Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Dory (Andrew Stanton)

Frying Dory

And Pixar's sequelitis mania continues with this latest regurgitated raid on their back catalog, in a way an attempt to repair their reputation after the debacle that was The Good Dinosaur.

(Preceding the feature is the Pixar short Piper, a harrowing horror flick featuring the massed deaths of various bivalves, some gruesomely pulled apart)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Heneral Luna (Jerrold Tarog)

Heroic lunacy

Jerrold Tarog's Heneral Luna caps if you like the decades-plus quest of Filipino filmmakers to retell the Philippine Revolution and its direct aftermath the Philippine-American War, told in two distinct styles, from the more traditional Gone With the Wind-type epic storytelling (Marilou Diaz-Abaya's Jose Rizal, Mark Meily's El Presidente) to more eclectic independent efforts (Raymond Red's extended poems Bayani (Hero) and Sakay; Tikoy Aguiluz's cinema-verite Rizal sa Dapitan (Rizal in Dapitan); Mike de Leon's Magritte-ish essay film Bayaning Third World (Third World Hero); Mario O'Hara's speculative fantasy Sisaand Dreyer-like courtroom drama Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio).

Tarog's film falls somewhere between, covering the last year or so of the life of General Antonio Luna (John Arcilla) while touching on that life's highlights: the Battle of Santo Tomas, where Luna charged the enemy and was shot off his horse; the Battle of Calumpit, where he waged a heated word war with the defiant General Tomas Mascardo (Lorenz Martinez); and the various political skirmishes Luna was forced to fight to present his strategies to his respected--if suspiciously distant--commander, President Emilio Aguinaldo (Mon Confiado).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio, Mario O'Hara, 2010)

(Belatedly, for the Philippines' Independence Day, an old post)

(For Bonifacio's 150th birth anniversary, a brilliant no-budget digital film on his trial and ignoble death)

The pasyon of Andres  

There are--and I could be perfectly wrong about this--about ten films made to date about Filipino national hero Jose Rizal, including Marilou Diaz Abaya's oversized, underpowered 150 million peso (US$3.0 million) historical epic. To date there have been--and again I can be wrong--only three films made on Filipino national hero Andres Bonifacio: Teodorico C. Santos' Andres Bonifacio (Ang Supremo) done in 1964, Raymond Red's beautiful, strangely haunting Bayani (1992), and this (edit: and at least two more, Richard Somes' 2012 Supremo, and Enzo Williams' 2014 Bonifacio, ang Unang Pangulo).

Mario O'Hara's Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio, 2010) takes its cue from Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc in employing the actual trial records as a rough outline (a film treatment, if you like) and fashions out of them an analytical, self-reflexive examination not so much of the truth of what happened as of the meaning of what happened (O'Hara at first glance seems to accept the historical record--always written by victors, Emilio Aguinaldo's rival Magdalo faction in this case--as accurate).

Friday, June 10, 2016

The VVitch (Robert Eggers)

Super natural

Robert Eggers' debut feature The VVitch is suitably chaste and sensual--chaste in that it uses the absolute minimum in prosthetic (and digital) effects (thank god); sensual in that the whispery trees, the velvet night, the cracked bark of tree and coarse weave of cloth and unearthly aureole of moon have prominent place in the film's visual palette, to the point that the children's near-bloodless faces stand out in shocking contrast. You feel as if these young Puritans, their family freshly banished (for 'prideful conceit' apparently), are constantly mooning you with their pink milkfed cheeks; on the other hand the parents tend to blend into their surroundings--all dried timber and weathered stone, no pink or milk in them at all.

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse (Bryan Singer)

Last hurrahBryan Singer's X-Men: Apocalypse is easily his worst received superhero film yet, earning 52% on Metacritic and even worse in Rotten Tomatoes--a considerable comedown from Days of Future Past, which managed to tell a chronologically complicated storyline and combine the cast of both adult and adolescent X-Men pictures in a way that enhances that film's complex (if shallow) view of history.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz, Severin Fiala)

Mother lover

Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz's Goodnight Mommy is perfect Mother's Day fare, if your idea of Mother's Day involves packing tape, sharp cuticle scissors, and a magnifying glass. 

The premise is simplicity itself: identical twins Lukas and Elias (Lukas and Elias Schwarz, real-life brothers) are enjoying the perfect summer vacation--a swim in the lake, a hike in the woods, a brief spell exploring a small cave where a whimpering cat lies wounded (the nature of its injury never really clarified) on a floor of thighbones and skulls.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Peppermint Candy (Lee Chang Dong, 1999)

Backed into the future

Lee Chang-dong's emotional powerhouse of a sophomore feature Peppermint Candy (1999) is perhaps his most structurally inventive, starting with a man's suicide going backwards--an idea possibly borrowed from Harold Pinter's play and later film Betrayal, and executed contemporaneously alongside Christopher Nolan's Memento

What distinguishes Lee's film from Nolan's (aside from looking and feeling as far from Westernized neo-noir as a film can get, with its deceptively simple camerawork and bright Rohmerlike sunlight) is the former's deft interweaving of South Korean politico-economic history, from 1980 to 1999, with the life of one Kim Yong-ho (Sol Kyung-gu). A few days before (we learn) Kim lost his business due to an embezzling business partner, lost most of his money due to a stock market crash (The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis) the rest to a loanshark, lost his wife and child because--but I get ahead of myself. 

Films like these you know the first question that comes to mind: is the structure justified? Is the backwards time scheme just a gimmick to draw the audience's attention or a crucial tactic for presenting the film's main theme? For the first half hour you're not quite sure: we first find Kim lying on a pebbled riverside, blinking at the harsh sun. He walks into a riverside picnic and you get the sense the man is staggering drunk--he blinks uncomprehendingly even when they recognize him, shrieks words into an offered karaoke mike ("What should I do? You left so suddenly! What should I do? I can't live without you! Do you have a secret no one knew? You were so tender! Na-na-na-na! Na-na-na! Na-na-na-na!"). He walks onto the nearby railroad bridge, which worries the picnickers, one of whom pleads for him to get down. Then the train blows its whistle.