Thursday, July 12, 2018

Bilanggo sa Dilim (Prisoner in the Dark, Mike de Leon, 1986)


Caged

John Fowles' debut novel The Collector has been adapted several times for theater stage and big screen, most notably by William Wyler, later by Mike de Leon for a 1986 feature--Bilanggo sa Dilim (Prisoner in the Dark) shot on video.

Comparing the two productions can be instructive: Wyler's is a smoothly executed Hollywood production with a fairly gripping finale; de Leon's feels more subdued, understated, unnervingly autobiographical. 



Thursday, July 05, 2018

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick)

A space prodigy

The first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey was in a basement, in a projected 35 mm print. I was maybe ten twelve years old, had heard about the film, and was eager to watch.

Bored me out of my skull.

Seeing it again and again over the decades is like coming to know an old friend. You weren't impressed at first, you learn to appreciate his better qualities, your growing admiration has been a part of your youth adolescence adulthood. 

Now you've seen him in full splendor--projected from a 70 mm print in all its unrestored glory, with flickers and scratches and cigarette burns and all--you realize you hardly knew him, or still have much to learn.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Hereditary (Ari Aster)



Home is where the harm is

The true horror in Ari Aster's Hereditary doesn't come so much from daemoniac forces as they do from human frailty and the cruel chaotic confusion of life.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Faust (Fritz Bennewitz)


Beat the Devil
 

First published in the Manila Chronicle 12/14/94

With the passing of Lino Brocka, Mario O'Hara is one of a shrinking handful of Philippine film directors whose films are worth getting excited about. Lino has already made his masterpieces; one disadvantage to being dead is that there are no more works forthcoming.

In films such as Condemned and Bulaklak sa City Jail Mr. O'Hara has proven that he can elicit memorable performances and excellent ensemble acting from Dan Alvaro, Nora Aunor, Maya Valdez, Zenaida Amador; even genial German Moreno gave a chilling turn as prison warden in Bulaklak. I will stick my neck out and say that he is Brocka's superior in visual style, as witness the dark gloriously film-noir look of Bagong Hari or the claustrophobic squalor in City Jail. As late as last year with Johnny Tinoso and the Proud Beauty he was still doing fascinating work: while the first half of the film is a mess of underfunded special effects and poorly imagined art direction, the second half is one of the more enchanting fantasies made that year, local or foreign. It was more hip and sophisticated than Disney's Beauty and the Beast and fully realized the complexities of the Nick Joaquin short story it was based on.

One more thing about O'Hara's career: it is difficult it is agony to choose between his acting and his directing. He is a brilliant director but is a just as brilliant if not more so actor. Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang is one of Brocka's more ambitious films (his best some say). O'Hara has the supporting role of a leper who lives in the outskirts of the village near a cemetery; his companion is a woman driven insane by a forced abortion, played by Lolita Rodriguez. Their roles are hoary old cliches that stink to high heaven of sickly sweet sentiment--or should: O'Hara and Ms. Rodriguez perform with sublime simplicity, treading the thin line between bathos and comedy. The result is a tender portrait of small-town outcasts; the film is a starring vehicle for Christopher De Leon (who fares well) but it's O'Hara and Rodriguez who stay with you.

 O'Hara has made a few appearances since (he was memorable in Brocka's Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa as a malevolent gardener out to seduce a repressed widow, again played by Lolita Rodriguez--what is it about the two that the chemistry between them is so potent?). He has gone into directing, resulting in the films already mentioned (for which I am grateful), and has done work on stage.

Which brings us to O'Hara's Mephistopheles in the PETA (Philippine Educational Theater Association) production of Faust. In England Shakespeare wrote among many plays Henry ll to Vll, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear; Germany has Goethe who wrote Faust. It took him sixty years and almost as long for modern audiences to sit through; PETA is doing only the first part but still--ambitious.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Manhunt (John Woo); Three (Johnnie To); Sky on Fire, Wild City (Ringo Lam)

Four by three

Playing catchup: in the everchanging landscape of World Cinema, what happened to Hong Kong's 'heroic bloodshed' movement--those action filmmakers who featured slow motion, balletic action sequences, guns pointed at each others' faces? 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Citizen Jake (Mike de Leon)


Citizen me

Mike de Leon's first film in--has it been eighteen years?--has to be an event; the latest from one of our finest filmmakers, in the same league as Lino Brocka, Mario O'Hara, Ishmael Bernal, Celso Ad. Castillo. If it's arguably the weakest feature he's done to date (hopefully not his last) it still stands head and shoulders above most anything out there today, Filipino or Hollywood. 

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil, Lav Diaz, 2018)


Rock the Devil

Not long after Brillante Mendoza's Amo (which takes its cue from Respeto's rap-driven score) we have Lav Diaz's take on the Duterte regime. Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil, 2018) is no small-scale response: two hundred and thirty-four minutes long, some six minutes short of four hours. And it's a musical.