Mee Pok Man

In a nutshell
A mee pok seller in love with a prostitute takes her home after a hit and run accident.

What can I say about Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man? It was credited with re-igniting the Singaporean film industry and given interesting accolades from various overseas (read: Western) film reviews. It was certainly the first Singaporean film I ever heard about. Plus it had Michelle Goh. I had to review it. So here it is.

Mee Pok ManFormerly released with an R(A) rating, now released in M18+ DVD glory, Mee Pok Man is a rather interesting, albeit, unpolished film. Centred around the titular character, played broodingly by Joe Ng, Mee Pok Man is what can best be described as a gothic romance. Shot in grainy 4:3, the film focuses on the relationship between Mee Pok Man and Bunny, played by newcomer (at the time) Michelle Goh.

Helmed by the now legendary Eric Khoo, the film felt messy. Inexplicable cuts from scene to scene were confusing at best and made the film a little too tedious to watch. Like Kevin Smith’s Clerks, it spent a better part of the film screaming “I’m an indie film!”

But unlike Clerks, Mee Pok Man’s cuts were jarring and made little or no sense whatsoever to the plot/premise/flow of the film. Aside from that, Joe Ng spent a better part of the film trying to outbrood himself, turning what could have been a competently acted film into an all-out mopefest.

Which is not to say that Mee Pok Man is a bad film. Like an unpolished gem, it shows great potential. Get past the heavy-handed acting, the stereotyped characters and the lack of any clear direction, and Mee Pok Man is an interesting film.

True, some of the scenes could have been trimmed a little here and there and some of the actors used a little more effectively (Lim Kay Tong, for instance) but at the heart of the mess is a movie with heart. Like a modern-day Quasimodo (alas, without the payoff at the end), we can empathise with Mee Pok Man as he spends his days obsessing over Bunny.

And obsession would be the right word for it. Socially inept and severely lacking in self-confidence, he is unable to relate to the object of his affection, preferring instead to relate to his idealised version of her — which is easy to do because she spends most of the time with him unconscious and unable to respond.

As a modern-day Singaporean Esmerelda Bunny is the perfect tragic foil to Mee Pok Man’s sad existence. A prostitute with a heart of gold, she spends her time obsessed with getting out of Singapore and seeking a better life overseas (in perhaps what was ultimately prophetic for Michelle Goh).

All in all, anyone interested in viewing an atypical Singaporean movie should consider Mee Pok Man. It does get a little disturbing toward the end, which may pique the interest in the horror buffs in all of us (personally it made my skin crawl), but like any good film it will make you continue watching despite itself.

Directed by Eric Khoo
Produced by Jacqueline Khoo
Written by Yu Lei Foong
Running time: 105 minutes
Released in 1995

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