Tuesday, 10 December 2002

Downtown

Someone squash the Ketchup Song. Please.

Anyway, so I'm back from Kuala Lumpur. Ethical dilemma: so DVD piracy is rampant in Malaysia and you can get most movies there - even the latest ones like Solaris, which hasn't even come to the screens around here - for about RM10 (roughly S$5 or US$3). This is intellectual theft, of course. But at the same time, it's often the only source of indie films in the region - films like Auto Focus or The Rules of Attraction (Dawson as psychopath!) probably won't make it to the cineplexes or the video store. Or they'll play the film fest circuit, which means I'll have to wait till next year. Oh, I know it's economics - the Picturehouse, my city's attempt at an arthouse cinema, had to shut down eventually. But it still creates a moral morass.

And don't even get me started on censorship...

Sometimes what worries me is that people who seem to want to create that feeling of excitement (I hesitate to use the word "buzz", which started off sounding like instant jargon and has suffered the usual death by overkill) in Singapore don't seem to recognise that in truly exciting cities, art happens on a continuum of scale. Which is to say, yes London and New York have their galleries and West End / Broadway plays and musicals but they also have small-scale exhibitions and cheap theatre in low-rent districts. (I have fond memories of watching a random play in the Lower East Side, from which I have a lovely T-shirt that says "Who Cares Who Died This Week? Alice is Dead". If anyone remembers what this performance is, please e-mail.) And the ideas that come from these small-scale shows and productions feed up to the mainstream.

Actually it disturbs me that people even point to Broadway musicals coming to Singapore as a sign of flourishing art. I like some musicals (the effervescent "Mamma Mia!", the wisecracking "Producers") but they're profoundly middlebrow forms of entertainment. Particularly Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose music is often as inane as the Ketchup Song, which at least doesn't try to be more than it is. Wake me up when "Urinetown" hits the Esplanade.



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