Singapore Sling (1990)
Written & Directed by: Nikos Nikolaidis
Starring: Meredyth Herold, Panos Thanassoulis, Michele Valley.
(EXPLICIT CONTENT-MAY OFFEND)
A black and white wetness fills the screen as two women dressed in goggles, royal robes and scant negligee dig in a muddy pit. The technical proficiency of the lighting and composition presented are akin to that of golden age cinema, the carefully arranged shadows framing the interior of the shots. Dense rainwater washes down the women’s faces and they exclaim with ecstasy with each shovel full of thick dirt they remove from the hole. A voiceover begins in florid Italian with english subtitles that highlight the design and misdirection of the dialogue.
“…I was the sort of guy, broke, homeless and without friends who always chases after lost causes with female names that lead nowhere. Mine was called Laura, and I met her many years ago. My world was a sick and pitiful one, where trouble from a girl like that had to happen. It’s been three years since I lost her and every time I smell jasmine on a passing girl, I think of her and start looking for trouble again. And so I got to where I am now. Only where I am now is a little strange because towards the back of the garden and around an open hole, two women are doing things which should have stirred me once, but with a bullet in one’s shoulder, one can’t do much.”
The monologue continues as the man, wearing a trench-coat, hauls himself into the back seat of a car which is featured from many angles. The women reveal a body which they drag into the pit, knocking away the soon to be departed’s still hand, grasping for life, as they refill the hole.
Thus begins the sado-satirical exploitation patriarchal indictment that is Singapore Sling. This film is for neither the sensitive of stomach or mind. It may as well be called Trigger Warning, to wit in an opening scene of exposition the character Daughter speaks, in english, to the audience explaining that she lives with her Mommy and was raped and then sexually trained by her father, who killed and buried their servants, and now that her father is dead she performs the those same carnal duties on Mommy who is a transsexual. She goes on to explain that she and Mommy had kidnapped, raped and disemboweled a woman named Laura, years earlier, and now use the memory of that event to fuel a routine sadistic sex act where Daughter is forced to give Mommy non-consenting oral sex followed by sodomy. That which I have summarized above is only the first twenty minutes of the film.
Singapore Sling has a lot to say about the poisonous infection of a damaged patriarchy, sexual dominance, insanity, the inversion of classical narrative arcs, sadism, delusion, psychosis and torture. It speaks to all those things through the abstractions of visual perversity that drives the film. There is no solid footing of literalism in this story, should you prove sturdy enough to watch all of it, it will require your engagement to decipher any meaning from it’s wretch inducing frames. It has no easy interpretation. It is a purposefully disturbing collage of scenes and imagery which come together to form a fascinating larger picture, less grotesque and more intriguing than the sum of it’s troubling scenes but still filled with their dead weight. You’re gonna want a drink when it’s all over.
As wave after wave of noxious imagery came at me I took solace in the contrast of the film’s visual style and genre trope with that of the content itself. The story is presented as a golden age exploitation detective thriller where a man searching for his lost lover is taken captive and held prisoner by two sex crazed lunatics, like the cover of an old pulp novel. But Singapore Sling presents the absolute least enjoyable or palatable version of that story. Instead of the presumed titillating macho fiction fantasy of being taken captive by two nymphos, the story is embalmed by a madness that is carried through the veins of the film by the heartbeat of decadent visual stylings. Despite the constant exploration of foul imagery, from multiple bewilderingly cartoonish depictions of non consensual sex, to electroshock therapy, the disemboweling of a body whilst it’s heart still beats and a dinner scene that makes the monkey brains in Temple of Doom look like preschool, I was hypnotized by the quality of the filmmaking in the composition of the shots, set decoration, editing and sound design. The female characters often break the fourth wall, addressing the audience as if they know they are there, sometimes translating key phrases into Italian, English and French. These departures from standard narrative draw you into and almost normalize the lunacy. Once immersed completely in the viscous stew of content the perversion becomes temporarily normalized in, allowing for a visually lyrical journey through the bile of madness and co-dependent destruction.
There are only three true characters in the film Mommy, Daughter and the man, who becomes known as Singapore Sling. Mommy is the dominant personality in the film but she is only able to replicate the acts of dominances as portrayed in the patriarchy, as represented by the absent father character. Mother is only as powerful as those she can control. Daughter is a submissive but headstrong waif, damaged beyond repair by first the abuse and conditioning of her father and then the systemic need to repeat this process of abuse as it’s the only thing that gives her any self value. She has a intimate addict’s connection to her lust and physical satisfaction. Daughter hates the control that Mother has over her but this subjugation is only way she knows to feel pleasure, until Singapore Sling is taken captive and she arouses him, has sex with him and then pukes on his face. Singapore Sling is an injured figure of typical lone wolf male virtues but through the film his sanity crumbles while his body fails him. He is made a sexual plaything, a drone, a receptacle, shamed and debased man leaving him with no recourse but to seek revenge and prepare for death. Although the cast of this film did not go on to have extensively successful careers it should be noted that the woman who played Daughter, Meredyth Herold, should never be forgotten for her brave, honest and completely terrifying performance.
Singapore Sling is an extensively disturbing film on purpose. It takes many things which we would normally identify with pleasure even comfort and perverts them with a coat of mud, viscera and bodily fluids. The classical quality of the filmic visual design evokes films of a simpler era, when men were men and women might be vixens or sexpots. Instead of some comforting trashy fare the film is constantly baffling in it’s repulsion, going so far as to induce nervous laughter. The notion of a sex driven fantasy mystery romp surely has a place in culture, but this film with its inky blackness perverts any desire for supple flesh, revealing us to all just be pieces of meat. The film’s score is a noir style piano set pulled from the 1944 detective film Laura ,directed by Otto Preminger, which sets the expectation for the story we’re accustomed to receiving, yet the inversion of that crowd pleasing tone betrays our expectation. There is a scene in which the camera follows an erotic course across a woman’s body as she caresses herself, a scene which is charged with a tasteful level of sexuality until it’s revealed that she’s pleasuring herself with a kiwi. The obtuse strange fruit throws off the standard eroticism, especially when the furry orb is inserted into an anus, mashed to bits and spread across the woman’s body. It is this essence of utilizing an aesthetic, the classic film or the erotic thriller, but spitting in it’s face with debasing acts that provides as much of the shock as the acts themselves. The film’s constant but subtle acknowledgement at it’s own perversity, through the characters knowing looks at the camera, allows for the thinnest levity in the acts of wanton violence and sexual degradation on screen. The film insults and tortures the unsuspecting while winking at those who are literate in film with it’s knowing disrespect of tropes and stock thematics. Madness and disgusting spectacle overcome romantic typicality.
While I cannot overstate that this is NOT a film for those weak of stomach or easily disturbed, I would recommend this film to serious cinephiles, filmmakers and those who are looking for a truly bizarre experience. It’s wealth of unique visuals and cinematic qualities are ripe for the picking and this unique approach to scandalizing the audience appeals to the lustful and torturous identities of our greater demons.
Definitely NOT a date movie