(Mandarin with English Subtitles)
Dir.: Han Yew Kwang
A Durian flavoured talking condom, an old couple whose romance started in school with birthday celebration involving condoms and a sticky condom which refuses to come off leading to painful consequences.These are the completely hilarious and outrageous ingredients of three stories that make up this film. As a foreigner walking into a Singaporean Chinese sex comedy I was sceptical to say the least.But within five minutes of the film starting I was smiling in the dark at the craziness unfolding on the screen.I saw this film at an industry screening at the Hong Kong Film Market and the audience comprised of choosy film professionals from all over the world laughing their head off.
The Singapore film scene seems to be heating up considerably and Rubbers is surely one that raises the temperature with its cool quotient. Of the three stories which make up this film my personal favourite is the one about an elderly couple played by veterans Marcus Chin and Catherine Sng, whose marital life is unravelling quickly following the husbands visits to the red light district of Geylang .Auntie buys a cutting age dildo from a very persistent salesman who offers her a “free trial”(seriously!) and what she does with it is one heck of a creative flourish.
In another story I had great difficulty recognising Yeo Yann Yann as a sex starved condom critic who must somehow seduce a beefy plumber named Thor ( yes!!) before her humanoid Durian flavoured talking condom expires.The only other time I have seen her is in Antony Chen’s Cannes winner Ilo Ilo where she plays a heavily pregnant mother struggling to make ends meet during the Asian financial crisis.She made Chen rewrite the role to being a pregnant mother since she herself was pregnant at the time. This is the kind of commitment and ambition that translates into another path breaking performance in Rubbers.
The other surprise package in the film is Oon Shu An who plays a Japanese porn star Momoko who pops right out of a TV screen to teach a selfish sex addict (Alaric Tay), who refuses to use condoms, a very painful lesson.She spends a considerable amount of screen time with her head stuck on his smelly crotch and manages to charm the pants off the audience.When the director of the film Han Ye Kwang turns up as a quack to separate Momoko and Alaric he compliments her that he is her fan purely based on her acting talents i.e. facial expressions .Well I nearly believe him!
A film like this is not easy to full off, getting A-list local stars to engage in what appear to be completely over the top sex acts, not crossing the line into bad taste and never shying away from the unabashed sex comedy nature of the material, is a delicate balance that Rubbers comfortably achieves.This film needs no big analysis or “intellectual masturbation”, the critic only needs to honestly answer only one question,”Was it funny?”.I am sticking my neck out and saying YES.
Rubbers is rated R21 which is a bit of a pity since young adults would no doubt enjoy its innocent charms and learn a twisted thing or two about safe sex.I would have liked the three stories to be linked in a more interesting way but I read in an interview of the director that his plans of having characters popping up in the different stories did not work out due to budget constraints.The film has good production values within a tight budget and features original songs written by the director. Rubbers is all of 86 minutes long which is just enough time to finish your jumbo popcorn without hopefully choking on it with laughter and head out for some spicy chilly crab.In the year of SG50, for a film fan like me, I hope the year is a celebration of local cinema too.