Thursday, May 25, 2017

MNL 143 (Emerson Reyes, 2012)

Trip to Quiapo

You'd think Emerson Reyes' MNL 143took inspiration from Jafar Panahi's Taxi, or Steven Knight's Locke--both very good films that largely take place inside a vehicle--and you'd be wrong; Reyes' film came out three years before Panahi's, and a year before Knight's. Not that I'm suggesting Panahi or Knight were inspired by Reyes (Though who knows? The film screened in the Edinburgh festival the year it was released), just that the Filipino filmmaker is every bit as capable of conceiving a reasonably novel concept and now--thanks to digital filmmaking and fundraising efforts to support that filmmaking--is able to realize them on the big/small/online screen.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (James Gunn, 2017)

Beat of a different drum

This being a sequel it would be smart of me--obligatory almost--to declare that lightning doesn't strike twice, that Gunn has sold his soul to the corporate suits at Marvel, that this lacks the freshness of the original and so on and so forth. 

Might be true--is true, arguably--but what the hell enjoyed it anyway. 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Mutya ng Pasig (Pearl of Pasig, Richard Abelardo, 1950)


Love never dies

Richard Abelardo's Mutya ng Pasig (Pearl of the Pasig, 1950) at first glance plays like a musical version of Wuthering Heights (Dona Sisang's LVN Pictures was known for its musicals): the star-crossed lovers forcibly separated (this time by a false accusation and a prison term); the woman marrying another; the death in mid-narrative; the man haunted by ghosts of memories past--all accompanied by the occasional song (including the haunting eponymous melody* composed by Nicanor Abelardo, Richard's cousin) and dance number. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Takaw Tukso (William Pascual)


Fourway

I remember watching Takaw Tukso (rough translation: Passion Play, directed by William Pascual, written by Armando Lao) in a wretched 16 mm print years ago: the film would skip and skitter, and jump (it seemed) entire scenes. Had the vague notion that Boy (Gino Antonio) married Debbie (Anna Marie Gutierrez), and later Nestor (Julio Diaz) married Letty (Jaclyn Jose); also had a notion that Anita Linda played Boy's mother Aling Conching, but just what happens to her by story's end wasn't all that clear. 

What was clear was four extremely attractive people lusting after each other, husband for wife and vice versa--though not necessarily husband for his legally married wife (or vice versa); four young men and women coupling in a variety of combinations and positions, scratching an itch they can't quite reach. By the time of the film's violent climax (at least I think it was violent--the print wasn't very legible by this point) I came away with the impression of a compelling chamber drama, set in a house beside a small auto repair shop in one of the less affluent neighborhoods of Manila--Bergman transposed to Southeast Asia, all sweaty and squalid and begrimed. 


Friday, April 21, 2017

T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)

Choose again
  
I remember the experience of seeing Trainspotting for the first time --the drugs; the impenetrable accent; the band of bent-over addicts posed against the highlands as if they were the world's coolest band; The Worst Toilet in Scotland; the baby crawling on the ceiling. It was a high high, never mind the grim message that heroin addiction is a fast lane to nowhere (or as Mark (Ewan McGregor) might put it "fest loanin tae nowhaur"), Danny Boyle's movie was as startling as they came, one of the most vivid entertainments of the '90s. 

Boy we were stupid then weren't we? 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders)

Shell sans Ghost

Rupert Sanders' remake of Mamoru Oshii's influential anime Ghost in the Shell is disappointing, but what did they expect anyway? The earlier film's ideas about virtual reality, machine intelligence, and the internet have been digested and absorbed and transmuted by nearly every intelligent science fiction film in the past twenty years, from the Wachowski brothers' (now sisters) The Matrix to Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report (his Dreamworks Studios helped produce this picture) to Cameron's Avatar to Spike Jonze Her to Alex Garland's Ex Machina to Paul WS Anderson's Resident Evil movies, not to mention various episodes of Dr. Who, Legion, and Black Mirror (the latter two arguably being the most inventive science-fiction series at the moment)--and that's only titles I can remember. Oshii's film has been remade several times over, through various interesting and even inspired iterations; Sanders is covering ground that's been thoroughly strip-mined, though one wonders if the subject has been well and truly exhausted (Black Mirror suggests maybe not).  


Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Devils (Ken Russell)

An obscenity

I think The Devils, Ken Russell's fifth big-screen feature, is a culmination of previous works dealing in history (Pop Goes the Easel, The Debussy Film) literary fiction (Women in Love) surreal and sustained passages of cinema (The Music Lovers), the same time it casts a shadow--or glimmers and flashes if you like--over subsequent films: the slippery nature of reality (Altered States) the link between sexual and religious mania (Crimes of Passion) the exploration of mythic origins (Gothic)--here the true story of an entire convent of nuns reportedly possessed by demons in the small town of Loudon. Or put another way: he's explored and experimented throughout his career and thrown everything he's tried and wanted to try into this project, and whenever any film he's directed needs a scene of surpassing strangeness or shock value, he's gone back to this film (or deepwell or treasure chest--or cesspool if you like) for inspiration.