Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Bulaklak sa City Jail (Flowers of the City Jail, Mario O'Hara, 1984) - restored version

The caged bird sings

(The film will soon be available through the Cinema One channel, with English subtitles)

If I remember right I saw Mario O'Hara's Bulaklak sa City Jail (Flowers of the City Jail) on its opening run back in 1984 and thrilled to the story of Angela Aguilar (Nora Aunor), a hapless woman jailed for 'frustrated murder.' Based on Lualhati Bautista's novel of the same name, sequences stayed in memory--Angela's first night reception (where her cellmates practically raped her); the attempted escape through an old mansion's garden statuary; her pursuit by police through Manila Zoo. I remember the lurid red of the nightclub where Angela sings, the bleak glow of cellblock lights, the deep shadows of the zoo. 

And I remember how in screenings and various Betamax and VHS recordings since how those colors have faded, the image blurred, been accompanied by questionable translations (Caged Blossoms?), how watching the film in a special screening at the Hong Kong Film Festival felt like looking through a muddied window--and this was the only surviving 35 mm print! 

Thanks then to ABS CBN's digital restoration for bringing those colors back--the lurid reds, the bleak glow, the deep shadows.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Event Horizon (Paul WS Anderson)

Lost in space

Paul WS Anderson's Event Horizon is arguably the Mary Celeste of science fiction cinema, not just the story of a ship adrift in the vast oceans of space but the film itself falling victim to malevolent forces (Paramount Studios) and mutilated, the missing portions gone forever.

Romantic? Yes. The film?  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo (Dating Not Dating, Denise O'Hara, 2019)

Should I stay or should I go?

Denise O'Hara's Mamang--part Gothic character study, part memory play, part comedy of accommodation--was one of the best films of 2018, I thought. Her sophomore effort Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo (Dating Not Dating) is at first glance a slick exercise in the Philippines' most popular genre of the moment (the romcom) at second glance develops (nonfans might say 'devolves') into something messier more troubling.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Monday, November 04, 2019

Biyaya ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land, Manuel Silos, 1959)

The good earth

(Available with English subtitles at Mike de Leon's Citizen Jake vimeo website

Manuel Silos' Biyaya ng Lupa (Blessings of the Land, 1959) is so modestly poised so gracefully proportioned one may be hardpressed to say why it's classic. The film may also be one of the least known of great films, remembered mostly by those familiar with '50s Filipino cinema.