Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Fe Flores Lacaba (1916-2006), Gary Graver (1938-2006); Robert Altman (1925- 2006)

Fe Flores Lacaba (1916-2006)

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Plaridel Papers:

Former schoolteacher Fe Flores Lacaba passed away at around 9 a.m. today, Nov. 20, at home in Pateros, Metro Manila, the town where she was born. She was 90.

She suffered a stroke on May 4 and had been bedridden since then, in the process developing bedsores, pneumonia, and diabetes.

She is survived by her children Jose, Henrietta Malillin, Erlinda Echanis, Antonio, and Virgilio. Her third child, Emmanuel, died in 1976, and her husband, World War II veteran Jose Monreal Lacaba Sr., left her widowed in 1958.

A graduate of Philippine Normal College, Mrs. Lacaba taught Pilipino and other subjects at all levels in various schools, including Ateneo de Cagayan (now Xavier University) and Lourdes College in Cagayan de Oro City, and Colegio del Buen Consejo and Pasig Catholic College in Pasig City.

She was a soft-spoken woman who nevertheless raised strong-willed children, four of whom--including award-winning writers Jose (Pete) and Emmanuel (Eman)--were prisoners of conscience during and immediately after martial law.

Eman, who joined the armed resistance during the martial-law dictatorship, was captured alive after an encounter in Davao but “salvaged” later in the day. It was Mrs. Lacaba who, with the help of the late poet Alfrredo Navarro Salanga, recovered Eman's body from a mass grave in Mindanao.

Three of Mrs. Lacaba's children-in- law were also political detainees, and a son-in-law was killed in the early years of martial law.

The wake is at the Garden of Memories memorial park on Kalsadang Bago, Pateros, Metro Manila, near the boundary of Ususan, Taguig City. Interment will be announced later.

(Alay kay Fe Flores Lacaba, 1916-2006)

Ni Jose F. Lacaba

Nang mabalo, hindi na siya muling nag-asawa.
Hindi ko alam kung may lumigaw na ibang lalaki,
o kung inisip man lamang niya ang muling mag-asawa:
bata pa naman siya noon, kung tutuusin, at may bighani.

Pero anim ang kanyang anak: may anim siyang
bungangang pakakainin, katawang bibihisan; anim na utak
na may kanya-kanyang baltik at iba’t ibang antas
ng pang-unawa, pangangailangan at panibugho.

Wala siyang maibigay na anumang layaw o luho,
kaya walang siyang layaw o luhong ibinigay. Tiniyak
niya lamang na may bubong sila laban sa araw at ulan,
may kulambo laban sa lamok, may laman lagi ang tiyan.

At pinabayaan niyang magkapakpak at lumipad
ang anim na malayang utak. Bagamat siya’y guro,
hindi niya sinakal ng pangaral ang kanilang mga pangarap,
hindi niya inipit sa libro ang kanyang mga paruparo.

Alam kong luha ang ipinandilig niya sa kanyang hardin
at ang puso niya’y nagkasugat-sugat dahil matinik
ang mga bunga ng kanyang mapagpalayang paglingap.
Pero alam ko ring ipinagmamalaki niya ang halimuyak.

Ang tulang ito, walang borloloy at walang palabok,
ay para sa aking ina.
Sa pamamagitan man lamang ng tulang ito
ay gusto kong ipaabot ang aking pasasalamat.

By Jose F. Lacaba
Translated into English by Marne Kilates

Widowed, she never married.
I don’t know if any other man wooed her,
Or if she ever thought of marrying again;
She was young, and yes, good-looking.

But she had six children, six
Mouths to feed, six bodies to clothe, whose
Brains had each its own quirks and ways
Of looking at the world, its needs and jealousies.

Of luxury and comfort she had none to give.
But she made sure we had a roof over our heads
Against sun and rain; a net against mosquito
Over our beds; and that we didn’t go hungry.

And then she let our minds go free, grow
Wings and take flight. Though a teacher, she never
Bridled us with advice, or weighed down our dreams,
Or pressed them between book pages like butterflies.

I know that she watered her garden with tears
And her heart bruised, for thorny were the fruits
Of her liberating love. But she watched
Her garden thrive. She was proud.

This poem, without frill or ornament,
Is for my mother.
Only through this poem
Can I thank her.


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Graver, Welles, and Oja Kodar

Gary Graver (1938-2006)

Unfortunately, short of being a Welles scholar it's difficult to see what may be his best work, the unfinished The Other Side of the Wind. Graver was negotiating with Showtime about broadcasting the film when he died.

Orson Welles on Graver:

Gary is an absolutely first-class cinematographer. He has a strong visual sense and the taste to go with it. He commands the highest degree of technical expertise, and I know of nobody who can lead a crew with more authority. His people always like him, and he knows how to get that extra degree of effort, and to maintain an atmosphere of enthusiasm on the set. As a director-producer, I especially prize him for being such an exceptionally fast worker. You are always ahead of schedule with Gary Graver… Above all, he knows how to get it all up on the screen, to make every dollar count. This degree of efficiency and this combination of talent is rare indeed.


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Robert Altman, 1925 to 2006

What else to say about Altman? A bit actually.

An article on Dr. T and the Women

A July '04 debate on The Long Goodbye, held at People's Forum:

Jake Bren: Really, I wasn't expecting literal adaptation. The whole movie felt slapped together, with little unanimity other than Altman's directorial trademarks. And I don't bridle at the casting of Gould as Marlowe. Marlowe was always part schlub. But he also had some kind of compelling air, which Gould lacks entirely here. What struck me most was being reminded that you could get steak and chips for 85¢ at a bar in 1973.

All Altman's films feel slapped together, even something with a relatively tight script like The Player or Streamers. It's what he's all about. And this Marlowe being uncompelling is part of the revision--he's the ultimate fall guy, innocent, what-have-you; even the police know more about the case than he does.

That may well be, but then it doesn't work with the source material. There's always a part of Marlowe that is something to be reckoned with; by the cops, by the baddies, by the women. Altman, Brackett and Gould achieve none of this. And Marlowe being played and left out of back-room proceedings is not so much of a revision.

Well, as someone upthread pointed out, the source material ain't exactly high literature (even the cat gets the better of him). It all works into a final moment of disillusionment and anger, possibly as much towards the genre as towards the 'best friend.' A kind of final gesture towards it all.

edit--I mean, even Chinatown which I like at least as much as this, is still within the genre. This was the movie that pretty much trashed it all when it came to gumshoe detectives.

And it's so very damned odd which I like a lot. All that meandering, it goes against the grain and breaks out of the hardboiled detective plot. Which, after all is said and done, is pretty limiting.

ted fontenot: Altman often comes across as a higher class Michael Moore. He wears thin. They both have this insulting '60's moral superiority they're ready to flash at the drop of frat flag or something. He's often just in for the deriding of a convention, a mindset, a tradition. He's often only "anti". You have to admire the labor he puts into his sophomoric pursuits. His rubbishing the detective genre is amusing, mildly, but it finally wears thin. I mean, the putdown of the heroic detective--even the cops know more about the case than he does--ha, ha. Wow, what an ambition! Next!

Well, ted's pointed out one tendency of Altman's, to sort of skim from one cultural niche to the next--I mean, The Company is lovely, but it's not exactly a very deep look at the world of dance, is it? (edit) And Pret a Porter I can't defend as being any good, only I like it because I think it's what the fashion world deserves. I hear his next film is on art galleries, which makes you think two things, 1) that you're glad someone's doing something on some of the more esoteric corners of modern culture, and 2) that you'd wish he'd spend more time and care exploring that culture a little more deeply, or doing something weightier; one or the other sentiment dominates depending on how much you actually like Altman.

But I don't think The Long Goodbye is a complete trashing of the hardboiled genre--if you look at Marlowe, he's duped and fooled and outwitted, but he's not stupid; it's his basic decency, his tendency to think the best of his friends that makes him so blind. (edit) Might be significant that Altman makes this film and sets it in the 70's, when movies were questioning everything and anything. I suppose you can see Altman feeling superior to the material, but maybe that's part of the spirit of the times and part of the nature of questioning (do we question anything we feel inferior to?). But there's a tone--I don't know if this registers or not--of regret or nostalgia in the film for Marlowe, a kind of fondness and familiarity for him that, sure, breeds some contempt, but also identification, so we're thrown as much as he is by the twists of the plot. And when he finally unravels it, we share in his disillusionment and anger.
You might say Altman's version is really the story of the last good man shedding his last illusions. It's a tragedy, finally, a kind of eulogy to the man that Marlowe used to be.

Gus Sheridan: But Jake nails it- what Altman and company missed is that, when push comes to shove, Marlowe's a fair badass.

When pushed came to shove, Altman's Marlowe had the more radical reaction. Shot into the heart of the genre, so to speak.

I don't think the book's trash; it stands on top of the genre, I agree, and it has its share of observations about LA and life in general and an aging Marlowe (some of it is autobiographical, right?) to make it more than memorable. But I do think the movie's a valid, well, reinterpretation, so that both book and film shouldn't be embarrassed that either exist.

I should qualify what I said about high literature; actually, even literature needs revising when it's adapted; saw Michael Curtiz's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn recently, and while it does a better job of telling the story than the Elijah Wood version, it rearranges and undercuts the book in so many ways that the result is rather toothless. I don't think a more faithful version is what's needed--frankly, the book's ending is a botch--I do think you need to capture at least the tone or spirit of the book, even maybe only a section of it, maybe with an indirect adaptation. Shoeshine, perhaps?

(Going back to The Long Goodbye, I'd say it did capture some of the spirit of a lone knight out of step with a corrupt world--and it's his ethics and loyalty, not any lack of skill or competence, that makes him out of step--only that world is '70s LA and Hollywood looms large in it).

Jake: And all of this leads to why the film doesn't work. The only aspect of the story told in the movie that indicates that Marlowe is the Last Good Man Standing is his refusal to believe that his old friend could have brutally murdered his own wife. So Marlowe the character is deconstructed right out of the picture and replaced with Gould's shambling nebbish. If Altman's point is the revision of the story and genre to fit the times and he sees fit to dramatically alter the plot in order to achieve this, then the experiment is doomed from the start, because it relies on an assumed knowledge of the character of Marlowe on the part of the viewer and then proceeds to hamstring him to the point where he is rendered a dullard and a simp, which makes me wonder why anyone, a client or a cop or a psycho Jewish small-time gangster, would consider him to be worth any of their interest at all.

I'm all for experiments, even failed ones, and there is much of Altman that I admire and greatly enjoy. But The Long Goodbye doesn't work for me on any level at all.

I think Hayden's got a point--a '30s Marlowe and a '70s Marlowe would be fundamentally different, and putting one in the other's setting wouldn't make sense.

And I agree with Phil--this Marlowe isn't dumb, or witless, or without resources; he's innocent. That's what innocence means to Altman, and to the audience of the time, a certain blindness that keeps you from seeing the truth, no matter how tough or brave or smart you are.

So Marlowe the character is deconstructed right out of the picture and replaced with Gould's shambling nebbish.

Maybe the basic problem here is, that shambling nebbish has only selective appeal; I enjoyed him enormously. And yeah, I thought his roundabout way of reacting to things, not quite taking them seriously, passes for wit.

And last (but not least):

An article on A Prairie Home Companion (2006)


Patrick said...

A Prairie Home Companion was truly a fitting swan song to his long career. Too bad he never got to finish Paint.

Saw The Player in my film class last week, and I must say next to Sunset Blvd. it's still one of the best films about Hollywood.

Noel Vera said...

Oh, my favorite film about Hollywood has to be Nick Ray's In a Lonely Place. Think of Humphrey Bogart in the Norma Desmond role. Personally, I thought it was much better.