(1995, Hong Kong, 98')
In today’s Singapore, the Bugis Street of the 1970s is but a faded memory. The area has been redeveloped and destined to more upstanding business. Long gone are the allusive laughter and the nervous voices of transexuals and cross-dressers that resonated in the merry Sodom and Gomorrah of Singapore’s red light district.
The Sin Sin Hotel was right there in Bugis Street. Rooms used to cost three dollars, and were the headquarters of twinkling transexuals and their lovers: either local men or American Navy.
Fictional, but with a cinéma-vérité cut, Yonfan’s beautiful film is a knowingly complicit view on Singaporean trans microcosm. Their stories are brought together by the ‘naïve’ presence of Lian, a girl fresh off the boat from Malaysia who is shocked when she realizes who these people are and what their lives are about.
This is a film on time passing, a film where feverish excitement is marred by melancholy. It shows the precariousness of the lives of these people who build a world of imagination (it is no chance that the film’s end title is the Shakespearean To Be or Not to Be) and it shows a dramatic presence of love. However, there is something, in these memorable characters, that justifies the existence of the hotel in Bugis Street as a metaphor of life.
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