Monday 30 September 2019

Toggled: I watched Joanne Peh's 'nude' scene in Last Madame and I feel so dirty now

Okay, I fell for it.

When I read that Mediacorp actress Joanne Peh was going nude for the first time in a drama, Last Madame, I was curious enough to want to watch the show.

Yes, “curious”. That was it.

At first, I thought it’s a Channel 8 drama series, but then I learnt it’s in English.

Oh, so it’s on Channel 5?

Wrong. It’s on Toggle, sort of like Mediacorp’s version of Netflix except nobody says “Toggle and chill”.

All 12 half-hour episodes of the M18-rated series dropped last Thursday for you to binge and purge.

On the day of release, Peh posted a blurry photo on Instagram with the warnings “Mature content” and “Restricted access”. What a tease!

When you swipe left, you can see a still from Last Madame of Peh and co-star Jeff Chou topless in bed but not showing much, just a lot of bare shoulders.

I guess if you want to see more, you have to watch the show.

Peh, a mama of two who plays a mamasan in the drama, wrote on Insta:
“It took me a long time to decide if I would go nude for our bed scene in Last Madame. A story set in a brothel in the 1930s, we can’t shy away from sex.”
The 36-year-old ex-girlfriend of Bobby Tonelli said she made the right decision because “showing two bodies moving in unison captured the passions and inner conflict of the two characters so vividly, it pushed the show to a different level”.

“Two bodies moving in unison”? I couldn’t create my free Toggle account fast enough.

Again, I was just curious. Perhaps a little too eagerly so.

I made the mistake of watching the whole of the first episode before realising the “bodies moving in unison” scene is not in the first episode. That was 36 minutes of my life I will never get back. (The episodes are laboriously longer than publicised.)

I went online and found out that the sought-after nude scene is in the ninth episode after the 23-minute mark.

Here’s what you see.

It starts with a close-up of clasping hands before fading to black.

Then a close-up of Chou kissing Peh’s upper lip, which is how actors in local shows pretend to kiss each other on the mouth without actually kissing. No tongue.

Another fade to black.

Next, a close-up of him kissing down the side of her waist and some sort of weird puncture wound or a very scary mosquito bite above her right hip.

And yet another fade to black.

The scene continues with a few unrevealing shots of them “moving in unison” and breathing heavily interspersed with even more fade-to-black transitions.

It’s over in just over a minute (no reflection on Chou, I’m sure) and half of it is a black screen. That’s all we get for M18?

I now suspect the M18 rating is just for all the smoking in the first scene of the first episode.

Even Peh wanted more nakedness.

Asked about the scene by 8 Days magazine, she said:
“When the final cut came out on Toggle, I was, mmm, slightly disappointed. I think we could really have shown a little bit more probably, because no body parts were shown.”

Actually, body parts are shown – hands, hips, plenty of shoulders – just not the right ones.

So why do I feel so dirty after watching the scene?

Mrs Qi Yiwu used the promise of nudity to appeal to my basest instinct – curiosity – and I let her.

I should have known better. It was the oldest trick in the book. Sex sells.

I wonder how many other people fell for it too and created a Toggle account they will never use again.

If I didn’t have the potential to excel in life, I should be punished by being forced to watch all 12 episodes of Last Madame.

Fade to black.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 September 2019