Monday, November 2, 2015

#CineMemories: Getting Films in the 90s

The "indie movie" scene in Singapore in the mid-to-late 90s revolved around the annual Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF), at least for myself personally, and the ability to secure movies other that that shown in local cinemas, was a total mystery to me then, and in many ways still is now.

I have zero war stories to share about those days of "alternative cinema", even though whispers of THAT video store down in Tanglin blew by my ears only decades later, and I had always been too introverted a cinephile and human being to extract information from other folks beyond my small circle of friends who accompany me to screenings - which most times I do so by myself anyways, sorry to say …

… the only other "options" available, were of the "carnal" persuasion, with my one sole experience of transaction happening at the basement of Delphi Orchard, for a VHS "blue tape" with which I had zero memories of it's contents too (although it might have been a 70s' porn disguised as a cutting-edge 90s adventure … can't be sure if this was "memory" or "self-construct"… ANYWAYS,) … but at the very least I could still somehow gain contact and procure porno, but "films"?

The only other venue I knew of, and was a firm regular clientele I was of, was the comicbook shop! Specifically those who took orders from the PREVIEWS catalog.

Offered every month for pre-orders were anime and sometimes non-English languages films - which we recognize very early were not necessarily "porn", but were of the "off the beaten cinematic path" variety, and I am grateful for the opportunity and option.

Having a monthly salary also helped fueled the fever, because they did not come "cheap". Essentially any US$ SRP came to us were at a "times x2" rate, regardless of monetary conversion. And most times, they came through, way before when censorship crushed all out collective dreams of untainted films LOL

I was thankfully introduced to one of my then favouritest Japanese director; Shinya Tsukamoto, by which I was able to procure "Tetsuo The Iron Man", "Tetsuo 2: Body Hammer", and the VHS shown here: "Tokyo Fist" … and subsequently continued forth with film festivals devouring his films, like "Snake of June" and "Vital".

A video posted by TOYSREVIL (@toysrevil) on

Even more importantly, this was around the time I started designing for television, having left my short-stint in Interior Design, pursing a job with quicker gratification, and the quick turnaround times for media, suited my short attention span to a T! All of this fueled my interest in cinema and films … These VHS films and film festivals, were my gateway "drug", that had helped me eventually devouring a decades' worth of experience, and left a scar of passion until right here right now MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Imagine pre-youtube days, of written words in film magazines, which offered one or two film stills images. And even with mags and zines, the predominant coverage would be on Western films, with exceedingly little by way of Eastern films, much less "indie" films - which to be utterly fair, I only read English-language publications anyways. Via the pages of Big'O or Giant Robot, I managed to have a glimpse into more aspects of the "scene", hardly into the "underground scene", and more into the "art house" genre (yes, "youth" had it's price…).

With the internet viewed largely as "work-related", there was not much by way of information I personally would be able to glean, until years later when I clued into Ebay and searching for "toys" online (which eventually lead to my current moniker "TOYS R EVIL"), did my cyber-world explode into the varied possibilities of "FILM".

Ironically, the contents of the film, if unknown to me, was to be deciphered from a paragraph or two in the PREVIEWS listing page, which to me now, was perhaps a more poignant exercise in "the sell", than it is now with a blogpost filled with mind-numbing reviews and opinions LOL

In this digital age, "accessibility" is near instantaneous - be it a trailer, a teaser, or full downloadable film to be viewed on your desktop, laptop and mobile phones. The memorable ones last slightly longer in our minds, before another bright shiny thing comes along and distracts us … and on the same token, somehow the forgettable ones will be lost in the void and hence "disposable" … but in a time where gratification is achieved thru a certain amount of effort (yes, "googling" or searching can also be counted as "effort", no worries) and legwork, teems such as this long defunct VHS, becomes a "collectible" worthy of "hoarding", along with it's memories encased with the jewel case, yellowed with time.