Thursday, October 08, 2020

Lahi, Hayop (Genus Pan, Lav Diaz, 2020)

Planet of the apes

In his latest Lav Diaz has apparently toned down attacks on the Marcos and Duterte regimes, but if you think he's done so to deliver a kindler gentler more optimistic film to help us forget present troubles--think again. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

I'm Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)

I'm thinking of rending things

Charlie Kaufman's latest, a reasonably close adaptation of Iain Reid's novel, may provoke the desire to tear the Netflix-platformed film--or anything handy within reach for that matter--to little bits. It's that polarizing, I think.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Dahling Nick (Sari Dalena, 2015)

The write stuff

I remember the 1988 UP Creative Writing Workshop, the panelists and guest panelists including among others NVM Gonzalez, Amelia Lapena-Bonifacio, Jimmy Abad, Elmer Ordonez, and the intimidating Domeng Landicho--intimidating because Landicho at one point, having had enough of the workshoppers' brash insolence, stood up and on the spot delivered a fiery five-minute rap about (if I remember right) the stupid insolence of youth. I remember my fellow workshoppers and I leaning back against Sir Landicho's onslaught and, when he finally sat down satisfied he had pinned our collective ears to the rear wall, giving him (despite our burning lobes) a standing ovation. 

Some of my fellow workshoppers managed to rise to prominence: poet-playwright-novelist Vim Nadera; playwright-turned-filmmaker Auraeus Solito (aka Kanakan Balintagos).*

*(Perhaps the bestknown of my batch but I must say there were others who--because of lack of drive or of luck--failed to achieve fame but were equally talented if not more so

I remember the invitational dinner that closed the workshop, and the group picture we finally mustered the discipline and patience to assemble for. And I remember this elderly man with a bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen sweating in one hand shuffled up to one side of our group, draped an arm across a young Turk's shoulder, and grinned with us at the camera. 

As he shuffled away I whispered to my companion: "Who's that?" in a tone suggesting "Who does he think he is?!"

My companion stared. "That?" she said in a tone suggesting disbelief. "That's Nick Joaquin." 

I looked around wondering if I could catch sight of him again but he was gone. I've asked about that photograph ever since but lost contact with the photographer; last I heard she's gone too, tho I keep asking and looking and hoping. Forgive the longish anecdote, but that's the kind of keenness this man--shambling old, possibly drunk--can inspire in Filipinos.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Tatarin (Summer Solstice, 2001)

War of the sexes

Tikoy Aguiluz's Tatarin, based not so much on Nick Joaquin's famous short story as on the play he later adapted for stage, is about the oldest and longest-running war known to man, the war between the sexes. Joaquin's problem then was how to make this war relevant again to jaded audiences (the play was written in 1975); his solution was to set the play in the 1920s, when male-dominated Western Culture was just beginning to tremble. Aguiluz's adoption of Joaquin's stratagem is, I think, a smart move--this way he captures the very roots of the war (or at least of the 20th century edition of the war) as waged by our grandparents and great-grandparents; he photographs the combatants at a time when the battle is still urgent and raw, the stakes desperately high.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito / Kanakan Balintagos, 2005)

Blossoming to the Max

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito, 2005) is a lovely little film, about a young gay boy named Maximo (Nathan Lopez) who forms an attachment with a handsome police officer named Victor (JR Valentin, a former ramp model).

Monday, August 24, 2020

Best of 1995

The end

EVERY film is guaranteed to have one, somewhere between the last explosive climax (nuclear chemical sexual) and the final crawl of credit. Prophets with placards declare its proximity: so do churches, religious sects--anyone with a vested interest in it and what happens after. All good things come to one eventually; you have one, I have one, everyone has one. It can be as remote as the universe’s edge, as close as the tip of your nose.

Welcome to The End; in this particular case, of the year’s crop of films. Has it been a good year or bad? 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Japan Sinks (Masaaki Yuasa, 2020)

Japan rises

Once again Masaaki Yuasa put out an anime series (Japan Sinks 2020, available on Netflix--actually his second after the delightful Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!) and once again he flouts the expectations of both fans of his work and fans of disaster movies. This time though Yuasa may have fashioned not just a quietly subversive disaster epic but the fictional narrative summing up our feelings about this disaster of a year 2020.

Where the source novel (by Sakyo Komatsu) focused on government efforts to cope with the cataclysm Yuasa (with co-director Pyeon-gang Ho and writer Toshio Yoshitaka adapting) focuses on the common folk struggling to stay alive. Where the novel had mostly Japanese characters the series makes an effort to include a more diversified cast: wife and mother Mari Muto is from Cebu, Philippines; popular YouTube celebrity KITE is from Estonia; hitchhiker and amateur magician Daniel is from Kosovo; submarine pilot turned research scientist Onodera--who predicted Japan's downfall--is a paraplegic (a source of unspoken embarrassment in everyday Japanese society).