Thursday, December 06, 2012

Cinema One 2012: The Lowdown

Aberya (Christian Linaban): Difficult as it is to dismiss how jacked up with promise this is and how its reach has balls, only one of the four separate lives that inevitably intertwine here has juice: a drug dealer experimenting with ways to travel through time using narcotic cocktails. The rest, which include a boxer and a whore and a wannabe socialite, lose me a little and most of this loses to my issues with the post-postmodern aesthetic Linaban favors, dangerously verging on either MTV sensory overload or hipster self-awareness but both of which, to his immense credit, he rejects falling back on.  

Anak Araw (Gym Lumbera): Despite its undertow of melancholia, and its fragmented structure, it's not difficult to parse the ethnographic schisms at play here, the yearning for the bucolic and the pull of the urban, schisms that obviously preoccupy Gym. Like Taglish, language is a metaphorical stand-in and its duplicities, not to mention the entropies visited on it, illuminate his own duplicities and entropies.  But where Taglish is the darker, more sombre film, Anak Araw is almost intolerably light-hearted and shot through with whimsy and tenderness. The way the song that plays near the end gives the piece its necessary emotional uplift and at the same time elucidates the conceptual point of everything is quite the feat.

EDSA XXX (Khavn de la Cruz): It's a film freighted with many things, not least of which is Alexis Tioseco's portentous wish to see it come to fruition, and the irony that the perpetually independent and self-sufficient Khavn's dream project turns out to be his first under a corporate aegis, his first that he doesn't own rights to, acquires a special underlayer of subtext. Khavn's reaction to the emptiness the revolutions we celebrate have come to represent is to laugh at its absurdities and lay in a delightful array of music under it, veering from girl group doo-wop to quasi-flamenco to smoldering swamp-blues. A work-in-progress sustained in its current form by the propulsion from the joyous racket it makes and shaping up to be his most hopeful work yet.

Mamay Umeng (Dwein Baltazar): Mamay Umeng is in his 80s and has nothing left to live for except dying, only he's in the pink of health and death has been everything but cooperative. The risk you run with a film about tedium, a film that's ultimately about the lack of anything happening, the slow action of life going on and on and on, needs no elaboration, but in drawing out the minutiae of the old man's waiting, often with dollops of funny, and not to mention a couple of tiny and poignant semiotic gestures, it proves sound the premise behind slow cinema that stillness is conducive for stumbling on epiphanies. 

Mariposa Sa Hawla Ng Gabi (Richard V. Somes): It's saying a lot to pin this down as hitting some  ceiling with regards to how visually sumptuous it is, as every Richard Somes film looks good enough almost to eat.  His alternate universe re-imagining of Manila as a gaudy noir carnival of color and grime, through which a feisty young country woman tries to get to the bottom of her sister's brutal murder not to mention her mysterious body modifications, smacks of equal parts Fellini and Sion Sono, and does gain the relentless, fucked-up weirdness that implies.

Mater Dolorosa (Adolf Borinaga Alix Jr.):  Granted, it trawls over little that's new, but then again, every big-boned post-Godfather gangster saga, from Election to We Own The Night, doesn't necessarily trawl over anything new either, all being essentially iterations of the politics of family, Shakespearean being the go-to qualifier, meaning they're knotty and messy and operatic. Only here, everything is subdued to the point of nonchalance, even its colors are muted to the brink of gray you assume is the moral tenor of its characters, achieving a sense of the equilibrium you also assume is how you give yourself over to this sort of life.

Ang Paglalakbay Ng Bituin Sa Gabing Madilim (Arnel Mardoquio): It boils the intricacies of the Bangsamoro conflict down into the plight of a lesbian rebel couple and the suddenly orphaned nephew of one of them, still reeling from the murder of his parents and whose backpack is bursting with ransom money, as they make a break for friendlier territory and evade the soldiers bearing down on them.  Not so much minimalist as it is almost graceful in its restraint, it slows the chase film down into a road movie and achieves, in the subtle shifting of tones  from urgency to languor, a dreamlike reverie that poeticizes their own futile yearnings to free themselves from the strictures of both their revolution and their religion.

Palitan (Ato Bautista): Sure, it gets its softcore jollies down pat, but just like its spiritual forebear, Scorpio Nights, this is really about the simmering desperation that comes from sustained ennui and claustrophobia, re-imagining the cramped milieu as an ever tighter space with even flimsier walls, both literal and metaphoric, through which slithers the devil at the heart of matters, embodied gamely and diabolically by Mon Confiado, with all the threat and malice of a coiled snake.

Pascalina (Pam Miras): Here are the things you don't notice when seen through the bland prism of the everyday: how your self-absorbed sisters are grotesque harpies,  how distant and arrogant your boyfriend is,  how the only person who has the courage to say she loves you is dying and probably a monster. But the opaque sheen that comes from shooting on a Digital Harinezumi not only gives everything  a timbre of often intoxicating ambivalence but lathers the hellish melodrama in which the eponymous stumblebum is embroiled in, until the soup gets so oppressive, it makes her eventual descent into the secret monstrosity languishing under her well-meaning social deficiency feel more like a transcendence, into a shadow life that's perversely more promising.

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