Thursday, February 25, 2021

Best Filipino Films of 1999


The best and the rest of Filipino films, 1999

It was the best of times it was the worst of times. Depending on whom you talked to it was either the worst year in local film history or the year we saw one of the best Filipino films ever made.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (Lamberto Avellana, 1965)


A thousand words

Confession: when I saw Lamberto Avellana's revered film adaptation of Nick Joaquin's classic play Portrait of the Artist as Filipino some mumble mumble years ago I wasn't thrilled. It was an adaptation of a stage play that at first glance looked unapologetically stagy, complete with well-timed entrances and exits, and its actors spoke a Spanish-accented English I'd never heard in a Filipino film before. It was filmed in an understated style, and after the sharp angles and looming closeups and deep shadows of Gerry de Leon's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo felt like a step backwards, a middlebrow work of art.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Silent Voice (Naoko Yamada, 2016)


Deaf note

(by Alex Vera and Noel Vera)

Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice is about bullying the disabled, in this case a boy named Shoya bullying a deaf girl named Shoko, a practice few people have heard of outside Japan. Officially laws prohibit it, unofficially it’s an open secret; Yoshitoki Ooima’s original manga experienced immediate blowback--apparently this is dirty laundry people didn’t want aired. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Best and the rest of 2020


Best and the rest 2020

Yeah yeah yeah

Sick of essays mourning the disaster that was last year? Same.

Let's get with it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Fan Girl (Antoinette Jadaone, 2020)


Fan service

Antoinette Jadaone's Fan Girl is a sneaky little comedy that starts off with a storyline planted firmly within familiar Jadaone territory (the constantly permeable membrane between showbiz fantasy and everyday reality a la Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay; the sad-funny interchanges that motor romantic comedies a la This Thing Called Tadhana). Jane (Charlie Dizon), who describes herself as real-life celebrity Paulo Avelino's 'number one fan,' skips afternoon class to attend a mall event promoting the star's latest movie; she manages to climb into the back of Paulo's pickup truck just as he drives away. 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Bona (Lino Brocka, 1980


Bona: martyr or monster?

(Plot discussed in explicit detail; details of Bona's status outdated by over a decade)

Lino Brocka's Bona is possibly the least-seen of his major works, partly because the two remaining good prints of the picture had been squirreled away abroad (to the Cinematheque Francais and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art) while Filipinos back home had to content themselves with fading recollections and equally faded Betamax tapes. Everyone remembers how powerful the film was; no one can rightly say they've actually seen it, at least in recent years.

It's exciting news to learn that Cinema One with the help of the Cinematheque is broadcasting a clear new video copy of Bona, one with French subtitles. For a new generation of viewers--one barely able to recognize the name of Brocka--this is a chance to finally see a famed classic; for those who remember the film from its Metro Manila Film Festival run this is a chance to update (and possibly destroy--but that's the risk of any revival) their Beta-assisted memories with freshly minted images. Whichever you are, veteran or innocent, even twenty-six years later there's much in the film that can still shock and appall.