Friday, September 24, 2021

Evangelion 3.0 + 1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (Hideaki Anno, 2021

End of everything

(Details of plot twists and narrative discussed in detail)

I remember my initial reaction to Neon Genesis Evangelion, from TV series to expanded film versions, ending with the assertion that Anno has "some growing up to do". I take back my dismissive attitude towards the TV finale--no matter how experimental End of Evangelion became (and it admittedly got pretty experimental with money to burn, a tribute to the financial success of the series) that finale only proved how truly radical the series was, almost entirely by accident (a combination of cost and time overruns plus Anno's own indecisiveness as to form)--I mean, an intricate narrative involving mechas that ends with neither mechas nor narrative but a group session in a high school gym? It wasn't fair to viewers (Who shot Kaji? Why kidnap Kozo? What happened to NERV, or for that matter the rest of humanity?) but definitely wasn't run-of-the-mill.  

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Malignant (James Wan, 2021)


(Warning: plot twists and story discussed in explicit and gory detail)

James Wan's Malignant promises more than it delivers: a Dario Argentoish giallo that morphs into Cronenbergian body horror that turns, rather wanly, into life-affirming feminism. Three-fourths of the way through there's a supposedly wild twist but really nothing we haven't seen before, from The X-Files' episode "Humbug" to George Romero's The Dark Half to Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall to--if we consider this a variant on the doppelganger genre--Dostoevsky's The Double to Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Candyman (Nia DaCosta, 2021)

Call me by your name

The script of Nia DaCosta's Candyman is problematic, to put it mildly. It seeks to repurpose a pop gothic figure under a more politically correct ideology; it seeks to deliver a more hopeful overall message that acknowledges current racial tensions, while still administering intense doses of gore not to mention satire to a (presumably) bloodthirsty audience. 

Does it work? Tell you what I think:

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Best of 2001

A film odyssey

The search for cinema in 2001 started out with one of the less admirable, Yam Llaranas’ Balahibong Pusa (Pussy Hairs), an unwholesome mix of MTV, San Miguel Beer commercials, and Mike de Leon’s Kisapmata. It was screened side-by-side with Gil Portes’ Gatas sa Dibdib ng Kaaway (In the Bosom of the Enemy), a passably crafted (meaning it didn’t look like a San Miguel Beer commercial) love triangle between a woman, a guerilla, and a Japanese officer in World War 2.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)

In the Mode for Love

In Wong Kar Wai's latest In the Mood for Love Tony Leung plays Mr. Chow, Maggie Cheung plays Mrs. Chan. He's a newspaper reporter; she's a secretary. They're both married and suspect their respective spouses are having affairs; it's when they learn that Mrs. Chow is having an affair with Mr. Chan that their eyes finally turn to each other, in mutual hurt and longingA neat premise, neat enough to make you sit up and want to know what happens next. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Cinemalaya 2021

Baker's dozen

Cinemalaya 2021 is the first in the longest while I've seen all of a Filipino film festival's competition entries, and that mainly because they're shorts (all available on KTX.PH). I've heard disappointment from some corners--apparently this was how Cinemalaya 2020 went and I understand how they feel but 1) I don't really consider shorts necessarily inferior to features (as with short stories vs. novels each form has its virtues and vices) and 2) I've been so hungry for new Filipino work that for me this was a sprawling table of tapas (in the Spanish not Filipino breakfast sense) featuring a wide array of flavors.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Heremias: Unang Aklat - Ang Alamat ng Prinsesang Bayawak (Heremias: Book One - The Legend of the Lizard Princess, Lav Diaz, 2006)

A prophet in his own land

Lav Diaz's Heremias (2006) is 540 minutes long, an hour shy of the length of Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family, 2004), presently the record holder of the title 'longest single Filipino feature'--but then this picture is only part one, subtitled (or so I'm told) Book 1 - The Legend of the Lizard Princess. Ebolusyon spanned a broad canvas, featuring not just the story of two families (rice farmers in Tarlac, firewood gatherers aspiring to become gold miners in the Benguet Province) but the recent history of the Philippines as represented in a series of documentary footage, from Marcos' declaration of martial law in 1972 to the EDSA Revolt in 1986 to the massacre of farmers on Mendiola Bridge in 1987. Along the way Diaz stuffed the film with all kinds of conceits, from film critic Gino Dormiendo playing Lino Brocka in a series of televised interviews, to a plot to assassinate Brocka (?!), to a series of hilariously melodramatic radio broadcasts that the families listen to weekly, with religious fervor, as if at Sunday Mass. Heremias is different--the odyssey of a man (Ronnie Lazaro) from his village to the city and back; more, it's his journey from a state of innocence to knowledge, disillusionment, guilt.