That Girl In Pinafore (2013) (Singapore, Chinese with Eng Subs)


Dir.: Chai Yee-Wei

There has been a curios positive buzz about this film, even the library that I frequent has a charming little exhibition devoted to it.Now this film is a period-musical-teenage-romantic- comedy. Phew!! Not exactly the genre that I wish for from the Gods of cinema every morning but there is something positively sacred about school children falling in love. It deserves all our sensitivity and attention.

Pinafore opens in the Singapore of 1992, an unremarkable year except for the fact that chewing gum was banned and a rare by-election held.A trio of schoolboys, Hao Ban (Kenny Khoo), son of a food stall owner, Cao Gen (Seah Jia Qing), son of florist, and the very chubby and cute Xiao Pang (Kelvin Mun), a dentist’s son – are shacking out at the Old Airport, cramming for their O-Level exams to enter junior college(I would love to know why at the airport?Something to do with the air-conditioning maybe?). They’re joined by Jia Ming (Daren Tan) who has failed the exam twice already and helps out his parents at a music bar called “Dream Boat”.This is a group of ordinary school boys who do what all boys that age do, chase girls, spin dreams, disagree with parents, watch porn.And fall in love of course! Repeatedly.But not this crew.

When Jia Ming falls for May (Julie Tan), he remains in love.That girl in Pinafore is a coming of age tale set to the sweet tunes of Singapore’s home-grown xinyao song movement that began in the mid-’80s and flourished till the mid-’90s – a kind of group folk-pop about local life. The story follows the gangs efforts to make “Dream Boat” a rocking place and not a financial dead-end as it is turning out to be for Jia Ming’s parents.

The final act of the film is certainly it’s greatest weakness and two hours seems like a bit of a drag by the end.The humour rooted in the Singaporean culture of the day is its strongest suite after the music, which I found quite charming and sentimental in a good way.

This is the third film by writer-director Chai Yee Wei following his horror flick Blood Ties and horror-comedy Twisted. The photography by Derrick Loo is good expect for a few soft shots but the editing by Natalie Soh could have been tighter.This film suffers due to its length especially in the second half.The performances are all quite good led by Julie Tan. I understand the original Chinese title roughly means Everything That I, My Friends and My Classmates Loved which is a more accurate title for the film.

While watching this film my thoughts went back to the days when I was about he same age as these characters during the same mid nineties.I had just started dating the girl who I married 8 years later.Pinafore reminded me poignantly of that wonderful time including the many blank calls on impossible to get through landlines and numeric pagers.I am certainly the correct demographic for this film but not sure if it will appeal to todays young people just as much, unless they have a connection with the music.I certainly hope I am wrong, this is indeed a charming little film.

And watch out for the boys in pinafore too!!

Categories: World Cinema

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