I apologise for doing a movie review for an old movie which probably would not get shown for a long while. This Cantonese classic, starring Chan Po-Chu陈宝珠 and Lui Kay吕奇, played at the National Museum Singapore Cinematheque as part of ‘The Story Of Kong Ngee’.
National Museum Singapore Cinematheque ‘focuses on the presentation of film in its historical, cultural and aesthetic contexts, with strong emphasis on local and regional cinema.’
Kong Ngee Film Company was one of the lesser known movie moguls, together with Shaw and Cathay Organization who made films that was popular in the 50s and 60s. ‘The Story of Kong Ngee’ charts the rise and fall of the film studio with a special showcase of 15 Cantonese films.
Most of the other films starred Patrick Tse Yin, so I was ecstatic to read that the closing movie Incredible Rumour stars my childhood idols Chan Po-Chu陈宝珠 and Lui Kay吕奇. I remember sitting in front of the TV set every Thursday and Friday, watching the minute hand on the clock face on the TV screen inched towards twelve to signal the start of afternoon matinee in my pre-school years. Lui Kay was positively the most handsome man in my childish mind, and unlike the other actors who continued to make films or news, he retired shortly and was never seen. (Like my other idol Liu Wen Zheng.) I have a fuzzy image of him and wonder often exactly what was his attraction.
The 247-seat gallery theatre was almost full, save for a few single seats. Next to me was a single woman my age. The rest of the audience made up a mix of youths and senior citizens, couples and groups.
The story line is simple. Sok Lan (Chan) is a twenty-year old managing a restaurant with her grandfather, widowed mother and younger sister (Fung Bo Bo). She gets introduced to thirty year-old son of rich family, Tsi Mun (Lui) and they fall in love. She is insecure, as she feels her low status birth and being a non-graduate is incompetitable with him but he convinces her and his parents. On their engagement day, her mother-in-law tells her of a rumour, that her mother, whom she regards as the most virtuous woman, has been visiting her lover every Saturday. She denies the rumour and promised to break off the engagement if the rumour is true. Unfortunately Sok Lan discovers the truth, breaks off the engagement and runs away from home. But all ends well when the misunderstanding is cleared. (One wonders why a widow, technically a single, can’t have a boyfriend in the 60s.)
Although not a comedy, the audience burst out laughing, sometimes inappropriately at the scenes, not funny during the 60s but amusing now. The actors and actresses are always well dressed in heels and well coiffured hairdos, even at 2am at home. No one seems to carry keys around such that every time the door bell rings, we see the black and white amah rushing to open the door, even after mid-night, grounds for maid abuse now. Abrupt editing shows Sok Lan telling her family stories to Tsi Mun in different dresses and venues. Some scenes are there just to showcase the actresses and have no impact on the story. One scene shows Chan mouthing a sad song (I am sure she is a non-singer), and then going into the bedroom to close the door. Another have Fung Bo Bo dancing a whole a-go-go repertoire in a night club.
It was nostalgic looking at the 60’s fashion. Chan was dressed in similar colour from dress to bag to shoes. Her eye-brows were untidy and traced with dark kohl. Acting was exaggerated, like acting on stage. There was a cameo appearance by Lydia Sum and she looked exactly the same in the 60s to the 90s, from the hair to the glasses.
Lui Kay did not disappoint. His thick eyebrows slim built and slight imperfect teeth reminded me of current Korean idols. I can’t decide if he was wearing eye-shadow or just had dark eye-rings. He reminded me of local composer Liang Wen Foo, which my friend mouthed out exactly the same thoughts in exactly the same moment (no wonder we are good friends since age 7!).
As a souvenir for the afternoon, I got a free copy of the excellent write-up from the museum, depicting Singapore’s role in Kong Ngee Films, including locations shot and stories behind the scenes. For your information, in this movie, Sok Lan is reputed to be famous for her chicken curry in her restaurant. That’s the only local connection to Singapore I can tell.