Thursday, May 09, 2019

Fifteen Filipino films

(Thanks to Video 48 for some of the pictures)

Fifteen Filipino films

My old list.

Pinoy Rebyu's list

This can be neither comprehensive nor complete. We've lost so many of our films to vinegar syndrome, to New Year celebrations, to general apathy and neglect; a kind of accelerating cultural Alzheimer's, a tragedy I would argue comparable to many recent disasters only instead of lives lost we're losing our sense of self. This is a mere sample a sketch--a glimpse if you like--of what I believe are the finest Filipino films I've managed to see to date.

A film is composed of many elements--dialogue, sound, music, color, movement, the shape and texture of people's hands eyes faces. Of all these elements I'd say the most expressive are the last three--but that's me saying so, an assertion just dying to be contradicted (ask Michael Powell, or Robert Bresson).

And a list (any man's list, which I consider superior to any aggregate) is ultimately futile, is a man's way of insisting on his priorities biases (occasionally hopefully) insights.

I love futile gestures.

This for better or worse is mine.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Badjao (The Sea Gypsies, Lamberto Avellana, 1957)


Yet another of Lamberto Avellana's LVN films, available at Mike de Leon's Vimeo site:

The film starts with an image of waves lapping onto shore, the divide between land and sea stretching diagonally across the screen. With the first frame Avellana (collaborating with the great cinematographer Mike Accion) sums up the film: the tension between sand and surf, between people of differing loyalties, communities, ethnicities. A man standing beside a roof of dried palm raises his horn against clouded sky and blows; cue the bombast (and lovely lilting melody) of Francisco Buencamino Jr.'s theme music.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Jino to Marie (Gino and Marie, Joselito Altarejos)

Sex tape

Joselito Altarejos' Jino to Mari (Gino and Marie, 2019), about a pair of sex workers hired to do a Japanese porn film, is (to put it mildly) explicit--about as explicit as a Filipino independent film probably gets nowadays without actually being porn.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Huk sa Bagong Pamumuhay (Huk in a New Life, Lamberto Avellana, 1953)

Rebel yell

Available on filmmaker Mike de Leon's Citizen Jake Vimeo site: Lamberto Avellana's postwar drama Huk sa Bagong Pamumuhay (Huk in a New Life, 1953), about a wartime guerrilla who out of desperation joins communist forces seeking to overthrow the Filipino government.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Widows (Steve McQueen, 2018)

Breaking bad

Steve McQueen's Widows is a sketch of urban corruption, a low-key indictment of racism and (a touch louder) misogyny, a rich character study. It's also a hell of a crime pic.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Shoplifters ( Manbiki Kazoku, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2018)

Family business

Hirokazu Kore-eda's film begins with as unremarkable an opening as possible: a father and his son enter a grocery split up to walk down separate aisles. Only father and son keep throwing each other sidelong glances and hand signals; only son does a little finger twiddle that we'll see from time to time; only when a clerk working nearby glances at son father walks up to block the clerk's view while son drops several packets of instant ramen in his backpack. Graceful bit of choreography made casual by long practice, understated yet captivating in its intricacy.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

At Eternity's Gate (Julian Schnabel)


It isn't as if the life of Vincent Van Gogh hasn't been adapted for the big screen before. Lust for Life was Vincente Minnelli's lusty take (based on Irving Stone's novel), with Kirk Douglas holding little back as he strained to suggest Vincent's intensity; Robert Altman's Vincent and Theo focused on the relationship between the Van Gogh brothers and their destructively parallel trajectories; Maurice Pialat's Van Gogh--easily the most unsentimental of the collection--presents a harsh uningratiating view of a harsh uningratiating artist, avoiding the traditional highlights (including that ear thing) and dwelling on more quotidian activities--Pialat doesn't even make much effort to show the paintings, or approximate Vincent's unmistakable style onscreen. 

So what does Julian Schnabel's latest bring to the party?