Monday, November 30, 2009

Saint Jack

Our friend A told us about this movie screening. Saint Jack was made in 1979 & banned in Singapore for almost 30 years. The ban was finally lifted & the movie was brought here by the National Museum for 2 screenings over the weekend. It sounded compelling & we promptly asked A to buy tickets for us.

The movie is about an American man Jack Flowers, a pimp (unabashedly so) making his living in Singapore in the early 1970s. The story starts off with an easy-going Jack making a small living out of introducing Chinese girls to white tourists & expats; and goes on to tell us how Jack starts a US army-sponsored hotel where US soliders in Vietnam could find recreation while on leave; and Jack's growing sense of disillusionment with this little empire which fails to live upto all the expectations he had from it.

The plot is set in Singapore 30 years ago, its alleys & lanes, its small businesses & seedy hotels, its Chinese & Tamil faces, its gangsters & street-side hookers, its impetuous white expat drifters, its bars, the tiny version of Changi Airport, the Raffles Hotel & Fullerton post office from 30 years ago. The city has changed beyond recognition in the past 3 decades & I could barely relate to that Singapore from how I know it today. I am undecided about what I think of that old Singapore; perhaps it had a stronger character than the glitzy/ artificial Singapore of today; but then again, movies always make eveything look more romantic than it really is.

The movie itself was pretty interesting; mainly due to some very witty lines. As the head of the National Museum said at the beginning, the movie is a white man's fantasy - probably so; but it was more than your sterotypical "Asia-seen-from-the-eyes-of-a-white-man" (or even the "look-how-America-has-screwed-up-Asia"). The style of the movie was bold & quirky; there are transvestite hookers, dwarf gangsters, disenchanted young soldier-boys, obscure bartenders. It was quite a unique movie.


Fighter Jet said...

After seeing the movie..did u find out why it was banned?I mean if there was strong reason for it..

Radha said...

Fighter Jet,
Singapore was (and still is, though to a lesser extent) a very controlled country in terms of media. The movie shows the side of Singapore that they didn't want people to see.