Thursday, February 29, 2024

Kung Mahawi Man ang Ulap (Should the Skies Clear, Laurice Guillen, 1984)

Family planning

(WARNING: storyline and plot twists discussed in detail)

Laurice Guillen's Kung Mahawi Man ang Ulap (Should the Skies Clear, 1984) is yet another popular komiks series (adapted by Orlando Nadres and Lualhati Bautista from a serial by Gilda Olvidado) about young Catherine Clemente (Hilda Koronel), upset that her mother Minda (Gloria Romero) has fallen for newcomer Pablo Acuesta (Eddie Garcia). Catherine's boyfriend Rustan (Christopher de Leon, almost a required name for middle-class melodramas) scoffs at her fears but Catherine won't be placated; she knows Pablo and his progeny-- Chona (Isabel Rivas), Rita (Amy Austria), Jojo (Michael de Mesa)-- are up to no good.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Tikoy Aguiluz (1947 - 2024)


Tattooed gangster

As Tikoy put it he grew up in a penitentiary (the Davao Penal Colony, or Depacol, where his father was prison auditor) learning how to box from one of the veteran convicts. With his six other brothers, all of them wearing shorts instead of long pants and speaking in a funny Tagalog accent instead of everyday Visayan, they attracted the attention and ridicule of all the other kids, not necessarily starting fights but finishing them wherever they went. Tikoy's ambition in life was simple: to get a tattoo, and be a gangster; he ended up working briefly in Hollywood, then coming back to the Philippines to become one of the finest filmmakers in the industry. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Bagong Bayani (Unsung Heroine, Tikoy Aguiluz, 1995)

Proxy mother
Tikoy Aguiluz's Bagong Bayani was made in two months on a shoestring budget, has been plagued by unaccountable production delays (due to pressure from Viva Studios, perhaps?); so far no theater has agreed to release it, so the closest you might get is this article

Which is a filthy shame: Bagong Bayani is the best Filipino film of the year. "But the year's only half over," you might point out; actually I think this is the best Filipino film since Orapronobis in the late 1980's.

Monday, February 12, 2024

El Conde (Pablo Larrain, 2023)


I remember mentioning a notable name in the Filipino film industry to one of our better filmmakers, who declared him "an impakto" --Tagalog for 'bloodsucker.'

I looked at him. "Really? How about--" and mentioned someone else. "Another impakto." "And--?" "Yet another impakto!" I tossed off several more names and all he could say was "impakto, the lot of them."

Which conversation I remember while watching Pablo Larrain's latest feature, a rather obvious high concept horror comedy that answers the question: what if Augusto Pinochet was a vampire? Not a political or metaphoric monster draining Chile of its economic prosperity but a literal supernatural leech?

Dune (Denis Villeneuve 2021; David Lynch 1984; Frank Herbert 1965)


(Warning: plot details for the 2021 remake the 1984 adaptation and the 1965 original discussed in explicit detail)

Denis Villeneuve's long-delayed Dune (initiated 2016; shot in 2019; released 2021) does this much right: it tells Frank Herbert's story-- the societal complexity (Great Houses and Guilds), the skullduggery (plans within plans within plans within plans), Paul Atreides' meteoric ascent-- coherently. Villeneuve carefully hands over with both hands what Lynch in his 1984 version threw at us wholesale, not so much an info dump as explosive diarrhea. With Villeneuve you feel a touch overwhelmed; with Lynch it swirls past your eyebrows, climbing. 

Monday, February 05, 2024

The Wicker Man

Snicker man

Difficult to understand why anyone thought a remake of The Wicker Man-- the classic horror mood piece about a police officer who lands on a far island in search of a missing child-- would be a good idea: the film has a plot twist that once revealed was basically it for the audience; only thing left was to pick up your coat and look for the exit. Audiences who saw the 1973 production would know; those who haven't are advised not to bother.