible brute. Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth is persuasive. A lot of the bold and eerie images here we have seen before, though the film is properly insidious. And I agree with Armond White that Fassbender and Cotillard “got to a spiritual essence in Justin Kurzel’s hallucinatory” motion picture.