Dir: Royston Tan. Sing-Jap.2005. 93mins.
There are few 93-minute films as long as 4:30, Royston Tan's study of youth that feelslike a tribute to Tsai Ming Liang - or, for thatmatter, Eric Khoo, one of the film's executive producers.
Nothing like15, Tan's over-the-top and similarlythemed work, it is meticulously shot in spare sets and abstract to the point ofopacity in its study of a young Singaporean boy and a suicidal Korean.
Arthouse circuits will find it daunting to programme, as willmore populist festivals. Sales prospects will need to concentrate on the specialised.
Zhang Xiao Wu (Xiao Li Yuan)has been left alone by his mother, away in Beijing on business for anindefinite period. His only company is Jung (Kim Young-jun),a Korean man who tries several times, in the course of the film, to put an endto his life.
The circumstances that bringthe two together are never quite clarified but what does come through is theboy's ultimately failed attempt to establish a rapport with his companion.
Shot from the boy'sviewpoint, 4:30 should make for aheart-breaking story of alienation, with its victim this bright youngster whooccasionally plays practical jokes on his elders and classmates, but who is defeatedby his loneliness and longing for love, care and the proximity of others.
Tan could have used TsaiMing Liang's film vocabulary to put his message acrossor that from Hirokazu Kore-eda'sexemplary Nobody Knows. But he failsto invest his static frames with the intensity that is the trademark of the formeror the keen observation of the latter.
Rather his shots overstaytheir welcome on several occasions, and without reason; the absence of dialoguefor long stretches, as justified as it is by the circumstances, hardly helps.
Certainly there are movingtouches, as when the boy and the man share a moment of sad understanding, silentlyseated next to each other on the staircase. There are alsoglimpses of humour and irony, but they are too rare and too few to offer relief.
Xiao Li Yuan, who plays theboy, has a remarkably expressive face that he uses to full advantage. Itcompensates for Kim Young-Jun as his straight man, whose single expression ofprofound gloom remains the same throughout.
Zhao Wei Films
Lim Ching Leong
Hwee Ling Leong
Xiao Li Yuan