KINDA HOT: A book about Saint Jack

Info, news and a kind of diary covering the publication of a book about the making of the film Saint Jack in Singapore...

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Location: Bedok, The East, Singapore

Author, Lecturer, Screenwriter, Film Critic & Historian... Email me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Coming my way?

Not sure where to start this blog, but the cover seems as good place as any:

St jack cvr_small

To see a bigger version, click on the pic and it'll take you thru to Flickr.

I'm in a limbo at the moment, the book went to print friday before last, and I'm expecting it to be in my hands any day now. To say that I'm full of nervous anticipation is a bit of an understatement.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Not sure how you got to this site, but you may need some background information. And that's what this blog is for - to fill you in on this book wot I wrote, why I did it, how it's doing, and where you can buy it.

I'll keep it simple.

According to the internet movie database, Saint Jack is a film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, based on a book by Paul Theroux, it stars Ben Gazzara, and was shot on location in Singapore. It was released in 1979 in the States, and in Europe in 1980 and in some countries even later.

It's a film that used to turn up on TV in the UK, late at night and without fanfare. Even though I was a compulsive video-taper of almost anything I hadn't seen movie-wise, I distinctly remember deciding not to waste a tape on it when I was about 16, mainly because the review in the Time Out Film Guide (my bible at the time), dismissed it as a poorly made travelogue exotica of little interest (the review is unbylined, but I have an unconfirmed feeling that it was by a now extremely well-known expert on Asian cinema).

That's it. I totally forgot about it for nearly a decade. And now I've written a book about it. How can that happen?

Well, I came to Singapore in 1998 for the first time. The film had been screened the year before as part of the Singapore International Film Festival - it had never been seen officially in Singapore up to that point. So, some friends of mine had seen it and told me about how cool it was, and especially how brilliant Ben Gazzara was in the lead role as an American pimp called Jack Flowers.

On my return to the UK I sought out the book by Theroux, read it quickly and loved it. I've not travelled a great deal in my life - and so reading a novel set in a 'far-away' place which I was now, pretty familiar with, was very pleasurable. The book is crammed with authentic details of language, dress, behaviour and in particular, places and spaces.

I went back to Singapore at least once a year over the next few years, and Saint Jack came up in conversations there, particularly when we were visiting some very run-down ex-colonial spot. But that was it.

Then in late 2001, I knew I was going to move to Singapore in 6 months. A massive life-change, and I was not quite sure what I intended to do when I got there. I decided to create for myself a project, and ordered the DVD of Saint Jack on Amazon and before it even arrived I was plotting something for my future.

The film was everything I expected and more. I loved it despite imperfections, but it was the spontaneous moment that it seemed to capture, a lost episode in so many filmographies, a buried bit of Singapore history. Before the credits rolled, I knew that I was going to research the 'making of' as soon as I arrived in the Lion City.

I wanted to make a documentary. The opening shot is still with me... a helicopter shot above the skyscrapers of the gleaming hypercity, Louis Armstrong's music (used in the film) lazily plays over the scene, tiny credits appear in the corner of the screen - 'The Making Of Saint Jack'.

Suffice to say it never happpened. In fact I did almost nothing about The Saint Jack Project for two years. Then I had much more free time than I wanted or was prepared for, and to fill in the hours I began a blog - called harrylimetheme - and began to look for things to write about. After a few weeks, I wrote about Saint Jack, detailing why I was so interested in the film, and beginning to tell the story.

Feedback was good. Some kind people emailed me to say they loved reading about it. Then I realised that maybe, just maybe it could be a book.

2 Comments:

Blogger Alexis said...

nice to see this blog up Ben. look forward to reading more good stories on it.

8:24 PM  
Blogger ben said...

Heeeey Alexis, thanks for that. More content coming soon I promise...

10:54 PM  

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