'Jilted' man burns girlfriend alive

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'I hate wearing a tuxedo'

S'porean directors Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal recall their recent Cannes Film Festival experience

Local directors Boo Junfeng and K. Rajagopal might be at the top of their game behind the camera, but they were like fish out of water on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in France last month.

"I don't really like the experience of walking on the red carpet because I hate wearing a tuxedo," Rajagopal, 50, admitted to M in an interview on Monday.

His first feature film, A Yellow Bird, was competing in the International Critics' Week and was up for the Golden Camera award at the prestigious film festival.

Also representing Singapore at Cannes was Boo, 32, whose film Apprentice was competing in the Un Certain Regard section. He had been there in 2010 when his debut feature film Sandcastle was screened at the International Critics' Week.

Boo said: "What's more frightening than walking the red carpet are the moments in the car before you have to get out. You look outside and you see all these people lining the streets."

He added: "It's not such a pleasant experience to be herded along. You have rows and rows of photographers and they ask you to turn this way and that way, and somehow, you have to be turning in unison because there are four of us (including the cast)."

IN CANNES: (From far left) Malaysian actor Su Wan Hanafi, Singaporean actress Mastura Ahmad, director Boo Junfeng and actor Firdaus Rahman. PHOTO: AFP

Apprentice opens here on June 30, while no release date has been set yet for A Yellow Bird.

With plans to bring their acclaimed offerings to more film festivals, both look back at the best moments of their recent Cannes experience.

How did it feel to be competing at Cannes?

Rajagopal: Two years ago, I went to Cannes for L'atalier Cinefondation... so I felt the energy of it. That was when the seed was planted and I thought, 'What if my film was shown in Cannes?' Now, to have my film be a part of it, it's unbelievable.Boo: I suppose I was a little less wide-eyed, but it's no less overwhelming. Cannes' audience is known for being very honest and brutal, because it's usually full of critics and people in the industry... that's part of why I felt very nervous being there.

What was your most memorable moment, one that encapsulated your experience?

Rajagopal: It was when I went up on stage, and that realisation that my film was premiering at that very moment in Cannes in a cinema. Because it's my first feature film... I was pretty emotional.

IN CANNES: K. Rajagopal with Indian actress Seema Biswas. PHOTO: AFP

How did the audience react to your films?

Rajagopal: I couldn't hear, think or feel what anyone else was saying to me. I was just stunned.

I remember Junfeng giving me a big hug and I didn't want to let go because I was so thankful...

There were audience members who came up to me on the street.

I was having dinner and one person gave me a kiss. He's from Mexico and he said he loved the film.

Boo: It's very overwhelming when people stood up and clapped.

At that moment, I didn't know what to do.

What went through your minds when your films didn't win?

Rajagopal: I didn't expect to go to Cannes... To be in competition with a group of very fine films is a prize on its own. I'm very proud that I was eligible.Boo: I don't think awards or festivals are necessarily benchmarks to meet for films to be worthy of being watched or supported.

Are you hoping that the Cannes recognition will help boost local awareness and box office when the films open in Singapore?

Boo: Of course... it is often most rewarding when Singaporeans respond to the films we make, more than anywhere else in the world, very simply because these are films made in Singapore, (about) Singapore.

Who were you most keen to spot at Cannes?

Rajagopal: For me, it was the film-makers more than the actors... like (Iranian director) Asghar Farhadi.

Boo: I was most star-struck when I met Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda. At one of the dinners, my producer went up to him and asked if I could take a picture with him. He's one of my film-making heroes.

Movie Date: Me Before You (PG13)

Me Before You has enough overall charm to be the perfect date movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUbCupJWFSE

STARRING Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Stephen Peacocke, Matthew Lewis

DIRECTOR Thea Sharrock

THE SKINNY Louisa "Lou" Clark finds a job as a caregive to Will Traynor (Claflin), a quadriplegic millionaire who has locked himself away in his parents' castle. Her task is to be Will's companion along with his male nurse Nathan (Peacocke). Lou, a ray of sunshine, ends up melting the frosty Will and falling for him.

RATING PG13


MARS - JASON JOHNSON

The story here is really pretty interesting.

It is a romance between a girl who is all body, and a guy who is all brain.

The girl is a cheerful ditz, but she is fully present in the physical world.

She is socially engaged and active, though not exactly sporty. Outlandishly beautiful, her concern on any given day is what outfit she is going to wear.

As for the guy, he is an intellectual, an aristocrat who excelled in the world of high finance before a terrible accident landed him in a wheelchair. He is worldly and sophisticated, moody but not without a sense of humour.

Separately, they're incomplete, not to mention dull. Together, they're dazzling. It is a beautiful illustration of how two people with nothing in common can be drawn together.

The bubbly beauty and the paralysed guy inhabit two completely different worlds, but that's fine.

Each is like an astronaut exploring an alien planet. She is awestruck by his castle. He is charmed by her humble family over dinner.

Most of us are suckers for these sorts of stories.

Some may accuse Me Before You of being slight and silly, but I find it quite profound.

It is a great-looking movie with cool actors, juicy themes, fun moments but sad ones too. There is nothing not to like.

Rating: 4/5


VENUS - JOANNE SOH

If The Hunger Games movie franchise didn't turn Claflin aka Finnick Odair into an official dreamboat, Me Before You certainly will.

He is the best thing in this love story based on Jojo Moyes' best-selling novel.

Even when he is strapped down to his wheelchair and left with only his face to emote, Claflin brings impressive depth to his thinly written role.

Each furrow of the brow, each smize, each flash of those dimples will make your heart flutter.

Australian newcomer Peacocke is pretty easy on the eyes too.

Director Sharrock, making her feature film debut, ticks all the right boxes for a formulaic flick that reeks of Nicholas Sparks tearjerkers. The difference is that this is not a three-hanky movie.

Sure, you may get teary-eyed at the end, but Clarke's exuberance will make you smile more than weep. Her bubbliness is infectious, though at times it becomes quite annoying.

It is a pity that, despite wielding so much potential, Me Before You is so uninspired. Then there is the issue of euthanasia, which is taken a bit too lightly.

Thankfully, Claflin and Clarke's winsome chemistry keeps everything afloat.

The picturesque locations and her whimsical clothes help move it along too.

Rating: 3/5


THE CONSENSUS Quibbles aside, Me Before You has enough overall charm to be the perfect date movie.

Man sets himself on fire in Geylang carpark

Witnesses shocked as man in his 70s douses himself with flammable liquid before lighting himself up at a carpark in Geylang

HELP: SCDF officers with the can containing flammable liquid that the man used to set himself on fire.

A man in his 70s set himself ablaze with a can of flammable liquid at a Geylang carpark last night.

Witnesses said they had seen him carry the can to the carpark at the junction of Geylang Lorong 19 and Lorong Bachok at around 10pm yesterday.

He stood beside a TransCab taxi in a corner of the carpark, poured the liquid on himself and set himself alight.

The man burned for around four minutes while passers-by rushed to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher that they took from a nearby coffee shop.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said the man was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital with burn injuries.

His condition was unknown as at press time.

A witness, Mr Heng Peng Kwang (below), told The New Paper that he had seen the man at the carpark clutching a metal can in his hands.

The man then leaned on the taxi but Mr Heng did not see him pour the liquid on himself.

Mr Heng, 59, who was hanging out opposite the carpark with five friends, said in Mandarin: "I was suspicious at first but my friends laughed at me because they thought the man was just acting."

After a while, he heard an explosion.

Mr Heng, who works in the hotel line, added: "There was a big 'boom' and the next thing I saw were flames that shot up very high behind the taxi."

Other people who saw what happened quickly rushed to the man's aid.

A rag-and-bone man, Mr Koh Teo Mong (below), 68, told TNP in Mandarin: "He was just shouting 'Ahhhhh!' I tried to look for water but could not find any."

The fire was put out about four minutes later after a passer-by carried out a fire extinguisher from a nearby coffee shop.

Mr Heng recalled: "As he burned, he was still standing with arms outstretched.

"When we put the fire out, he was still conscious but had gone quiet. His clothes and hair were completely burnt off. He just stood there, stiff and burnt."

Mr Heng called for the police and an ambulance which arrived in about 10 minutes.

TNP understands that the victim suffered severe third-degree burns.

The man was a known figure in that part of Geylang but his identity could not be established. Mr Heng said the man was seen on Monday playing Chinese chess at Rong Cheng Restaurant, which is near the scene of the incident.

Police have confirmed the incident and investigations are ongoing.

Tags: fire, SCDF, Geylang and carpark

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