Friday, August 29, 2014

Cinemalaya X Goes UP

Cinemalaya X goes to Cine Adarna, UP Diliman. Not all the competition films will be shown, but the ones that do matter will have screens there.

Here are the notable films:

Bwaya -  The film highlights a more fearsome predator than the 20-foot-long saltwater crocodile Lolong. Heart-wrenching story deals with a crocodile attack on a girl at a marshland in Agusan del Sur. Director Francis Xavier Pasion returns with the caustic bite of his award-winning film Jay

Dagitab - Smoldering look at the dying embers of a marriage between professors at the country's national university. Watching the film is as satisfying as the Maroons' first win at the UAAP in two seasons. Sparks? More like bonfire.

The Janitor - Just ignore the lame title for this is an engrossing film about a suspended cop tasked to wipe out criminals. Bristling with energy, The Janitor was a crowd favorite at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Janitor (Michael Tuviera, Cinemalaya 2014)

A beauteous St. Paul University coed was chatting with her schoolmate inside the orange shuttle jeepney. They were wondering about the significance of the film's title: The Janitor. I bet several other Cinemalaya fans were as bewildered as the duo.

Here's my advice to moviegoers: just ignore the lame title for this is an engrossing film about a suspended cop tasked to wipe out criminals. Bristling with energy, The Janitor was a crowd favorite at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It stars Dennis Trillo, Richard Gomez, and Derek Ramsay.

Crisanto Espina (Dennis Trillo) is a regular church goer. But, he is no saint. He salvages hardened criminals. There are lots of labels that can fit his dirty job including The Equalizer, The Punisher, The Hitman, The Killer, The Salvager, The Executioner, and The Assassin.

Now, why did the filmmakers settle on a wimpy label, The Janitor? Director Mike Tuviera provided the answer during the film premiere. He introduced Trillo as 'ang taga-linis ng mga masasama.'

Crisanto sure cleaned up the whole gang involved in a hideous bank robbery massacre in Laguna. Each hit by Crisanto is preceded by a turn of the wheel of torture. The gritty torture scenes provide us with the name of a suspect and his crimes. Armed with precious information on the criminals, the audience roots for Crisanto to succeed in his stylishly-choreographed killings.

One of the best scenes shows Crisanto running after a big catch during a drug raid. He easily hurdles the curved concrete staircase. The camera follows Crisanto every step of the way giving the audience an adrenaline rush of the exhilarating chase.

There are a couple of things in the film that should have been executed better. I'm disappointed with the bank interiors. A pair of toilets next to the workstations gives new meaning to deposits and withdrawals. Maybe the point of the filmmakers is to highlight the poor security features of the bank.

The police checkpoint hit is lame. Isn't it a bit odd for a top police officer to loiter around in a deserted police checkpoint at nighttime? Not a fan of The Godfather, eh?

I wonder why the Paulinian student missed the significance of the ending of The Janitor. Crisanto is seen sweeping the floor of debris. Included among the dirty things are pictures of the criminals.

If the character and actuations of Crisanto are the basis of the title, then a more accurate title should be The Door Mat. The fearless assassin is no match to a long-time nemesis. He gets beaten up always. This wonderful plotline gives the film extra emotional heft and one more reason to see this box-office hit.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Memories of Overdevelopment (Kidlat Tahimik, Cinemalaya 2014 Cut)

Memories of Overdevelopment is a cinematic journey like no other. It is part history lesson, part home video, part tribute to Yoyoy Villame, and part appreciation of the arts and culture of northern Philippines. This delightful film, 35 years in the making, is the nth iteration of Kidlat Tahimik's chronicles of the adventures of Enrique, a Malay slave who circumnavigated the world. The slave's name may not be that familiar but his master, Ferdinand Magellan, is a household name among Filipinos.

I was elated when I heard the first strains of the Yoyoy Villame ditty, Magellan. Middle-aged viewers like me had fond memories of that song about the demise of the Portuguese explorer. The compilation album containing that song along with Mag-exercise Tayo was played to death in our household during visits of my late grandfather. Lolo Jose was a huge, huge fan of Villame. I think he'll agree with the proposal to make Villame a National Artist.

There is a national artist featured in the film. National Artist Ben Cabrera and his museum are bastions of art in Baguio City. Kidlat Tahimik and his equally artistic sons show off their art installations. Every destination set upon by Enrique and present-day balikbayan counterpart, also named Enrique, is blessed with impressive art pieces. The whole film is a showcase of Filipino pride.

Memories of Overdevelopment (Unang Balikbayan) is an entertaining, indio-genius film. From yoyo to Yoyoy, the film handles Filipino things in a playful, catchy, jocular manner. My favorite scene shows Enrique unleashing a yoyo to kill a pig. The scene is fiercely independent and brave for using a cheap-looking plastic pig in lieu of a real pig. The amazing thing is the scene worked wonders for me. It drove home the major points that the yoyo is originally a weapon and that budgetary constraint is no obstacle to story telling. Besides, no animal was hurt at all.

Kidlat Tahimik espouses the idea that every Filipino has a story to tell. We just need to harness our own imagination. In August 2014, Kidlat Tahimik was honored by the Cinemalaya group for his role in the 'development and propagation of Philippine independent cinema.' Among those who followed his found-footage and video diary style of filmmaking are John Torres and Roxlee. He is very much at home sharing his experiences and indigenous concepts to aspiring filmmakers, who calls him kuya.

Uppermost photo taken by filmmaker H. Calderon

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sundalong Kanin (Janice O'Hara, Cinemalaya 2014)

One of the more interesting screenplays at the 10th edition of Cinemalaya, Sundalong Kanin is marred by bouts of haphazard filmmaking. The thrilling adventures and misadventures of a quartet of rural boys during the Second World War captivates the attention of the audience. Then, just when things get exciting, the audience members are bombarded with inept dramatic scenes and lame action set pieces.

A pet peeve of mine is seeing a breathing 'dead man' in films. Sundalong Kanin is the latest one to show a corpse with a heaving stomach. Filmmakers can easily change camera angles to hide moving stomachs but they continue to show the full body. Maybe they saw it done in Tokyo Story and decided to do it, too. I'll turn a blind eye if their films are as excellent as Tokyo Story.

The execution segment in Sundalong Kanin loses its impact because of poor blocking of the crowd scenes. The long shots are okay but the shoving and jostling scenes are jarringly dull. I also dislike some parts of the nighttime chase. The weak lighting presents the kids as being unconcern about exposure to enemies.

A memorable scene shows two vagrant kids stealing mouthfuls of rice. A rice soldier valiantly tries to stop them but fails. It shows how nimble and brittle the bravery of the frail, puny rice soldiers. 

A rash of abusive acts by enemies will turn the innocent children into raging animals. Think of the Lord of the Flies meets Oro, Plata, Mata. The scene showing a kid poking a gun on the head of another boy is a nod to an iconic scene featuring Joel Torre in Oro, Plata, Mata. 

Sundalong Kanin also has a few nods to the film Seven Samurai. The cutting of a girl's hair to make her look like a boy is from the Japanese film. Both films end with a shot of mounds of graves. The little boy giving a snappy salute is a nice touch by the Sundalong Kanin team. He has finally learned his lesson although he still needs to bulk up. Cinemalaya 2014 Special Awardee Kidlat Tahimik will probably advise him to 'eat samurais' - 'eat some more rice.'

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

1st Ko Si 3rd (Real Florido, Cinemalaya 2014)

The first film I'd seen at Cinemalaya 2014 was a big letdown. The synopsis and trailer of 1st Ko Si 3rd suggest a cute, lovely film about second chances. What we got instead was a draggy, mildly interesting story about a love that lasts.

The slow pace of the film was due to director-writer Real Florido's attempt to show the monotonous and tedious life of a newly-retired government employee, Cory. He succeeded alright but the film became boring as well because of repetitive scenes of Cory (Nova Villa) doing household chores. It sure felt like time slowed down for several segments.

The re-entry of Third (Freddie Webb) to Cory's life barely lift the film from snoozefest. The flashbacks suffer from wooden performances by the teen actors. The blocking of actors looked awkward. The tripping incident pales in comparison with the tripping scenes in Bwaya or Dagitab.

The film comes alive with a hilarious segment showing online correspondence between the former lovers. The editing is brisk and spot-on. This is a rare LOL moment indeed.

The best scene for me, though, involves Cory's husband, played by Dante Rivero. He had a coughing spell that sounded like an old car being revved up. The scene worked for me because he is an elder mechanic determined to bring to life a well-loved automobile.

The old chap may not be as gorgeous and flashy as Third but he can still take Cory to places of simple joy. He is an ever faithful companion on the dining table, bedroom, and couch. Very few women are lucky to have spouses who will join them in regular telenovela viewings.

1st Ko Si 3rd reminds me of a saying which goes: 'Lucky is the man who is the first love of a woman but luckier is the woman who is the last love of a man.'