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about Royston Tan

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Location: Central, Singapore.
Birthdate: October 5th.

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12Lotus Review (I-S Magazine)

A Royston Tan Film

"12 Lotus is a masterful achievement of darkness and light"
-Terry Ong
Singapore's enfant terrible filmmaker Royston Tan has finally proved his mettle with his latest film, 12 Lotus, an emotive and affecting tale of the human condition disguised as a fun song-and-dance film and melodrama. You will be moved by the tale of getai singer Lian Hua, and her tumultuous plight for love and her ultimate betrayal. This is TV drama material done with an arthouse sensitivity that Tan has achieved beautifully, after his initial struggles with previous films like 4:30, which also dealt with similar themes but failed because of its arty pretensions [sort of a like a B-grade Tsai Ming-liang (The Hole, I Don't Want To Sleep Alone) film]; and 881, which was entertaining and a box-office hit, but was frivolous and far too kitschy and overwrought. In 12 Lotus, Tan has managed to fuse his penchant for arthouse sensibilities with subjects and themes that are quintessentially Singaporean--a feat never achieved since Eric Khoo's cult film Mee Pok Man in 1995.

Told in two parts through 12 vignettes from traditional getai number "12 Lotus," the film begins with a young Lian Hua (Li Bao En) and her painful childhood: Discouraged from being a getai singer, she gets mistreated by her abusive father (TV actor Huang Li Yiang) from young, but with the help of Quang Yin (the Goddess of Mercy), manages to get through life and becomes a successful singer [played by an engaging Mindee Ong (881) in the adult role]. Her love interest in comes the form of fellow debonair getai performer Ah Long (a competent but bland Qi Yu Wu, The Home Song Stories), who also happens to be a liar and a cheat, and ultimately betrays her. The rest of the film, peppered with even more ballads and upbeat song-and-dance tunes courtesy of local composer Eric Ng (881), centers on the older Lian Hua [a funny Liu Ling Ling (881)], and her coming to terms with her condition.

Sure, 12 Lotus is very fun to watch just like 881, but it is its emotional and dramatic content that got to us. More than just a film about a tortured heroine who will never know the meaning of happiness, director Royston Tan also manages to bring forth deeper themes like fate, fraternity, inevitability, impermanence and solitaire [like the works of late Polish master filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski (Three Colors: Blue, White, Red), which Tan has cited as a major influence], albeit subtly here, and splash it with a Technicolor reverence to up its entertainment quotient. 12 Lotus is a masterful achievement of darkness and light, perhaps even more than the filmmaker will lead himself to believe.
This is Singapore ennui at its most affecting and heartbreaking, and quiet possibly, our best local film yet.
*Review by Terry Ong (I-S Magazine)
12Lotus is now open in cinemas islandwide.

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  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    18/8/08 22:56  

    12 lotus is a great film. your casts are great and their acting is totally impressive. the idea of making it into a musical is great, the songs and dance moves are amazing. The scenes captured is totally gorgeous.. especially the scene where lian hua was holding her father's photo by the sea. i really really love it. you made getai a culture that i love and feel proud of. top

  • Anonymous Anonymous says so:
    21/8/08 23:14  

    Hi, well done & a good job to all the crews of 12 lotus. It's a great film. However, there are some scenes that are being cut too abruptly & the editting are not very well done, esp lian hua's father accident part. top