A Moveable Feast
Reviewed by Kelvin Ha
Directed by: Jasmin Ng, Sandi Tan, Kelvin Tong
Written by: Kelvin Tong
Genre: Short Film, Drama
Year Released: 1996
Runtime: 14 min
Rating: * ½ (out of four stars)
Food is the subject of this prizewinning short film at the Singapore International Film Festival. Running at approximately fourteen minutes, it chronicles a day in the life of a food lover from his breakfast in a coffee shop right up to his dinner in a fancy Chinese restaurant.
Despite winning the best film entry in the short local film category, Moveable Feast is more of a production coup than a good film. Boasting amateur production nightmares like a coffee shop scene and a Chinese restaurant dinner, it is lovingly shot on 35mm and manages to capture the spirit of the locations it is set in. For instance, the shots in the coffee shops adequately give one a feel of the hustle and bustle of a real life coffee shop. These scenes involve the use of lots of extras, and there is even a scene that features the interior of a restaurant kitchen. All these are beyond the means of an amateur producer without any skill or connections, and for the producers of Moveable Feast to actually get the use of such locations is definitely commendable in itself. However, other than production wise, there really is nothing else to the film. It appears to be more of a showcase of film production talents like cinematography and editing.
There is usually a very fine line between a clever script and a script that tries to be clever. The script of this film crosses that fine line and ends up trying to be clever. Given that the idea behind it is interesting, it lets itself down by scattered juvenile touches which do nothing except to reveal the writer's immature sense of humour. For example, there is a reference in the script to dumb waiters which embarrasses the film because it sounds like a joke only schoolchildren would laugh at.
The film boasts some very interesting shots and shows good editing. However, there are several inconsistencies in it. The general feel of the movie is a rather ambivalent one. Is it meant to be a slapstick farce or a satirical look at a way of life? Or is it meant to be a serious film? There is a difference between terms, however subtle. Slapstick generally takes advantages of situations and scenarios in order to turn on the laughs. Satire implies turning an accepted situation or way of doing things into something impossible to believe, on order to show its deficiencies. At times, the pace and rhythm of this short film seem to suggest that it is a serious movie. What adds to this feeling is the fact that the voice of the narrator is also very serious and sincere. However this impression is undercut suddenly by the pace of the action in certain scenes which makes it look very comical.
What makes this worse is the gross overacting of the lead actor. There is a huge discrepancy between the face you see on the screen and the voice you hear on the soundtrack. On screen, the actor plays it in an over-the-top, exaggerated manner, but the voice he uses for the narration is very down-to-earth. The only other time in recent memory such an irritating inconsistency has appeared is in the otherwise commendable Television Corporation of Singapore drama "Growing Up," where the adult narrator's voice is exactly the same in tone, pitch and age as the teenage character he is supposed to be in the series.
Moveable Feast is a commendable first effort, and in terms of production, it is unrivaled in the short films category. However, if the producers and team had just spent a little more time polishing up the script and ironing out the inconsistencies, it could have been a much better film than what it is now. At the moment, it is simply a showcase of film production talents that were not unified into a larger whole, which is what a good film should do.