Author Topic: Filipino films  (Read 388380 times)

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Offline Noel_Vera

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Filipino films
« on: Jul 13, 2002 at 01:22 AM »
Someone please delete this thread if I'm wrong, but I've been searching up and down the forum for something that would deal mainly with Filipino films, and couldn't find one.  Can we at least start talking about them, now?  Thanks...!

Offline Noel_Vera

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And to start off things...
« Reply #1 on: Jul 13, 2002 at 01:24 AM »
A castle meant to last

Noel Vera

Mario O'Hara's "Kastilyong Buhangin" (Castle of Sand, 1980) is the story of two children, a boy and a girl.  The boy lives with his mother (theater and radio actress Metring David); the girl is an orphan, and suffers under a stepmother (Bella Flores) and her lover (Mario's brother and character actor Edwin O'Hara), a drunkenly violent man who beats the girl every chance he gets.  At one point, the girl confesses that she envies the boy, who has many dreams and seems to be going somewhere; she, on the other hand, has no place to go.  The boy chides the girl, and tells her that he'll always take care of her, no matter what.  And so their fates are sealed...

O'Hara tells this hard-luck story with such heartfelt simplicity and directness that the viewer is captivated.  Boy befriends a girl with a curse; boy and girl help each other, find solace in each other's company. Boy confronts curse, and defeats it; with the implacable logic of all fairy tales, curse is lifted from the girl and transferred to the boy, who spends the rest of his youth growing up in reformatory prison.

O'Hara shows us a prison life full of realistic detail and a casual, almost unnoticed lyricism--at one point he has the boy running through a field of flowers that, we assume, the convicts have planted and cared for over the years.  The girl, now staying with the boy's mother, visits once in a while, and their meetings have the unforced happiness of two childhood friends seeing each other again.  Then, almost unnoticed (a quick match-cut from young boy to grown man), the boy becomes Lito Lapid, one of the film's stars, who runs up to meet his visiting "sister," Nora Aunor, the film's other star.

I described the lengthy beginning in some detail because it seems important to O'Hara's concept of the film.  "Kastilyong Buhangin's" prologue painstakingly establishes a fairy-tale tone (perfect for defusing disbelief in a fairy-tale melodrama); presents to us the childhood traumas that shaped the characters; and introduces an all-important fatalist attitude towards destiny--how one may fight and resist it for a while, but ultimately must submit to it.

It's this prologue with its precisely evoked emotional texture that distracts you--distracts, misdirects, ultimately demolishes from your awareness the fact that this is actually a vehicle for both Lapid and Aunor.  Aunor being a singer and actress and Lapid being a stuntman turned action-star, the film is a melange of pop-song numbers and hand-to-hand combat sequences--an odd combination for a melodrama and usually a fatal one, in that the natural reaction would be to refuse to take any of it seriously.  I mean, how can you watch with a straight face a cover of "Corner in the Sky" from "Pippin" (complete with Carpenters-style orchestration and choreography) followed by a deadly gang fight set in a meat market?

Somehow you do; somehow you watch not only with straight face but also with bated breath, hoping Lapid comes through the meat-market fracas okay--which is O'Hara's achievement.  Like the popular song composed by George Canseco that serves as the film's theme and title, "Kastilyong Buhangin" dives into its emotional core and serves the story up simply, sincerely, shot in O'Hara's uniquely cinematic style.

Aunor as the rising singer saddled with a problematic lover (think "A Star is Born") gives the film its dramatic fire and substance.  She's the sensible person hurting because she loves someone much less sensible; she's torn between the urge to abandon that person (the common-sense professional) and the urge to stand by her man (the little girl that still remembers her childhood protector).  By this time Aunor was considered a heavyweight drama actress--she had made "Ina Ka ng Anak Mo" (You are the Mother of Your Child, 1979) with Lino Brocka; "Ikaw ay Akin" (You are Mine, 1978) opposite rival Vilma Santos (Ishmael Bernal directing); and, of course, "Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos" (Three Years Without God, 1976), with O'Hara--but there is nothing heavy about her acting here; it's human-scaled and elegantly drawn, with few wasted gestures or unnecessary lines of dialogue.  As with Aunor's very best performances, the intensity comes not from her line readings (possibly her weakest moment is when someone is killed, and she cries out, perhaps too theatrically, for a doctor), but from her eyes--huge, dark, eloquent, a silent film actress in a sound picture.

O'Hara, understanding this, gives her many moments where she displays this quality--moments like when she suddenly ends a recording session and sits alone in the studio, all wordless glamour and mystery.  Or when Lapid comes to her bedroom drunk, and makes a pass at her--Aunor rejects him at first, then thinks better of it.  This second example is especially fine: you see from the expression on her face that she's a proper girl who really should refuse him--but she loves him, damn it, and she's tired of being so proper. The wine, after all is said and done, must be decanted some time; just this once she wants to live dangerously.

Aunor may be the dramatic spine supporting the film, but Lapid's character is its central consciousness, it's heart.  Which is amazing, as from the little I've seen of his other work, Lapid's range as an actor is strictly limited--he has always played this shy, likeable "probinsyano" (provincial) who comes to the big city, mainly because it's the only part he can play. And O'Hara uses this; he counts on Lapid's shyness and apparent innocence to keep the audience on his side while O'Hara sketches a darker, more complex side to the character.

In effect Lapid, who's eventually released on parole, has adjusted so well to the claustrophobic cells and strict regulations of prison life that the open spaces of the world outside gives him a kind of agoraphobia; he can't help but shrink back in fear.  From whiling away the days with his convict friends, he's now expected to go back to school, get a job, become a responsible human being (expectations so daunting, even to us ordinary people, they must seem almost impossible to an ex-convict).

con't


Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #2 on: Jul 13, 2002 at 01:28 AM »
con't

And Lapid can't deal with it; he resorts to drinking regularly, falls in with all kinds of dubious friends, gets into all kinds of trouble. In effect, Lapid never left prison--he's just graduated to a larger one with more complex regulations, the locks and restraints applied mainly to his mind, where they can't be picked or broken.  In one telling scene some friends get him drunk, and he responds by giving them a floor show--the kind of gyrating dance men learn from nightclubs and strip joints. Eventually his dancing suggests something more--a release of pent-up emotions, of energies long repressed.  Finally he's merely whirling in place, his arms and legs flailing about while he fruitlessly seeks escape, release, relief, a mammal running helplessly on a treadmill until he collapses, weeping in anger and frustration.  He literally has no place to go.

In Lapid's character O'Hara shows us that innocence is not enough--that in fact it will be innocence that causes us to fall out of step with the world (which is essentially corrupt), that will trip us up and bring us down. O'Hara gives us a portrait of a man drowning, and surrounds him with loving, caring people (Aunor, David) who can only watch helplessly as he gradually chokes to death.

A word on the violence in this film--there's plenty of it, mainly because Lapid's character spent most of his time in prison learning (as far as I can tell) a combination of boxing, Karate, and streetfighting.  The tragedy is that he might have learned too well; if he wasn't so good at defending himself, if he had been beaten up a few times early on, maybe he wouldn't be so fearless about getting himself into trouble.

As it is, the fight scenes are intricately choreographed, coherently shot and edited, and relentlessly realistic; they mark a major difference between O'Hara and his one-time collaborator, Lino Brocka.   While Brocka has made noir films ("Jaguar," "Macho Dancer," "Hot Property"), and song-and-drama flicks ("Stardoom,"), he could never do action scenes, an essential to noir, very well--he leaves that to a fight choreographer to arrange, then photographs the results indifferently.

O'Hara is clearly more familiar with violence; he shoots it with flair and a real filmmaker's eye, and in "Kastilyong Buhangin" it is a major contributor to the film's grim visual texture.  O'Hara even has a final setpiece, a riot in a prison shower room, that outdoes anything I've seen even in Ringo Lam's "Prison on Fire" movies, and looks extremely difficult to choreograph and shoot (O'Hara takes advantage of the fact that almost every one in the shower room is an accomplished stunt man to do the near-impossible--and on wet tiles, yet).  The musical accompaniment to this orgy of violence is a sad, tinkling little melody, the kind likely to evoke childhood memories--as if Lapid's thoughts had gone beyond the body-blows and splashing blood, to a time when he could be both innocent and happy with the ones he loved.  "Kastilyong Buhangin" was a big hit, possibly one of the few times the Filipino public would find O'Hara's dark sensibilities so palatable (the song, an anthem to the transience of life, would endure through the years to become a sentimental classic).  In later works like "Bagong Hari" (The New King, 1986) and "Pangarap ng Puso" (Demons, 2000) O'Hara would push farther and farther into violence and brutality, almost uncaring as to whether or not the public would follow.  They wouldn't, but these films remain as signposts marking off the kind of lonely and forbidding territories Philippine cinema--or at least one practitioner of the art--is able and willing to explore.

("Kastilyong Buhangin" can sometimes be seen at the Cinema One Channel, in Sky and Home Cable.  Check your cable guide for schedule)

(Comments? Email me at [email protected])


Offline xage

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #3 on: Jul 13, 2002 at 09:11 AM »
I heard of that title was it based originally from the film or from the song?

Kastilyong Buhangin which was a popular local song in the early 80's by Anthony Castello?
[img width=163 height=49]http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b221/x

Offline keng001

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #4 on: Jul 13, 2002 at 10:32 PM »
Original version of Kastilyong Buhangin was by Basil Valdez. The movie used the song and title after it became a hit song.

Noel, thank you for this review. You should review more Filipino movies from the 70's and 80's.

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #5 on: Jul 14, 2002 at 07:08 AM »
"You should review more Filipino movies from the 70's and 80's. "

Next month will be Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag. ;D



Mod Message:

Nope, I don't think there's a thread on this yet. Here's a related thread though.

THE BEST FILIPINO FILM EVER
« Last Edit: Jul 27, 2002 at 03:27 AM by Noel_Vera »

Offline kakabanas

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #6 on: Jul 23, 2002 at 05:05 AM »

"You should review more Filipino movies from the 70's and 80's. "

Next month will be Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag. :D





Patiently waiting for this ...

Offline xage

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #7 on: Jul 23, 2002 at 06:43 AM »

Someone please delete this thread if I'm wrong, but I've been searching up and down the forum for something that would deal mainly with Filipino films, and couldn't find one.  Can we at least start talking about them, now?  Thanks...!


It dealt mainly with Filipino Films but on a different manner. ;D

Typical Filipino Films
[img width=163 height=49]http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b221/x

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #8 on: Jul 24, 2002 at 12:50 AM »
Personally, I think we need as many threads on Filipino films as possible, but let the mods decide--if you want to delete this, though, I'd like to ask if we can save or combine the post on Kastilyong Buhangin.

Offline keng001

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #9 on: Aug 02, 2002 at 12:01 PM »
I saw a post from another forum asking for help in a newly created webpage about Nora Aunor. The best part about the page are the movie reviews of HIMALA, BONA, INA KA NG ANAK MO and BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT. Click here to see the webpage and the movie reviews.

Offline pumpy

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #10 on: Aug 02, 2002 at 05:34 PM »
Dapat palitan na ang pangalan ng website. Let's call it "AmboyDVD."  ;D


Someone please delete this thread if I'm wrong, but I've been searching up and down the forum for something that would deal mainly with Filipino films, and couldn't find one.  Can we at least start talking about them, now?  Thanks...!

Offline pumpy

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #11 on: Aug 02, 2002 at 05:37 PM »
Does anyone have the Cinema One schedule for this month? Will they be showing *Buhangin*? Also, how about Alma Moreno's cinematic debut?

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #12 on: Aug 03, 2002 at 01:24 AM »
I always buy the Skyguide.

Wala ata this month.  Maybe next month?

Offline paeng

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #13 on: Aug 05, 2002 at 12:29 PM »
Anything special this month? I checked Clickthecity and saw *Bomba Star*. Was that Alma Moreno's first film? Also, what's *Perfurmed Garden*? Sayang, hindi *Perfumed Nightmare*.

What about Viva Cinema? They used to show *Burlesk Queen* and *Batch '81*.


Offline keng001

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #14 on: Aug 05, 2002 at 01:35 PM »
Alma Moreno's launching movie was LIGAW NA BULAKLAK directed by Ishmael Bernal. She was one of the seven bold stars introduced by Jesse Ejercito during the 70's. The others were Elizabeth Oropesa, Daria Ramirez, Chanda Romero, Beth Bautista, Amy Austria and Lorna Tolentino. All bold stars that all turned out to be fine actesses. Well, except for Alma Moreno. :(

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #15 on: Aug 05, 2002 at 07:35 PM »
Alma did okay in a few films...Maynila by Night, Bilanggong Birhen.  She can be used effectively, by a good director.

Perfumed Garden is a grotesque curiousity by Celso Ad. Castillo.  Not quite good, but definitely not boring or conventional.  MIchael de Mesa is very good in it.

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #16 on: Aug 08, 2002 at 02:10 AM »
Derek Malcolm's Century of Film

http://film.guardian.co.uk/Century_Of_Films/Story/0,4135,421014,00.html

Some corrections:

First, that's "Neon" or more literally "light" not "darkness."  I told him back in the 1999 Hong Kong Film Fest (or was it later?) and he must have forgotten.  Or didn't listen.

Second, Marcos never "instructed his men" as far as I have heard; it was mostly Imelda, working in the background--the way Malcolm seems to put it, Brocka singlehandedly pulled down the Marcos regime--I'd argue scriptwriter Pete Lacaba did more on that score.  Brocka was basically apolitical, even later when he was joining rallies, or so it's said; he noticed (about the time Yol was making the round of festivals) that political filmmakers made more milage...

Political Brocka is simpleminded Brocka; his truly great stuff is a handful of films back in the '70s, when politics were just another layer in the rich scheme of his work.

Final correction: personally I think Maynila, despite being on Malcolm's list and on "Film: A Critic's Choice" list of top 150 films in World Cinema, is overrated.

I'll post an article on this in a few days...

Offline Noel_Vera

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Reply to Derek Malcolm
« Reply #17 on: Aug 10, 2002 at 03:36 AM »
"Maynila" at the edge of greatness

Noel Vera

(Please note: plot discussed in close detail)

Lino Brocka is the best Filipino filmmaker ever; his masterpiece, "Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag" (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975) the greatest Filipino film ever made.

That was the consensus arrived at sometime after "Maynila" first came out, and the idea has persisted ever since.  Has, in fact, been given greater legitimacy with a top spot in the Urian's list of the ten best Filipino films in the past thirty years, and by inclusion in the book "Film: the Critic's Choices"--a list of what some critics consider the 150 greatest films ever made.

That's what they say.  What about us--you, me, the mere mortals?  What do we think?

Strangely enough, it's a proposition we can easily test out ourselves, unlike with the works of other masters of Philippine cinema.  Many of, say, Gerardo de Leon's best--"Daigdig ng Mga Api" (World of the Oppressed, 1965); El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster, 1962); "Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo" (The Python in the Bell-tower, 1952) have no available prints, and are deemed lost.  As recent a filmmaker as Celso Ad. Castillo has had the negatives of his masterwork, "Burlesk Queen" (Burlesque Queen, 1977) turn to vinegary rot, while his epic "Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan" (The Legend of Julian Makabayan, 1979) is represented by a single faded 16 mm print.  Not so with Brocka's "Maynila"-- a beautifully preserved subtitled print is available for screening (thanks to the picture's cinematographer, Mike de Leon), and the film is shown regularly on cable TV.

So how does the film fare, nearly thirty years later?

"Maynila" is the story of a young provincial named Julio Madiaga (Bembol Roco) who goes to the city to look for his lost love, Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel).  He has one adventure after another before he finds Ligaya, who is kept hostage by a Chinese named Ah Tek (Tommy Yap).  Julio and Ligaya plan to run away together, but Ah Tek stops Ligaya by killing her.  Julio stabs Ah Tek to death, then runs; he's ultimately hunted down and killed himself.

The film in outline has a simple story--too simple, you might say; not much structure to it.  Julio simply wanders around, passive, and allows everything to happen to him.  After a while, he joins a construction company, and learns of unfair labor practices.  A fellow worker dies; Julio is ultimately fired.  After which he is introduced to the world of gay sex and turns male prostitute.  After which he finally meets Ligaya inside a church...

The episodic quality may have come from the source, "Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag," by Edgardo Reyes, serialized in "Liwayway" Magazine from 1966 to 1967.  For each episode or installment, the writer provides enough incidents--bringing the end of the installment to enough of a conclusion--to satisfy the reader, at the same time keeping enough elements unresolved to entice him back for more.  After twenty or more installments full of subplots and side characters exiting or dying or having climactic fits, you notice several advantages and disadvantages.  One is the near-unpredictability--you can almost never guess what's going to happen to whom, or why.  Another is the near-formlessness--having to retain the interest of a fickle audience, the writer usually keeps a constantly changing sideshow of clowns and grotesques and whatever going on, while the real story develops almost in the background.

It was once a popular way of publishing--Charles Dickens among others presented his novels to the public this way; as Dickens himself might put it, it's as popular an artform as you can imagine, entertaining and easy to digest (no matter how unwieldy the final hardcover may be).  And Reyes, despite his considerable literary talents and (or perhaps because of) deeply felt social concerns, clearly wants to be seen as a popular artist, a people's artist.

And it's a legitimate way of telling a story.  You don't always get the pleasures of a well-made plot--the twists, the reversals, the sudden revelations--but you do get something less conventional, harder to define: something much more similar in feel to real life.

There is a crucial difference between novel and film, however, and it isn't just the gay sequences that Brocka, in a fit of autobiographical exhibitionism, decided to insert into the picture.  Brocka's Julio is driven into a corner, taunted, and tortured before he thinks of killing; in Reyes' novel, Julio was already a killer.  It's a relatively short passage, where Reyes suggests that Julio follows a man into an alley to murder him--its very casualness, incidentally, making the passage all the more horrifying.

It's not just a matter of a small scene or episode being deleted for reasons of length; it's also not a matter of crying "foul!" just because a hair on the original's head was touched.  Julio's crime colors our perception of him, makes him less passive, less of a victim or innocent; it makes our feelings for him more ambivalent and complex.  By deleting the murder, Brocka ensures that our identification with and love of Julio is absolute. The advantage is that Julio's destruction is made all the more dramatic--the destruction of innocents is always more dramatic.  The disadvantage is that the film is more simplistic in its treatment of Julio. Brocka has streamlined and intensified Reyes' novel, but at the cost of emotional complexity.  Maybe not much...then again, maybe enough to cross the line between art and melodrama.

And this I think is a key weakness in the film.  Yes, "Maynila" has an open, rather amorphous story structure--a perfectly acceptable style used repeatedly with some success (think Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1976) or its Filipino descendant, Ishmael Bernal's "Manila By Night" (1980)).  But Altman's "Nashville" and Bernal's "Manila" gave us a constellation of characters with complex relationships, all interacting, in place of a classically structured story; Brocka's "Maynila" has just one main protagonist--Julio--interacting with himself.  There's really nothing more beyond him than his surface loneliness and suffering.  We know little of his past, other than his coming from the provinces and once having a girlfriend; we know he has homosexual tendencies, and that he's capable of murder when pushed--but that's all.  Critics have commented on this allegorical quality of Julio--that he's the prototype Filipino, the symbol of the suffering everyman.  I think it's a polite way of saying that Bembol Roco--an excellent, natural actor--doesn't have a character to work with here, that playing a nationalist symbol has never made dramatic sense, and that the character's passivity is really the passivity of an actor with no idea what's going on.

(con't)

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #18 on: Aug 10, 2002 at 03:38 AM »
con't

The rest of the cast--Tommy Abuel as Julio's close friend Pol; Yap as Ah Tek; Pio de Castro as Julio's up-and-coming friend Imo--are vividly drawn, but again interact with Julio in terms of whether or not they are allies or enemies; there are no shadings, no levels of ambiguity.  Hilda Koronel's Ligaya Paraiso, which one critic once described as representing "Ynang Bayan" (Mother Country--!), is possibly the worse offender; her name translated literally means "Joyful Paradise," the kind of obvious dirty-joke name you'd give a porn star, not your daughter.  Koronel is given a chance to prove herself late in the picture, with a long monologue delivered to Julio inside a motel room, a sad and sordid tale of rape and forced imprisonment.  By monologue's end, with Koronel crying hysterically and Roco giving reassuring caresses, two things pop into your mind: 1) Koronel is a very beautiful and fairly talented young woman, and 2) she's too young and raw to carry off the complex, heavily-loaded monologue she just delivered. Pity, but there you are.

I'm not trying to make a case for "Maynila" not being a great--I think it is, but not for the reasons people have traditionally given for the film. In terms of its "meat" and "bones"--its characterization and story structure--"Maynila" isn't much more than an excellently-made melodrama; what makes the film great, finally, is its "skin."  "Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag" has marvelous visual texture, thanks to its cinematographer, Mike de Leon (who would go on to become a great filmmaker himself).  From its opening shot of littered sidewalks and choked-up "esteros" (canals) to its final one of Julio, cowering at the bottom of a dead-end alley, it is a series of voluptuous images captured raw and honest.  More, the images are charged with an urgency, an immediacy uniquely Brocka's--as if Brocka had shot the picture right outside the theater where it's screening, developed the rushes, and raced inside to spool the print into the projector, fresh and smoking hot.

Giving life to the realism, of course, is Brocka's melodramatic energy.  If the characters in "Maynila" don't benefit from the three-dimensionality of the best screenwriting, they--the leads down to the teeming extras--are blessed with that intense, Brocka-mandated quality of people struggling furiously to live, to hold on to every miserable erg of life.  Roco in particular may be playing a symbol more than a fully realized character, but he does so with every nerve in his body alive, aware, straining to be unleashed.  Catching sight of him for the first time onscreen (standing in the corner of Ongpin and Misericordia) you draw back, troubled by the animal fear in his eyes, the same time you're drawn in by their liquid sensitivity.  A connection is made...

...a missing circuit closes, and the film comes to blazing life.  You realize that the figures, the silhouettes you glimpse onscreen that stubbornly refuse to resolve into recognizable human beings are actually merely that--silhouettes, figurines.  You stop looking for the psychological depth that isn't there and instead lean back to drink in the broad strokes, the panoramic view.  The protagonist of the film, as it turns out, isn't Julio, or Ligaya, or the various other supporting characters; it's the city itself...

As a portrait of one man's corruption and downfall, "Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag" leaves much to be desired.  As a portrait of a city caught between the edges of heaven and hell the picture is unmatched--no other Filipino film looks or feels quite like it, ever or since.

(The film can be seen on the Cinema One Channel, in Sky or Home Cable)

(Comments? Email me at [email protected])

Offline Centurion Obama

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #19 on: Aug 10, 2002 at 07:01 PM »
hey, who did they put on that top 10 list that they came out with recently?
Free Burma pa rin!

Offline jayleno

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #20 on: Aug 10, 2002 at 10:49 PM »
Well for me probably the best Filipino films Ive watched certainly belonged to the 70's and 80's. My favorites are:

Oro Plata Mata(1976)- disturbing and odd. I just hope this Film could've been listed as well at PremiereMagazine's Top 25 Extreme Cinema list.That scene wherein Kuh Ledesma begs to be shot is priceless.

Scorpio Nights(1985)- arthouse classic.the whole movie revolves around  a lower class apartment complex situated in the slums of Manila, and that is the only location used. The camera never got out to see the light of Manila. The film mainly reveals itself through it's cast of interesting characters who are all rather deprived of the hope of having a better life(which I think is what the enclosed location for the movie represents) and wherein sex is rather a everyday cuisine and a way to escape the harsh reality of 3rd world poverty.Premiere Magazine should've also listed this, though I think their list was mainly pre-empted for American and European film genre. Nagisa Oshima's Realm Of The Senses(1976)which was far more shocking than Blue Velvet was not even listed.

Tininmbang Ka Ngunit Kulang(1971)- Gives weightier issues on our social and moral dillemas. Thought provoking film.

Heartache City(1984) and Soltero(1984)- I like girl to girl love scenes. Though this films do have a story.

Offline keng001

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #21 on: Aug 13, 2002 at 09:51 PM »
I was testing the movie review website (www.mrqe.com) if they have any Filipino film reviews in its database. Here's what I found:

INSIANG - Lino Brocka's classic - not a review but more of a synopsis.

Another INSIANG entry - From the Toronto Film Festival in 1999. But more interesting, this article also list Sigueon-Reyna's Kahapon May Dalawang Bata

Midnight Dancer (Sibak) - Mel Chionglo movie.

Sa Pusod ng Dagat - Marilou Diaz - Abaya movie.

Batang West Side - Our very own Noel Vera's review.

Of course, there's several reviews of American Adobo.



Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #22 on: Aug 14, 2002 at 02:29 AM »
A synopsis of Insiang?  Sheesh.  If they wait a few months I'll have a full blown review of the film...

Offline kakabanas

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #23 on: Aug 17, 2002 at 02:33 AM »
A synopsis of Insiang?  Sheesh.  If they wait a few months I'll have a full blown review of the film...

When is "a few months" ? Can't wait to read your thoughts especially I heard that this story actually happened in Mario O Hara's neighborhood ...

Did I just drop the magic word ... or name ?  ;D


 8)
k
« Last Edit: Aug 17, 2002 at 02:34 AM by kakabanas »

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #24 on: Aug 17, 2002 at 03:31 AM »
Um...October, I guess, the article comes out.

I mean, I can post it here, but I hate pre-empting the magazine that actually paid for the darn thing...


Offline aklan4ever

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #25 on: Aug 17, 2002 at 02:29 PM »
I saw a post from another forum asking for help in a newly created webpage about Nora Aunor. The best part about the page are the movie reviews of HIMALA, BONA, INA KA NG ANAK MO and BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT. Click here to see the webpage and the movie reviews.

Most of these reviews are by Isagani Cruz. Does anyone know if he's still active and what magazine can we read his reviews?

HIMALA review was from Variety. Is it the same "Variety" newspaper in the US?

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #26 on: Aug 18, 2002 at 02:43 AM »
Yes, that's the same US variety Variety.

Isagani Cruz...I don't know...when he complains that a character in a movie looks up and asks why the sky is blue and the camera pans up and it's grey, you can't help but think he'd complain about a perfect day that the sun was too bright...

Offline Noel_Vera

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Re:Filipino films
« Reply #27 on: Aug 19, 2002 at 09:09 PM »
Here's a reply I made to someone named Jughead at the brash young cinema forum:

"First, Batang Westside is really too long. Five to six hours? It's probably worth every frame"

The moment you say this, there's nothing left to be said--the film is worth every frame.  So for the sake of debate, we should set this aside, shouldn't we?

"there is such a thing as meeting somebody at certain times or need to be at home by this or that time. Finding time for BW is quite a challenge, let alone finding time for your next appointment."

It's actually like holding a seminar or even a retreat--those take two or three days to a week.  Really a matter of scheduling.

"Jesus, can't filmmakers make a real nice movie in the usual 90 minutes time frame anymore?"

There are plenty of 90 minute films out there that are nice, even real nice; I say it's nice to also have a five hour film to place beside them as well.

"Second, people need to go to the restroom and a lot of gall bladders are likely to get sore in a lengthy feature like BW. I mean, how can one go to the CR when it would mean missing a crucial sequence?"

I've seen the film three times.  I go when I feel like going, (which is about once or twice per screening) and even the first time, I didn't think I missed anything crucial.

"Jesus, does Lav Diaz even know that there is such a thing as a sequel?"

You're right--I hear Lav's sequel is going to be eight hours long.

"Third, like other filmmakers, Diaz is also asking us to patronize his personal film by actually paying for it. If he shows BW for free, I probably have no right to say anything against it but he IS showing his films commercially and I for one, have a right to demand that he somehow considers patrons like myself when making his films."

Uh...not necessarily; see, you have to pay to see his film, but if you don't want to see a five hour film, you can simply not pay.  Freedom still applies.  

You're demanding that he conforms to everyone's ideas about what makes a good film, which is no good at all--if filmmakers listened to everyone's input, then Burt Reynolds would have played Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Imee Marcos would have been Insiang, the shot of the batplane covering the moon would be cut and no one would have ever heard Judy Garland sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  History would have been changed if everyone has their say (everyone does in Star Cinema, which is why their films are rarely worth anything), and not necessarily for the better.  

Length and commercial considerations have always been at war with each other--Seven Samurai at two hundred minutes was at one point cut shorter in the US for more people to get in and out of the theater faster; I consider the practice barbaric, but do accept that it happens.
 
"There is nothing wrong with pleasing the crowd every now and then because that is actually the very purpose and essence of movies to begin with."

Eisenstein would be surprised to hear that; same with Vittorio De Sica, John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, Charles Burnett and, yes, Lav Diaz.  

Nothing wrong with pleasing a crowd; it's just that these filmmakers think a film should do MORE than please...

"You wanna make something really personal, show it for free. Or better yet, screen it only for your closest friends and relatives."

In which case filmmakers like Jean Luc Godard, Michelangelo Antonioni, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang, Yasujiro Ozu and, again, Lav Diaz, have no right to make movies.

Incidentally, personal as Ozu's films are, small-scale and quiet and 'boring' to some people they may be, they are quite popular in Japan

"I also feel sorry for any moviehouse that will actually book BW for commercial screening (not that there's many so far), how can theater owners even break even with BW when they can only show it for a maximum of three screenings a day?"

This is a separate issue.  There are creative ways of screening a five hour film, not just the usual commercial booking.

"Oh, and assuming this film even gets released on video, who would actually want to rent something that runs so long. A VHS copy would probably consist of three to four tapes and that's not even a director's cut."

Ever checked out The Godfather films?  Lawrence of Arabia?  Gone With the Wind?  I'm talking of the commercial productions--Satantango is seven to eight hours long; The Human Condition is nine.  Batang West Side, on the scale of long films, is actually of middling length.

"Having said that and judging from what I've seen in Burger Boys, it seems that Lav Diaz is in love with every frame he shoots. Burger Boys was screaming for tighter editing."

If A tastes bad, so does B.  This does not logical reasoning make.  Burger Boys was a very ambitious script and even I'm not happy with what he did with it (though I listend to an audio tape once, and know what?  It's kind of fun).  Just because one film is bad does not make it a foregone conclusion that all his films are bad, or at least in need of tighter editing.  I've seen Burger Boys AND Batang West Side, and I say between the two films Lav's filmmaking took a quantum leap in quality.

"This post is addressed not only to Mr. Lav Diaz but also to all budding independent filmmakers in this list. As an average moviegoer, all I'm asking is that you take into consideration the above points I just raised, trivial as they may be."

And good points they are!  But as with all points, rules, laws and whatnot, at one point or anther they can and should be broken.  That's how new things, great things are made.

>Keep rocking,

Don't settle for just good sex man--keep it great!

Noel Vera
« Last Edit: Aug 19, 2002 at 09:15 PM by Noel_Vera »

Offline Noel_Vera

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Insiang
« Reply #28 on: Aug 22, 2002 at 10:37 PM »
This is probably off-topic, but the play IS an adaptation of a classic Filipino film, so it isnt' too off topic, at least I hope not.

Anyways...

Insiang comes home

Noel Vera

"Insiang," Lino Brocka's 1976 film about a young girl raped by her mother's lover, is arguably his masterpiece--an intimate chamber drama that slips like a butcher knife under the skin, slicing away fatty illusion and encrusted complacency.  It's a visionary exploration of the squalor of Tondo communities, of little plywood shanties trembling under the shadow of a mountain of garbage--

The film was Brocka's first to be shown internationally; more, it was the first Filipino film to go to the Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened at the prestigious Director's Fortnight.  Its reputation has grown since; the film has consistently placed high, if not at the very top, of every listing of the best Filipino films ever made.  Audiences and critics alike sat up and took notice of Brocka when he made "Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang" (You Were Weighed and Found Wanting) in 1974; they applauded his "Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag" (Manila in the Claws of Neon) in 1975. "Insiang " confirmed what Filipinos already knew--that Brocka was not just one of the best filmmakers in the country, but among the best in the world.

What few remember or even realize was that before "Insiang" was a film it was a script by Mario O'Hara, a close collaborator of Brocka; and that it wasn't even a film but a TV script, for an episode of the drama series "Hilda," back in 1973.  A few years later Brocka was pitching projects to neophyte producer Ruby Tiong Tan (one of his proposals was a screen adaptation of Agapito Joaquin's one-act play "Bubungang Lata" (Tin Roof), which O'Hara turned into a film in 1998), and Ms. Tan agreed to "Insiang." O'Hara wasn't available to adapt his teleplay (he was directing his second feature film, the historical epic "Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos" (Three Years Without God, 1976)), so Lamberto Antonio filled in instead--according to O'Hara there were few changes.  The film was shot on location in fourteen days, on a budget of P600,000 pesos (roughly three million pesos today).

The rest, as they say, is history.

It's now 2002, some twenty-six years later, and Tanghalang Pilipino has chosen as part of its 16th season to perform "Insiang" on the theater stage; the question foremost on everyone's mind--it was certainly on mine--is "why?" The film has achieved legendary status in the history of Philippine cinema. It remains indelible in people's minds as the definitive work of Filipino social-realism--in fact, after "Insiang," practically every other film on the topic, including Brocka's own "Jaguar" (1979) which was partly set in Tondo, seem almost redundant in comparison.  Why remake what many consider a near-perfect work?  In terms of structure, of sustained dramatic tension, of economy of means achieving maximum effect, the film stands above almost any other Filipino films (only one other approaches its elegance and intensity--Mike de Leon's masterwork, "Kisapmata" (Blink of an Eye, 1982)).

The difference between film and play is apparent from the opening scene: Brocka's film begins inside a slaughterhouse, with Conrado Baltazar's magnificent cinematography capturing the stench of offal; we're given a close-up of a knife plunging into a pig's throat, the blood fountaining out the hole. It's Brocka's idea of hell on earth, of violence institutionalized, mechanized, running like an assembly line at full capacity (which it is).  This, Brocka is telling us, is Tondo, nor are we out of it.

The play opens on the slum-area set where the story takes place; instead of Brocka's blood-and-offal stink, we smell--detergent soap?  Director Chris Millado in an interview talks of O'Hara telling him that slum dwellers, or 'squatters' as we like to call them, are not automatically prostitutes or drug addicts or thieves; that they make every effort to keep themselves and their surroundings clean; that some actually go to college, or hold white-collar jobs at offices, that a rough sort of law and order prevails. If this is hell, it's not a hell comprehensible through first impressions, a hell where the truth is as immediately apparent as in Brocka's film.

The play partly answers an age-old criticism of the film: when it was first screened in Cannes, the one negative comment was that Koronel was too beautiful to live in a slum; Brocka replied "but she IS from the slums."  Good answer, but no one pointed out afterwards that Koronel didn't stay there; she quickly left and became a famous movie star.  Actually,  a woman who looks like Koronel would be noticed in a Tondo slum; she would quickly become someone's mistress or girlfriend, and rise up the social ladder accordingly.  The slums of Pasay, where O'Hara had originally set the film, are full of prostitutes, bargirls, transvestites, what-have-you; girls, even girls as beautiful as Koronel, are a dime a dozen there.  Brocka set the film in Tondo's slums and nearby Smoky Mountain because he wanted the visual impact of Koronel's beauty against Tondo's spectacular squalor.

Which may also indicate a basic difference between Brocka's and O'Hara's approach, at least with respect to this story: Brocka didn't seem to mind going after a good effect, even at the cost of some distortion of the truth; O'Hara, apparently, isn't as flashy--the truth's the truth, plain and simple.

It might seem strange to talk about simple truth when the play itself isn't so simple.  Where Brocka presents the story in straightforward realist terms--as I've pointed out, his film set the standard for realism--O'Hara's play goes off into fanciful tangents: dramatic pauses, nostalgic flashbacks, what-have-you.  O'Hara even introduces a new character, Toyang (the hilarious and moving Mae Paner), who functions much as The Common Man did in Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons" (yes, that old chestnut, the narrator/commentator who scatters nuggets of wisdom like droppings throughout the play). O'Hara, however, pulls off a neat joke: Toyang is considered crazy because she talks to no one in particular, when in fact she's really talking to us.  "Who" she asks indignantly, taking us in with a sweep of her arms "is crazy now?  I've got all you people listening to me!"

It's a conceit worthy of the mindbending fiction of Philip K. Dick: to everyone around her, Toyang is a loon; to herself and us, she possesses the power to warp time and space according to her will.  "Quiet!" she shrieks, and all fall silent as she explains the use of music in radio dramas as a transitional device; "stop!" she commands and the world pauses while she points out that the specific chord just played is a popular one in radio, used to emphasize dramatic moments.  It's a distancing device, yes; it gives the audience regular doses of humor and the occasional breathing space.  It's also a chance for O'Hara to display his broad knowledge of radio--the medium where he began his performing career some thirty years ago, and for which he feels too much affection to abandon entirely. Eventually during the course of the play, you realize that Toyang's asides also serve to show to us, through a process of deconstruction and analysis, that the story of "Insiang" itself is not so very different from a radio soap opera--one playing out live among the very same squatters who sit and listen to the radio so avidly every day.

"Insiang" sets out to be truthful and ultimately--with narrator, pauses, flashbacks and all--it succeeds, I think.  When Toyang, for example, asks Insiang if she's a virgin, she halts Insiang in mid-speech to present her to us.  "Look at that face--clear, unworried, the face of someone without secrets; Insiang is the one true innocent in this corrupt community." Later Toyang asks Dado, lover of Insiang's mother, why he came to Manila; he replies that he got a girl pregnant.  Toyang freezes his face: "it's full of wrinkles, as if he had to think carefully before he gave his answer.  This is the face of a man with something to hide."  After the rape, Toyang pauses to look at Insiang's face one more time; the difference is telling. "She doesn't blink!  Her eyes look straight ahead, and don't blink.  This face frightens me!"  A magnifying glass distorts light, to allow closer inspection of images; "Insiang" distends time, to allow us deeper insight into characters already made familiar by the film.
« Last Edit: Aug 22, 2002 at 11:13 PM by Noel_Vera »

Offline Noel_Vera

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con't
« Reply #29 on: Aug 22, 2002 at 10:40 PM »
When Ruel Vernal was chosen to play Dado in the film version, Brocka was mainly typecasting--Vernal had played many a villain and rapist before.  To Brocka's credit, he allowed Dado a measure of cunning, as when he manipulates Pacing, Insiang's mother, into siding with him and against Insiang.  Ricky Davao's Dado has gone up in the world; from mere butcher in a slaughterhouse he has been promoted to right-hand man of the "Baranggay" Captain and bodyguard to the mayor himself (he wears the standard-issue vest and handgun to prove it, too).  Davao's Dado isn't as cunning as Vernal's; he is, however, more sympathetic and enormously charming--Insiang is half-seduced by Dado before she is raped.

Mona Lisa played Pacing as a Medusa with poisoned talons and imperious brows; her Pacing was abandoned by Insiang's father, and she takes out her anger on his daughter, the one thing left of him that's still with her.  Malou de Guzman's Pacing is younger, softer, but with a startling capacity to hurt.  You can believe a woman like her can attract a stud like Dado, with her hungry sensuality; you can also believe that she would turn on Insiang, given a choice between believing her or Dado.  Pacing as de Guzman plays her is a scared, lonely woman, working and raising a child on her own; when the story of Insiang's rape surfaces, when she begins to see her daughter as a possible rival, she has to deal with the threat as quickly and thoroughly as she can.  She doesn't need this--not Insiang, not now, not when she has what she feels is a good man with good prospects who's also good in bed; it might have been better, she must have been thinking to her most private, innermost self, if she never had a child at all.

We've talked about Hilda Koronel and her problematic beauty; what makes Sheenly Vee Gener such a fitting Insiang is her freshness.  Her appeal stems mostly from the fact that she looks every bit as young and innocent as the character is supposed to be--like a just-opened morning blossom, you think, caught in the moment before the world begins to shrivel her, corrupt her, drag her down to the level of mud and dirt.  What's so startling about Gener's Insiang is that she seems to retain her innocence even AFTER the rape--she looks unchanged except that her eyes have acquired a numbed, unblinking quality (she recalls those implacable Chinese youths who denounced their parents during the Cultural Revolution).

Finally (those who have not seen either film or play may want to skip the next paragraph), there is the conclusion.  Lino Brocka's "Insiang" is, I think, a reaction to the great overarching themes of Philippine cinema, the love of mother and the struggle for survival of the family.  The film strikes at both these themes; it shows them to be the illusions that they really are (which is a brave, foolhardy thing to do, considering how dearly we Filipinos love both mother and family).  The impact of the film's climax comes from the speed, the viciousness of Insiang's assault on her mother; the girl, you feel, is evil incarnate--seeing that evil expressed in Koronel's lovely face, knowing how innocent her character is (or used to be) only adds to the shock. Later, visiting Pacing in prison, Insiang confesses that she had lied, that it was all part of a plan concocted to revenge herself on Dado, that she wants her mother's forgiveness (Brocka explained in an interview that this scene was forced on him by the censors, who couldn't believe a daughter could hate her mother so much).   O'Hara takes the film's final monologue and, by simply changing the tone of Insiang's voice and cutting out her plea for forgiveness, delivers a final moral jolt: Insiang revealing to Pacing and anyone else who cares to listen how she manipulated her mother into murder and, ultimately, imprisonment.  Rather than extend to her mother any hope of conciliation, Insiang offers her complete and utter contempt.

O'Hara in adapting the film for stage has done more than just relocate the action from Tondo to Pasay.  He has deconstructed her story, presenting its roots in radio melodrama; demonstrated the power of melodrama when the story isn't compromised or diluted (when it's based on truth and nothing but); shown us (as Brocka did with his best works) how melodrama transcended can take on the aspect of true drama--of true tragedy.  O'Hara, after a period of over twenty years, has finally stepped up and taken "Insiang"--his most famous and possibly finest collaboration work with the late Lino Brocka--and claimed it as his own.

(Comments? Email me at [email protected])

Incidentally, the play is ongoing at CCP, Thursdays to Sundays till August 25...