Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Nightmare on Elm Street (Samuel Bayer, 2010)

In tribute to Wes Craven, 1939 to 2015, an old post. Rest in dreamless peace, sir.

Wake me when it's over

I wouldn't call Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) with its attempts to blur the line between dream and reality an especially great horror movie, or even a particularly unique one. Remember that Joseph Ruben's wittily conceived Dreamscape came out the same year, that David Lynch's no less nightmarish Eraserhead screened over a decade ago, that Roman Polanski's Repulsion had arms sprouting out of apartment walls to grope Catherine Deneuve almost twenty years before, that Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls (to which Craven's film bears a striking similarity) played in drive-ins three years previous to Polanski's, that most of Luis Bunuel's career (from 1929 to 1977) was predicated on the blurring of the line between reality and dream, and that Carl Dreyer's Vampyr (arguably the greatest nightmare ever realized on the silver screen) was released in 1932, a silent film belatedly converted to sound--a time when dreams found their voice, and spoke to us directly.

No, I wouldn't call Craven's movie great or even unique, but it was driven by a couple of clever ideas, it had a handful of striking imagery, and it's directed with a supple, not entirely ungraceful, visual style. One remembers it fondly for the way it spoke to teenagers about the deceitful nature of adults, the vulnerability of youths left unaware of their secret histories, their childhood traumas. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inside Out (Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen, 2015)


Call me perverse, but when folks praise Pete Docter's Inside Out for originality I want to respond: "what originality?" Characters in one's head representing different emotions? Herman's Head's been cited (not especially good); Woody Allen did a skit in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) with Tony Randall as the controlling intelligence, Burt Reynolds his communications officer, and Woody Allen in a white sperm suit, charging forward and yelling 'let's make babies!' ('See you at the ovaries!' went the heroic reply). And it seemed as if every other episode of Spongebob Squarepants has either Plankton or Mr. Krabs sinking deep into Spongebob's skull, where various incarnations of the character worked furiously at fulfilling the brain's many functions. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

K'na, the Dreamweaver (Ida Anita Del Mundo, 2014)



Ida Anita Del Mundo's debut feature K'na, the Dreamweaver (2014) feels so very much like a fable of long-ago Philippines it's only fitting that woven into its fabric are other fables, bright threads laced into a dark tapestry.

Like the story of how the tribe found itself on the southern shores of Lake Sebu: a weaver of t'nalak cloth named Hanyas has become so known for her weaving skill she is chosen to become the chieftain's fifth wife; she loves another, though, and runs away with him. For revenge the chieftain banishes Hanyas' family and friends to the lake's southern banks--and there we find K'na (the lovely Mara Lopez) and her tribe 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Esprit De Corps (Kanakanan Balintagos, 2014)

Soldier boi

Kanakanan Balintagos' (a.k.a. Auraeus Solito) latest film Esprit de Corps (2014), based on one of his own stage dramas written over twenty years ago, is an odd choice for adaptation: the play's clearly meant to function as a metaphor for the fascistic Marcos Administration (overthrown before the play was written), and written back when the director was fresh out of high school (the Reserve Officer's Training Program today is no longer mandatory in colleges and attendance--not to mention sense of relevance--has diminished).

But the kind of mindset that demands recruits be tested physically and mentally to the point of cruelty is still present,in both the Philippine military and educational system (we still have hazing deaths: that sophomore in De La Salle - College of St. Benilde, for example); and the notion of 'male machismo'--of strong bull warriors to be celebrated and weak 'faggots' (as the young men in the film so vividly call them) to be winnowed--still thrives in Philippine society.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Weekend (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)

Hell on wheels

Watching Weekend (1967) in a handsome Criterion Blu-Ray was like spotting a familiar face, freshly scrubbed, and realizing he's as loud and obnoxious and hilarious--and frightening--as ever. Jean-Luc Godard's improvised explosive fragmentation device of a film, hurled at the face of the French bourgeoisie, has not lost its power to shatter and shred.