Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ang Babae Sa Likod Ng Mambabatok (Lauren Sevilla Faustino, Sineng Pambansa 2012)

The Philippine Daily Inquirer has been an ardent supporter of independent filmmakers and excellent local films for years. This year, it stepped up by organizing the first Inquirer Indie Bravo! Film Festival at Greenbelt 3, Makati City. For three days in early December, the festival held free public screenings of documentaries and short films, several of them award-winners.

Among the precious gems shown is Lauren Sevilla Faustino's Ang Babae sa Likod ng Mambabatok (The Woman Behind the Tattoo Artist). The documentary deals with a legendary, nonagenarian tattoo artist named Fang Od. Clients and tourists endure an arduous journey to seek the services of the famed tattoo artist in the highlands of Kalinga.

Seeing her in action makes for an uneasy moment. Fang Od creates batok (tattoo design) with a crude, traditional implement. A firm tapping of the two-inch pointed implement pierces the skin just enough for it to take in the ink. Every sharp thumping sound makes me squirm in my seat. That must be really painful. The amazing thing is once the ink are wiped off from the skin, we see the design in perfect symmetry and alignment. Fang Od's steady arms and eyesight are still in tip-top condition despite her old age.

Fang Od shares that in her tribe, a tattooed woman is highly desirable. (She used to have at least 36 suitors). A woman without a tattoo is not beautiful. We then see various tattoos on the body of Fang Od. There is a reptile design here and a design copied from Chinese porcelain there. Nearly all of the designs are perfectly aligned. However, there are a couple of tattoos that seem amateurish. The story behind those seemingly out-of-place tattoos outshine all of the romantic stories and plotlines conceived by the Star Cinema writing factory so far.

In response to a query on why she remained single all her life, she tells of someone outside her tribe who captured her heart. But, her father objected to her being married to an outsider. The young man then said to her, 'since we cannot be together, I'll tattoo my name on your forearm so you cannot forget me.' He did tattoo his name. Every day since, Fang Od sees his crudely tattooed name on her forearm and remembers him. Awwwww... Heartbreaking kilig stuff.

Thank you to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Raul C. Pangalangan, Bianca Kasilag, and co.), MyCinema, and the Film Development Council of the Philippines for sharing the engrossing documentary to the public on December 9, 2013. My mother and sister loved this documentary along with feature film Transit and the documentary film Ang Pagbabalik ng Bituin. Those films brought us, the audience, on a trip across the Philippines and beyond (Israel).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Boy Golden (Chito Roño, Metro Manila Film Festival 2013)

Dashing through windows and essaying the signature dance moves of Elvis Presley, there had never been a group of hoodlums as elegant, acrobatic, and stylishly elusive as the Bahala Na Gang members led by Arturo Porcuna aka Boy Golden. But, all of them are upstaged by a smoldering, vengeful, good-looking killer.

The rip-roaring action film Boy Golden is based on the colorful, treachery-riddled life of Porcuna (Jeorge ER Estregan), a notorious gangster in the early 1960s. The pre-credit segment showed him mowing down enemies while a rollicking Elvis Presley song blares from the jukebox. He escapes unscathed and quickly merges with the shadows of the night. He meets shadowy characters out there in the dark.

I'm not happy with the way femme fatale Marla Dee (KC Concepcion) was introduced. She is barely recognizable from the dimly lit nightclub room. The filmmakers should have shown her with exceptional dancing skills. As it is, when she flexes her breathtaking fighting skills, it comes as a big surprise. How the hell did she come up with those phenomenal athletic moves? Okay, she's a dancer. But, she should have been shown doing a nifty move here and a powerful gymnast step there.

Marla Dee is a dancer out for revenge. In one surprising scene, she guts out an obese, fake attorney. That was a bit surprising for me because of the actress who played her. KC Concepcion sheds off her cute image and comes onscreen as a sultry lady oozing with raging sex appeal. Marla Dee is like a Hulk whose chest gets bigger because of anger. She is seen desperately trying to conceal her bulging mammary glands a couple of times. She bangs her head countless times on the staircase but she ends up alive and brandishing a fiercer, smoldering personality.

There are other wonderful surprises out there for moviegoers mostly involving the Bahala Na Gang members. You'll likely be amused with their confrontation with the henchmen of a crooked general. Then, there's the shoot-out segment that channels Gene Kelly, West Side Story, Chinese acrobats, and Dragon dance.

Year 2013 will likely be cited as the year good local action films sprung to life. The film OTJ blazed the screens in major cities around the world. Meanwhile, Kung-Fu Divas mixed a potent brew of humor and action. I've heard some good notes for Iskalawags.

Boy Golden is not a perfect film. Filmmakers could have trimmed down its running time. They could have made Razon a more monstrous villain or cast a more suitable actor for that role. However, Boy Golden's awesome action segments, beautifully choreographed by veteran foreign stunt directors, are a rarity in local films. It is not KC Concepcion's cleavage that I will remember about her but Marla Dee's fight with a lady assassin. 

Marla Dee is a kick-ass character you won't likely forget. The high octane action set-pieces and a strong lady character are elements that make Boy Golden a top-notch action film. Next on my action film viewing list is 10,000 Hours, winner of the Best Picture award in this year's edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Metro Manila Film Festival Parade of Stars (December 22, 2013)

10,000 HOURS








Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Prologo sa Ang Dakilang Desaparecido (Lav Diaz, 2013)

Lav Diaz's films are noted for their high contrast black and white images. But, I was still surprised with the extreme depth of contrast exhibited in the short film Prologo sa Ang Dakilang Desaparecido. It was like seeing a 3D film. I was waiting for the majestic, sauntering white horse to evict the minion of Emilio Aguinaldo and jump through the screen. 

Take a look at the picture above. It feels like raindrops or a falling leaf will penetrate your computer screen any moment now. Lav's elegant, deep focus images should be seen and experienced in movie theaters. Just avoid the front-row seats or you'll end up blinded like deer caught in blazing headlights.

The English title, Prologue to The Great Desaparecido, reveals the short film to be a teaser to an important film The Great Desaparecido. It is important because the desaparecido referred to is none other than Andres Bonifacio, who was born on the 30th of November 150 years ago.

It is heart-wrenching seeing Gregoria de Jesus scour the boondocks for the remains of her husband. She endured humiliation and possibly rape in order to save her husband but they killed him just the same. The skies burst open as if sympathizing with her. The lush, ambient sounds of the raindrops are starkly contrasted by the piercing silent grief of the Lakambini of the Katipunan. She doggedly looks on for the burial site. It is painful to watch, but you just can't take your eyes off the screen because of the chiaroscuro imagery and the glorious soundscape.

The short film made me shout out the lyrics of a Rock Supremo song by Radioactive Sago Project: 'Hoy Emilio, nasaan ang mga buto?' We might as well change the lyrics to 'Hoy Palparan, nasaan ang mga iskolars?' and 'Hoy Ampatuan, nasaan ang 58th victim?'