Monday, October 11, 2010
This movie is not for everyone.
And for some of us, it becomes something more than a movie. I first saw this film about five years ago when I was exploring the world of extreme horror and gore. I’m sure I saw this film in the same week I viewed Nekromantik, Assault! Jack the Ripper and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. One thing separates Singapore Sling from the previous group and that is the fact that I keep coming back to watch it. This movie holds something for me that transcends the visceral knee-jerkiness for which all exxxtreme movies strive.
A wounded detective (Panagiotis Thanasoulis) stumbles upon two women in lingerie, digging a hole in the mud and rain late at night in the garden of their villa. The beginning has this sense of futility and purpose – throwing a shovel’s worth of mud over the hole just to have the rain and gravity undo it. But the women keep truckin’ on because there’s a body to bury – the chauffer, to be exact. And the women, a mother (Michele Valley) and daughter (Meredyth Herold) team, killed him. How do we know these things so quickly in the first minutes of the film? Because there is no fourth wall – the women speak directly to the camera and let us in on the secret. We are more than just the audience being titillated now. These characters, who wear bloomers & lace gloves, and perform the ancient art of Chinese cupping after a hard day’s burial, are captivating, and they demand our attention.
The breaking of this boundary in film is rare – and usually, when it happens, it’s in the comedy genre for what I’ve seen and somewhat ineffective. The way that writer and director Nikos Nikolaidis handles this, however, is nothing short of brilliant. The film is made up mostly of talking to the camera and voiceovers, and it’s delivered either by the milfy mother (who speaks in English, then repeats most of what she says in French for accentuation) or from the spastic daughter (who talks with hard-to-swallow orgasmic outbursts, though it becomes easier with multiple viewings). It’s one of the elements that make this more than just a film with incest, sadism, ball-gag and electroconvulsive torture, rape, watersports, vomit and one lucky kiwi.
I'm not going to make any assumptions about Greeks here, but this is the second Greek film I've seen that centers around a dysfunctional family unit. And when I say dysfunctional, I'm not talking about arguing at the dinner table. The other film (which I recently viewed and also adore) is Dogtooth - still letting that one settle in my mindgrapes.
Singapore Sling unfolds with the detective looking for Laura, a woman in trouble who may or may not already be dead – and may or may not have been murdered by ‘mother’ and ‘daughter.’ The detective, who speaks only with internal monologues in Greek, is given the moniker ‘Singapore Sling’ because they find a recipe for the drink in his investigations notebook, along with the questions “where’s Laura?” and “who killed Laura?”. He is promptly taken as a sex prisoner by the women.
Like the 1944 film noir Laura by Otto Preminger, the detective falls for Laura after tirelessly searching for her or her corpse. Though I haven’t seen the Preminger film, I understand there are similarities between the two films in what is a neo noir nod from Nikolaidis. When the detective comes upon the sex mansion where the psychotic women take him prisoner, however, I gather this is where the film comparisons end. The matriarch is kind enough to only rape and pee on the prisoner, whereas the daughter takes it one step further and plays headgames with him, dehydrating him to the point of hallucination, dressing up as Laura and trying to convince him that she is the one he's been looking for all along.
My favorite scenes are the playing of the song ‘Laura’ (composed for the 1944 film), sung by Julie London. The airy, echoey way the song drifts through the rich, open villa – there is a certain nostalgia attached to it. The look of the film is the other piece that distinguishes it from run-of-the mill exploitation stock. The shock of a golden shower, or the disgusting gluttony of eating and regurgitating crawfish is muted by the sheer beauty of the setting and classic black & white celluloid. Utterly beautiful to watch, and mind-numbingly depraved/perverted/shocking at the same time.