Sunday, Janauary 17,1999
Sunday Plus: Page 4

Look for me at the movies

With the luxurious GV Grand multiplex opening just across Tmes House,
I'm inclined to visit the cinema again.

THIS year, my editors are going to look for me with a torchlight in one of the GV Grand halls, when they can't find me in the newsroom.

The multiplex in Great World City, opposite Times House in Kim Seng Road has opened at last. And it is, as the kids would say, awesome.

I'm especially sold on the Gold Class hall, where you can have sushi and perhaps even wine (if the liquor licence comes through) in an exclusive lounge, before you are ushered into the hall where you watch a movie on a $2,500 reclinable Moran armchair, with only 29 other people.

The other five halls are just as seductive - knee-deep carpeting, seats with arm-rests you can fold away, and yes, awesome sound systems.

I have rarely venytured into a cinema since I rigged up a relative cheap but decent home-theatre system in my living room last year. But GV Grand may get me out of my home yet.

It's going to get me out of the office too, since it's just so conveniently across the road. My bosses would agree with me that if I do it judiciously, like maybe two afternoons a week, it's not going to count as truancy.

THE old Great World, when it was an amusement park, boasted four Shaw cinemas: Sky, Globe, Atlantic and Canton.

The latter two screened second-run Chinese movies, while Sky, the largest of the four, exhibited new features, both English and Chinese.

Globe, my favourite, was a repertory hall which changed its second-run movies sometimes every day, other times, every two or three days. I haunted the cinema since my adolescent days in the '60s, until it was closed in 1978.

One of the last shows I caught there was Roman Polanski's 1974 film noir, Chinatown. It was a long (131 minutes) and complicated movie, but the scene in which the icily glamorous Faye Dunaway uttered: "My sister, my daughter", as Jack Nicholson slapped her face, was etched indelibly in my mind.

It took me a little while, just as it did the Nicholson character, to comprehend Dunaway's words - he was pressing her for the identity of the girl she was visiting secretly - but when I did, that knowledge really hit home hard.

Dunaway's widow was no widow after all, but a victim of incest, and had borne a daughter by her own father, played by the great director John Huston. So the girl was her daughter as well as sister.

The film shocked, yet it was never sensational. It sent me reeling out of the cinema. After years of watching movies as a pastime, I had stumbled upon one that demanded that I took film seriously.

And so began my few earnest years of watching movies in the afternoons as part of my job - I reviewed them for first, the now-defunct New Nation, and the The Straits Times.

BEFORE I graduated to the Globe at about 14, I used to watch the Cantonese movies from Hongkong at Atlantic. These were mainly left-leaning tearjerkers, different variations of the one about a struggling, consumptive artist whose devoted wife had to sacrifice herself on the bed of the evil landlord to save his life.

I am glad I was exposed to these clearly black-and-white moral fables when I was a kid, before I learnt scepticism. This idealism in Hongkong movies was replaced in the late '70s by the cynicism of such popular TV serials as Man In the Net, which made Chow Yun Fat and Carol Cheng household names.

At that time, even while I was lapping it up in my rented two-room HDB flat in Ghim Moh, I was thinking about the kind of impact Man In The Net would have on kids. What was portrayed on the small screen was a suffocating dog-eat-dog society, whose characters were all morally ambiguous.

You could call it dirty realism, but it couldn't have been a good thing for the kids who followed it, especially those who never had a chance to grow up on a diet of staightforward fables first.

It is ironic, but it was an essay about movies by the "pornographer" Henry Miller that I had read at that time which led me to reflect on the effects on kids of a serial like Man In The Net.

Of course, by then, Hollywood had long overturned the frontier cowboy values it used to purvey uo till the end of the '50s.

Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns in the '60s set the tone: Unlike Alan Ladd in the 1953 classic Shane, Clint Eastwood in these mock westerns shothis enemies in their backs without blinking his eyes - he merely squinted them - and never played fair.

I HAVE NOT been going to the new multiplexes because many of today's movies do not demand that I take them seriously. They are block-busters full of whiz-bang effects which dazzle at first, but whose novelty wears out all too quickly.

Yet, I find I am less patient too with art-house movies that demand too stridently to be taken as serious works. How tedious.

So what would I be seeking when I pop into a GV Grand hall? Nothing more than some amusement, I guess. And at the Gold Class, the luxury of being pampered.

A good movie will be a surprise bonus - and I can sure use it in these recessionary times.

Archive 1

21/11/99 Hit me with the Blues

31/10/99 No chaise longue, just chaise daybed

17/10/99 Tell your tale and watch it take off

03/10/99 Goodness, its been 25 years now

19/09/99 To have a productive day off

27/08/99 Conduct yourself well

08/08/99 Liberalisation and the small man

27/06/99 An ATM at home that knows me

30/05/99 Why fleshy hips and jiggly thighs

16/05/99 A dressing-down for the interns

02/05/99 I've the best seat in the house

04/04/99 I may take China, drop my 'mistress'

21/03/99 When the lens harden

07/03/99 Among dreamers and risk-takers

07/03/99 Lives will be transformed

17/01/99 Look for me at the movies

03/01/99 Hardy, hungry, but a cause for worry?

15/11/98 Goodnight Irin, while I think of New Orleans

01/11/98 'Sexy' and 'Cool' is what sells today

04/10/98 Letter from melancholic anonymous

20/09/98 Men behave like sperm

01/08/98 Global is good, but local matters too

26/07/98 4 books I can't renounce

28/06/98 49 and the genes are calling

14/06/98 Beep beep for every kid

31/05/98 Soft goods, soft power rule

10/05/98 Be still--and be open to constant change

05/04/98 Fight heat at home, then soar the skies

15/03/98 Bond Breakers and my brother and sister

15/02/98 If you love her, set her free

18/01/98 Romancing Cambodia