Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Otso (Elwood Perez, Sineng Pambansa 2013)

Don't judge a film by its poster.

I'd shied away from viewing the film Otso because of its theatre poster. No, it's not the one above. The poster I'm talking about has a picture of about four nude hunks in lieu of Sabina's picture. The beefcake picture seems to suggest that it is a gay film. Well, it isn't a gay film. It is, how do I put it, an artistic meditation on truth and perception.

A balikbayan scriptwriter named Lex is enamored with old Manila. He treads the cobblestones, rides the calesa, and admires the statue of Laong Laan. The picturesque beauty of Intramuros soon gives way to images of a chaotic, cluttered city caught up in electioneering frenzy. 

Lex rents an apartment and starts to work on a commissioned screenplay. One day, he sees a pretty co-tenant. He follows her and sees her wearing a necklace. The piece's prominent design is that of an infinity symbol. From that point on, his creative juice explodes. What follows is a Kaufman-ian glimpse into the maddening scriptwriting process. An eternity of cascading images, characters, and storylines collide with one another and metamorphose into an impishly script.

A character from the film advises Lex to show his script to Brillante Mendoza. I think Lav Diaz is the better option for him because topics such as truth, artists, and art are major concerns of most Diaz films. But, Otso is unlike any Lav Diaz film. It is sui generis. What film can combine diverse characters and issues such as Anita Linda (playing herself), a pair of porn stars, a fresh, young scriptwriter, and the issue of pork barrel and pull it off?

The fun part is trying to figure out who's who and what's what after the denouement.

I'd finished watching all of the major new films included in the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival. Otso and Chito Roño's impeccable political film Badil are my top picks. If you can only view one film today (17-Sep), then make it Otso. There's a chance that Badil may get an extended run.

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