Thursday, March 14, 2019

Kangkungan (Swamp Patch, Mike De Leon)

2019 Kangkungan A Video by Mike De Leon from Citizen Jake on Vimeo.


First the title: 'Kangkungan'--literally swamp (or water) spinach patch. A highly nutritious green that flourishes in canals and fishponds all over the Philippines, often sauteed with fermented shrimp paste and minced garlic. What's the significance?

Filmmaker Mike De Leon--one of the last surviving filmmakers from the great period of '70s Philippine cinema--breaks out of his self-imposed retirement again (he'd been inactive since Bayaning Third World (Third World Hero) came out recently with Citizen Jake) to release this short on the eve of the 1986 EDSA Revolt anniversary.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)

The apple of her eye

Yorgos Lanthimos' latest film The Favourite may be his oddest yet if you stop and consider his work so far, from breakthrough feature Dogtooth (about a family teaching a  skewed view of the world to its walled-in children) to the recent The Killing of a Sacred Deer (about a curse hovering over a physician's family) where metaphorical fantasy and (better yet) the machinations of human nature give his films a memorably loopy spin.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Best of 2018

The hate list

From where I'm standing it was a fearful year an angry year a hateful year; a rollercoaster ride a terrorfilled plunge a horrorshow. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Burning (Lee Chang Dong)

Gone girl

I can't think of a more ambiguous elliptical unsettling film last year--or for that matter the past several years--than Lee Chang Dong's Burning. Like its eponymous action the film transforms itself several times over, from a chance encounter to a budding affair to an intricately constructed frankly mystifying triangle to something else entirely (among other things, a missing person search and a stalking)--each stage combusting material releasing volatiles sending soot and ash and smoke tumbling upwards to form sinuous suggestive shapes.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Mary and the Witch's Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)


Here's a pretty pickle: how do you follow after the work of arguably one of the greatest animated studios in recent decades? With the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki and the shuttering of Studio Ghibli (actually old news: he has come out of retirement and the studio has since unshuttered) many of the people who worked there have established their own outfit, Studio Ponoc, and this film--Mary and the Witch's Flower (Meari to Majo no Hana) helmed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (When Marnie Was There, Secret World of Arrietty) is their debut offering.

On first glance you'd think they simply stepped right into the problem: the opening is an escape as wordless and thrilling as the opening of Castle in the Sky: young girl cradling some blue and precious object flies away in a broom stick, closely pursued by creatures not unlike the glutinous henchmen in Howl's Moving Castle (Miyazaki among other obsessions has his gleefully scatological side); an explosion of unknown origin the broom blown out of control the girl plummets to an unknown fate below. 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Mandy (Panos Cosmatos, 2018)


Panos Cosmatos' Mandy is a trip through a tabletop landscape dotted with scenic views and sudden detours with long sessions of intravenous pleasure with jolts of hilarity and horror.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Silence (Martin Scorsese, 2016)

Andrew Garfield as Rodrigues
And the rest is

(WARNING: story and ending discussed in explicit detail)

The film begins with the sound of cicadas whirring rhythmically over a black background. The sound drops out, the film title (simple white letters) flashes onscreen. Cut to a vision of hell: a guard cloaked in steam stands beside a wood shelf topped with severed heads. We are at the volcanic springs of Unzen, near Nagasaki, where friars are strung up on crosses and longhandled ladles with holes sprinkle boiling water, delicately poaching their skin (Today of course the springs are a popular vacation resort). 

Welcome to Martin Scorsese's idea of heaven: his thirty-years-in-the-making version of Shusaku Endo's Silence, completed at last and screened to near-universal acclaim (and near-empty theaters) in 2016.