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Pelikula at Lipunan 2004

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  • Noel Vera
    Pelikula at Lipunan 2004 Noel Vera The 2004 edition of Mowelfund s Pelikula at Lipunan (Film and Society) emphasizes recent independent works, with a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2004
      Pelikula at Lipunan 2004

      Noel Vera

      The 2004 edition of Mowelfund's "Pelikula at Lipunan" (Film and
      Society) emphasizes recent independent works, with a sprinkling of
      old Filipino classics and the odd Hollywood production or two.

      The recent independent works should all be worth checking out--John
      Red's (brother of award-winning filmmaker Raymond Red) latest
      feature, "ASTIGmatism" (Nearsightedness, 2004), about a nearsighted
      assassin (Robin Padilla); Nick Deocampo's "Edades," a documentary
      about National Artist Edades; Ditsi Carolino's "Riles" (Rails,
      2002), a documentary about a family living near the railway tracks;
      and many more.

      Then there are the Filipino classics: "Zamboanga" (1938) by Eduardo
      de Castro, stars Fernando Poe as a pearl-diving fisherman in the
      southern island of Zamboanga; the film, which features underwater
      sequences, was long considered lost until festival director Nick
      Deocampo found a print in the US Library of Congress. Balancing the
      film's 'political slant' (it features, after all, the father of
      presidential aspirant Fernando Poe Jr.) is "Tagumpay ng Mahirap"
      (Triumph of the Poor, 1965), a biopic on the life of Diosdado
      Macapagal (father of the other presidential aspirant, Gloria
      Macapagal-Arroyo), directed by Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana,
      and Eddie Romero.

      Some of the other films in the festival:

      "Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang" (You Were Weighed and Found Wanting,
      1974)

      In many ways a seminal work in contemporary Philippine cinema, it
      was one of the rare quality films of the '70s to enjoy commercial
      success; it announced Lino Brocka, previously known as a skillful
      commercial director, as a major Filipino artist; and it was a herald
      call to audiences, officially the first in what was to be called
      the '70s Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.

      "Tinimbang" tells the story of Junior (Christopher de Leon), son of
      Cesar (Eddie Garcia), the richest man in town. Junior lives a
      relatively happy life; he stays in a huge house, he's popular and
      good-looking, his sweetheart Evangeline (Hilda Koronel) is the
      prettiest girl in school. Then Junior's life unravels: his father
      turns out to be an incurable lecher; his girlfriend is caught with
      another boy and summarily married off; Junior himself is seduced by
      Milagros (Laurice Guillen), the bastard child of the town mayor.
      Junior is driven to find comfort among the town's outcasts--in
      Kuala, a crazed homeless woman (Lolita Rodriguez), and her lover,
      Berto the leper (Mario O'Hara). He eventually realizes that
      everyone around him--from the loutish youths he calls his friends to
      the wizened old women he calls his aunts--are ignoramuses,
      hypocrites, spiritual grotesques. The film ends with Junior acting
      out the action described by the film's title--he stares at every
      town folk in the eye, judges them, and finds them all wanting.

      The film's true power comes not from its foreground story (Junior's
      rather tepid rites of passage) but from its marginalia, from the
      deadpan observation of the absurdity of small-town life. Its power
      comes most of all from Kuala and Berto, the town's most miserable
      inhabitants, and the intense yet simply told story of love found at
      the bottom of the world. Unlike the incompletely sketched (though
      excellently played) Cesar and Milagros, Kuala and Berto are fully
      realized characters (does it help that O'Hara, who plays Berto,
      wrote the screenplay?); they are Brocka's version of Jose
      Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" (Touch Me Not) with Kuala as Sisa--
      remember that "Noli" is about yet another dull young man who wakes
      up to the unjust reality, while in the novel's margins dance the
      unforgettable figure of a madwoman in search of her childÂ…

      Lolita Rodriguez as Kuala, captures the smallest, wince-inducing
      detail about homeless lunatics, from scabied scalp to urine-stained
      thighs; O'Hara plays Berto as a man made utterly alone by his
      leprosy, perhaps not a little mad himself--when he first notices
      Kuala, it's with the predatory hunger of someone long deprived of
      sex. Rodriguez and O'Hara's work here together is remarkable (all
      the more remarkable considering that some years earlier Rodriguez
      played tyrant mother to O'Hara's oppressed son in
      Brocka's "Stardoom" (1971)). They make the relationship between them
      effortless, yet utterly real--Rodriguez as Kuala responds to Berto's
      attentions hungrily, even greedily (the way a child would); O'Hara
      as Berto suddenly finds himself functioning as guardian and father
      as well as lover. The couple is the most successful evocation of
      love I know in any of Brocka's films, the film itself one of the
      very best in Brocka's prolific career.

      "Big Fish"

      Tim Burton's "Big Fish" is wonderful fun. It makes good use of
      Burton's fantabulist visual style, yoked to characters and a
      storyline that carry more emotional heft than usual from a Burton
      film.

      It's amusing to notice that Ed Bloom's (Albert Finney) tall tales,
      at least the early ones, have a quasi-biblical take to them--the big
      fish is relative to Jonah's whale; the younger Bloom (Ewan McGregor)
      vs. the giant recalls David vs. Goliath (and in fact Bloom tosses a
      rock at his chest); Ed Bloom working for years to meet Sarah mimics
      Jacob working for years to win Rachel; the snake swimming towards
      the beautiful blonde nude evokes Eden, the same snake turning into a
      stick reminds us of Moses.

      It's also amusing to note that for such a fantastical film (it's
      what "Forrest Gump" aspires to, only with less of the sticky
      sentimentality) Burton takes it easy on the CGI effects--there are a
      few, but not like your usual CGI, and thankfully, there are no
      roller-coaster POV shots, the kind done to death in the Matrix and
      Star Wars sequels.

      And Will Bloom's (Billy Crudup) feelings towards his father--it's
      the first time in a long time I've believed in this kind of
      relationship (even if son-reconciles-with-estranged-father are one
      of the oldest storylines around). To realize that you've been lied
      to for years, by someone you trusted and believed in; the sense of
      betrayal, of hatred, Crudup manages to make this palpable.

      "Forrest Gump" went on and on about how innocent and good Gump was;
      Burton's film doesn't insist on anything--the young Ed Bloom is a go-
      getting charmer and hustler and bullshitter, and Burton doesn't
      insist that this is all to the good. Will's character, at least the
      way Crudup plays him, seems like the voice of sanity; he manages to
      make his disenchantment with his father, whom everyone likes,
      actually feel reasonable.

      I read a lot of the mixed reviews, and most of them cite Bloom's
      self-absorbed windiness. A lot depends on whether you like the
      characters (whether you like self-absorbed windiness) or not, I
      suppose. I did, and that was a big help towards liking the film as a
      whole.

      "Cold Mountain"

      As for Anthony Minghella's "Cold Mountain"--well, I haven't been all
      over North Carolina, but seeing as Confederate army deserter Inman
      (Jude Law) traipses over a good portion of it, you'd think I'd
      recognize some portion of the landscape (it was mostly filmed in
      Romania). I've also had the impression that quite a few excellent
      actors are Carolinian--why cast a Brit and Aussie for the lead
      roles?

      Okay, box-office appeal; you'd think if they wanted a little more
      box-office, they'd retool Inman's and his great love Ada Monroe's
      (Nicole Kidman) characters to be a little more uppity--they're such
      sodden wet blankets you're almost grateful for the appearance of
      Ruby (Renee Zellweger, of which I never thought I'd get to say that)
      to liven things up (Philip Seymour Hoffman as a swinish adulterer
      helps a little, but he doesn't stick around for very long). And I
      object to any movie that considers the sexy Kathy Baker a mere
      matron--that's one terrific woman being wasted there.

      Minghella's got too much good taste (the, as Godard I believe once
      put it, enemy of great art) though, so Jude Law doesn't get to use
      his best asset, his brash effrontery, and Nicole Kidman spends most
      of the film simpering and speaking in a breathy voice like a
      debutante (she doesn't even get seriously molested). Kidman I
      thought was excellent in Alejandro Amenabar's "The Others," but
      there she had a terrific character to play--a woman with a cold
      facade that slowly cracks under hysteria--and she had Amenabar's
      wonderful style to prop her up.

      Here--I understand coming from Charleston Kidman would look sore-
      thumb beautiful, but after her father dies? During the worst of the
      Civil War's privations? That's star vanity speaking. Oh, and poor
      Ray Winstone's saddled with a one-note villain role, as a Home Guard
      officer. "Cold Mountain" is about as romantically appealing as
      refrigerator leftovers.

      ("Pelikula at Lipunan" will run from Feb. 11 to 15 at SM Megamall)

      (First published in Businessworld, Feb. 13, 2004)

      (Comments? Email me at noelbotevera@...)

      Schedule of "Pelikula at Lipunan" at SM Megamall.

      Feb. 11 (W)

      3:00 p.m. Tinimbang Ka ngunit Kulang by Lino Brocka
      6:30 p.m. Zamboanga by Eduardo de Castro
      9:00 p.m. Big Fish by Tim Burton

      Feb. 12 (Th)

      10:00 a.m. Animated Features
      12:30 p.m. Animated Features
      3:00 p.m. Krus na Kawayan by Manuel Conde
      6:30 p.m. Tagumpay ng Mahirap by Omnibus
      9:00 p.m. Yossi and Jagger by Eytan Fox

      Feb. 13 (F)

      10:00 a.m. Animated Features
      12:30 p.m. Animated Features
      3:00 p.m. Banta ng Kahapon by Eddie Romero
      6:30 p.m. Astig by John Red
      9:00 p.m. Pinoi Rock and Rhythm by Dennis Empalmado

      Feb. 14 (Sa)

      10:00 a.m. Documentaries
      12:30 p.m. Short Gay Films
      3:00 p.m. Short Films
      6:30 p.m. Green Lights by Robert Lieberman
      9:00 p.m. Cold Mountain by Anthony Minghella

      Feb. 15 (Su)

      10:00 a.m. Short Fiction Works
      12:30 p.m. Faces of Famine and Boyce Ball by Robert
      Lieberman
      3:00 p.m. Riles by Ditsi Carolino
      6:30 p.m. Edades by Nick Deocampo
      9:00 p.m. Zamboanga by Eduardo de Castro
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