Saturday, May 23, 2009

Celluloid Dreams

Raya Martin
Adolfo Alix,Jr.

William, a drug addict, tries to reconnect his ties with people close to him. Slowly, as night falls, he learns that there is no one left to trust, not even his own self. Philip, who works as a bodyguard for a mayor’s son, thinks his boss considers him family. After a shooting incident, he discovers his real worth to his boss. As he struggles to hide, he is slowly being consumed by the claws of darkness lurking the city.

"The credits, in fact, decline to state which director worked on which film, and the overall presence of DoP Banzon – the film’s prime asset – makes Manila very much of a piece. Even the visually striking, loose travelogue flavour of Martin’s superior episode, however, fails to raise the whole piece above the ordinary. Ultimately, Manila fails to push the envelope."

-Jonathan Romney
Read the entire review here.

“Experimental two-parter from leading indie helmers that makes one yearn to see the originals...evocatively shot. The film has a youthful energy aplenty and a great jazz-pop soundtrack.”

-Alissa Simon


Raya Martin

The occupiers are onscreen for only a few seconds. Martin focuses almost entirely on a small family, at first a mother (Agbayani) and son (Lucero) who, like many Filipinos under both the Spanish and the Americans, feel compelled to leave town for a less dangerous rural life.

They move into an abandoned hut adjacent to a lush tropical forest. The mother dies, and the family is now comprised of a more grown-up version of the son (same actor, now bearded and long-haired), the young woman called in the credits “the Stranger” (De Rossi) who had moved in with them after her ostensible rape by U.S. soldiers, and the very light-skinned boy (Aguilos) she gives birth to.

"Generically, Independencia is as melodramatic as they come. Besides the family narrative and the acting style, the music, as lovely as it is, is continuous, insistent, and frequently mournful, with horns, guitar, flute, violin, and cello accompanying or anticipating every element of what little plot exists.

On account of Martin’s political and formal strategies, most screen time is taken up by the routines of rural life and drastic changes in the weather. We are saved from boredom by the one character telling stories to the others, most of them based on mythology and superstition, and some fine sound effects, most notably the ongoing, high-volume sounds of insects and the river. True to the genre, nothing ends well."

-Howard Feinstein
Read the entire review here.

"Deliberately theatrical and old-fashioned, Independencia is a richly metaphorical, allusive collision of history, mythology and cultural memory. Full of long takes and stylized close ups, but sizzling beneath with raw-knuckled sexuality, it’s occasionally hard work but is hugely rewarding."

-Matt Bochenski
Read the entire article here.

“The evocativeness is all in Martin’s decision to shoot it in the style of a pre-Griffith silent movie . . . If that didn’t make it clear we’re watching a fable of the Philippines’ past, the final image wouldn’t be nearly as wrenching — or as pointed." 

-Tom Carson

"Martin easily conjures an atmosphere of modest, supple dreaminess—not an ounce of pretension exists in the film despite its stylistic conceit—but in the face of the location work of someone like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Independencia's chill vibe is welcome but seems easy. More importance is placed on the surreal naturalism of the film's beautifully painted matte backgrounds than any sort of human or story presence, and while Martin's natural sense of space gives everything on camera its due, I wish there were more on camera than the splendor of a studio production."

-the auters
Read the entire review here

"The filmmaker in question, Raya Martin, is a new name to me, but if his earlier movies are anything like this one, Guy Maddin has a prize pupil to be proud of. The evocativeness of Independencia is all in Martin’s decision to shoot it in the style of a pre-Griffith silent movie, when nobody knew that film had any purpose except mimicking a theater’s proscenium arch. If that didn’t make it clear we’re watching a fable of the Phillipines’ past, the final image wouldn’t be nearly as wrenching—or as pointed. Beyond that, all I can say is that I’ll be at Martin’s next one with bells on."

-Southeast Asian Film Studies Institute

Cannes Film Festival Rankings

Un Certain Regard
"Independencia" (8,55) - 9 votos
"Police, adjective" (8,50) - 4 votos
"Irene" (7,83) - 6 votos
"Tales From the Folden Age" (7,00) - 2 votos
"Father Of My Children" (6,75) - 4 votos
"Air Doll" (6,44) - 9 votos
"Mother" (6,285) - 7 votos
"Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats" (5,25) - 4 votos
"Tzar" (1,50) - 2 votos

Out of Competition
"Manila" (6,66) - 3 votos
"Up" (6,18) - 11 votos
"Ne te retourne pas" (5,50) - 6 votos
"Jaffa" (4,50) - 2 votos
"Agora" (3,33) - 3 votos

In Competition
"Vincere" (8,29) - 7 votos
"Vengeance" (7,45) - 11 votos
"Fish Tank" (6,33) - 6 votos
"Kinatay" (6,18) - 11 votos
"Los abrazos rotos" (6,00) - 9 votos
"Bright Star" (5,86) - 7 votos
"Un prophete" (5,83) - 12 votos
"Taking Woodstock" (5,18) - 11 votos
"Thirst" (4,60) - 10 votos
"Spring Fever" (4,18) - 11 votos
"Looking For Eric" (4,00) - 6 votos
"Antichrist" (3,36) - 11 votos

     Independencia, Manila and Kintay are doing quite well at the festival with Independencia leading the top ranking at the Un Certain Regard category and Manila in the Out of Competition category and Kinatay, now considered to be a dark horse in the festival has garnered eleven votes, impressive for a film with less than enthusiastic reviews.

Update: Brillante Mendoza Wins as Best Director 

CANNES, France (AFP) — Brillante Mendoza of the Philippines on Sunday picked up the best director prize at the Cannes film festival for his dark movie "Kinatay".

"Kinatay" (meaning "massacre") notably features corrupt cops hacking a prostitute to pieces with blunt kitchen knives.

Mendoza, at Cannes for the second year running, again split the critics, drawing both hisses and applause for "Kinatay".

Last year's "Serbis" was set in a Manila porn-theatre with long close-ups of festering boils and overflowing toilets, as well as the poverty and distress on the streets.

Still determined to portray the social reality around him, Mendoza in "Kinatay" traces 24 hours in the day of a trainee policeman, happily beginning with his wedding in the morning to close with the young man's first outing at night with a band of corrupt colleagues.

To his surprise, fear and anguish, they pick up a prostitute accused of betrayal and wind up torturing, raping, killing and hacking her before disposing of the body parts across Manila.

"This is not just entertainment, these kinds of stories are real," Mendoza said at Cannes.

Last year was the first time since 1984 the Philippines had a film competing for the top prize at Cannes, the Palme d'Or.

This is an amazing feat for Mendoza whose film received negative reviews from many critics including the Pulitzer prize winning Roger Ebert and whose co-nominees include Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier among others. A truly majestic feat. I for one am ecstatic.

I wonder, will the little lady in Malacanang receive him so warmly for winning an award for a film she might find quite disturbing? Kinatay is a film that paints an ugly picture of the country in the eyes of a hired killer, depicting the many injustices and atrocities of  law enforcers, gritty violence and gore in the streets of Manila. The image of my mum wrinkling her nose in disgust as I narrate to her how the events unfold in the movie suddenly pops into view. This reminds me of how Slumdog Millionaire, though the film captured the hearts of many including the most prestigious film award bodies,  incurred the ire of some Indian citizens for displaying such a vile view of their country. We will soon find out. Keep watching. 

Meanwhile, WTF is Paris Hilton doing in Cannes?   

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