Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Depressive Effect of Watching "Ang Babae Sa Sementeryo"

It's uncanny the way a film can drive a person to depression. So I was in my cinema seat, slouched down feeling so sorry for myself and thinking, that yet again, I have to blog about yet another horrible Tagalog film. For a while there I was honestly feeling dejected. It had been one bad Tagalog film after another, and this is driving me bonkers!

Such is the state of the local film industry! When the most prodigious and most exhibited works on commercial theaters are from one of the following: Neal Tan, Crisaldo Pablo and those shameless Pink Film-directors, oh boy, we are indeed fucked!

The Philippine Movie Industry is in deep shit! Just thumb through the list of Tagalog films being reviewed in this blog from January 2010 alone. It would make you wonder why I even bother to write about them when directors of films like "Fidel" can't even grasp the fact that the artistic merits of his film go beyond horrid and non-existent. Yet week after week, we are served up vomit-inducing ouvres hailed like masterpieces (read: "Tarima"). There evidently is no accounting for taste these days!

It's also getting tricky to write a discourse about films with thematic substance as thin as a clarinet reed. It's like rendering flesh and meat to an otherwise emaciated tuberculosis-afflicted patient. But if I were to really complain about the state of the local movie industry, I can only do so if I've actually watched these films. Any person who huffs and puffs about the state of Philippine Cinema doesn't deserve to do so if they didn't even bother to watch any. Sasabihin mong pangit, wala ka ngang napanood, which should make you a pretentious twat not dissimilar to director Mark Shandii Bacolod discoursing about what a good cinema is - and even using his own work "Fidel" as specimen of great cinema. Of course we are aware that maybe he was just exercising his right to be either a humorist or a ironist.

Director Neal Tan, prolific in his dim-witted artistry, is once again fielding another gag-inducing fiasco with "Ang Babae sa Sementeryo" (The Graveyard).

The film follows a northern town's chief of police (Roi Vinzon) investigating a series of murders around the vicinity of the local cemetery. But it isn't the itinerant souls rustling around. Uming, the caretaker (Mon Confiado) takes advantage of the empty tombs to expand his burgeoning prostitution metier. While Uming is cashing in on Aliway (Mercedes Cabral) and her friends, we are introduced to a bumbling duo of journalists (Jigo Garcia and Bryle Mondejar resurrected from oblivion) who navigate the bowels of the departed with a video camera, you somehow wonder if they're just perverts afflicted with Hayden Kho-syndrome. Moreover, flashbacks take us back to Barbara (Ma. Isabel Lopez), the erstwhile iconic hooker "mysteriously" murdered by a monster! The plot is even made thicker than lard when her story opens with her incestous affair with her father. And yeah, lest we forget, she bore a daughter Agnes (Ella Guevarra) from this apocryphal affair. Agnes grows up witnessing the indiscretions of her prostitute mother. She would beg her mother for food while she's in the nick of her salacious trade. "Gutom na gutom na po ako," she'd implore while being reverently ignored. Despite all her pleadings, we actually see a beautiful and healthy child with rosy cheeks and Pantene-dabbed hair. Isn't that peachy?

Once again, Neal Tan's cofferful of riches is able to gather a formidable cast - Tommy Abuel (who plays a Joonee Gamboa-like narrator), Boots Anson Roa (as a clueless nun), But this a testament to the obvious that money cannot buy intelligence or directorial expertise! Tan's technique is easily summarized - he gathers a series of incipient ideas, throw them all together in a pan, add a dash of unemployed local actors and a couple of veterans to render it a mainstream veneer - voila! You have a semblance of a movie! Lamentably, there is nothing in this film that is worth even one peso of your movie admission's time!

Let's take for example some of the lines:

While the chief was interrogating Uming, he asked, "Maraming patay dito, di ka ba natatakot?" (Duh! It's a cemetery, you twat!)

A nun remarked about child Agnes, "Ni hindi ko sya nakitang nagsalita o umiyak," yet when she came to the convent, she was bawling her hearts out! (The nun should be deaf, dontcha think?)

When the child was caught "eating" people, the chief's assistant rationalized, "Di kasi pinapakain ng tama." (Oh my god, have you ever heard of such idiocy?)

When they found carcasses filled with fingers, eyeballs and other body parts from Agnes' bag, an assistant once again offered his enlightened commentary: "Ano naman ang kinalaman ng bata?" (There are dismembered body parts in her bag, you idiot! Doesn't solid evidence ring a bell?)

These are just a few from a long list of asinine details that litter this clutter! The director is wildly conflicted regarding his theme so he writes up scenes that would check out both "psychological thriller" and "horror flick" into it. The more themes, the merrier, right? LOL

Yet there were more brain numbing scenes without resolutions: whatever happened to the daughter of the landlady (you would see her dressed in baro't saya with a veil up her head, then she'd disappear at second glance). Mr. Tan's head is so full of random ideas he doesn't know what to do with them. My suggestion would be to rest it all away... forever!

I was dazed coming out from the movie theater. From hereon, I am dedicating a portion of my prayers so that the heavens would send Neal Tan somewhere really really far from the destructive effects of his mediocrity! Somewhere remote and somewhere he couldn't depress people with his works. Oh heavens, please take Neal Tan to Burundi, Nigeria or Zimbabwe! Or anywhere far from his high-definition movie camera!

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