Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Kundiman ng Lahi (Folksong, Lamberto Avellana, 1959)

Country girl

(Again, a film from LVN studios, available (without subtitles, alas) on Mike de Leon's Citizen Jake vimeo website)

Give it to master Filipino filmmaker Lamberto Avellana: he knows how to start a picture. Badjao had a horn blown to gather a village of house canoes, forming a seaborne village; Huk sa Bagong Pamumuhay began with a detonating grenade; Anak Dalita evoked Roberto Rossellini in neorealist mode, tracing the ruin of a church from the tip of its fractured belfry to the people teeming at the base of its crumbling walls. Kundiman ng Lahi (Folksong, 1959), Avellana's last film for LVN studios, trumps them all I think: no blown horn, no explosives, no church ruins, just the monotonous thumping of a wood pestle milling rice in a mortar. An obvious symbol--we're grain, our husk (our innocence, our sensitivity) stripped off of us to a relentless beat--but also a sexual one, the phallic pestle pounding into the concave mortar, turning hard seed into tender food.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Anak Dalita (Child of Sorrow, Lamberto Avellana, 1956)

Survivor type

I have to confess not liking this, arguably Lamberto Avellana's most famous work, when it screened back in the '90s; I had been discovering Gerardo de Leon back then and was in love with the maestro's tilted camera angles and Fordian (Eisensteinian?) mis-en-scene, the little figures running diagonally across a vast pitiless landscape. 

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Fifteen Filipino films

(Thanks to Video 48 for some of the pictures)

Fifteen Filipino films

My old list.

Pinoy Rebyu's list

This can be neither comprehensive nor complete. We've lost so many of our films to vinegar syndrome, to New Year celebrations, to general apathy and neglect; a kind of accelerating cultural Alzheimer's, a tragedy I would argue comparable to many recent disasters only instead of lives lost we're losing our sense of self. This is a mere sample a sketch--a glimpse if you like--of what I believe are the finest Filipino films I've managed to see to date.

A film is composed of many elements--dialogue, sound, music, color, movement, the shape and texture of people's hands eyes faces. Of all these elements I'd say the most expressive are the last three--but that's me saying so, an assertion just dying to be contradicted (ask Michael Powell, or Robert Bresson).

And a list (any man's list, which I consider superior to any aggregate) is ultimately futile, is a man's way of insisting on his priorities biases (occasionally hopefully) insights.

I love futile gestures.

This for better or worse is mine.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Badjao (The Sea Gypsies, Lamberto Avellana, 1957)


Badjao starts with an image of waves lapping onto shore, the divide between land and sea stretching diagonally across the screen. With his first frame Lamberto Avellana (collaborating with the great cinematographer Mike Accion) visually sums up the picture: the tension between sand and surf, between people of differing loyalties, communities, ethnicities. A man stands beside a roof of dried palm raises his horn against clouded sky and blows; cue the bombast (and lovely lilting melody) of Francisco Buencamino Jr.'s theme music.