15 | Chicago Reader

15

Set in Singapore, this 2003 first feature by Royston Tan uses unconventional narrative techniques to reanimate the familiar subject of troubled youth struggling to get by in a sprawling, indifferent city. Directing real-life street kids, Tan abruptly shifts focus from one character to another, as if mimicking their impatience and short attention span, and like Godard he playfully subverts his own material by having actors address the camera directly, spouting cultural and political asides. Loopy musical numbers add to the whimsical tone, mitigating an essentially grim subject, yet Tan is unstintingly graphic in chronicling the messy details of the boys' lives: street fights, suicide attempts, self-mutilation, and wholesale drug abuse. In English and subtitled Malaysian. 93 min.

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