Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Most Indelible & Unforgettable Images from Cinemalaya 2012

When I was a child, some of the most unforgettable images in my mind came from the silver screen. The movies have become a part of my life. When there's anything playing in the cinemas - good or bad, I am there shelling out my dad's (teehee!) hard earned bucks! I like the way they take you to places that one can only dream of. The movies allow you to travel far and wide, expand your horizon within the confines of the celluloid. In this year's Cinemalaya festival, we have compiled some of the most unforgettable (they're not exactly favorites) and most indelible images from this year's entries. If you haven't seen any of these films, there will be scheduled screenings in UP (I think). We share these moments and we applaud the magic of contemporary Pinoy cinema. Spoilers here!

Loy Arcena’s “REquieme”. At the mock funeral of an assassin named Adolf Payapa (a funeral that didn’t have the corpse inside), Swanie (Sta. Maria’s barangay captain played by Shamaine Centenera) makes a befuddling, albeit grand entrance, all decked in woeful black garment and a flowing veil. Payapa is a distant relative; someone Swanie hardly knew. You suddenly realize that Swanie wasn’t mourning for the killer, but for the son – the transvestite Joanna - who left his conservative parents for a new life. 

Paul Sta. Ana’s “Oros”. Abet (Kristoffer Martin) would occasionally stop on his track to fix a slipper that has seen better days. His brother Makoy, a “kasero” in a saklaan, unexpectedly hands Abet a new pair of slippers. Though the moment was brisk and lasted for mere seconds, it was nonetheless fetching and heart-warming. It’s moments like these that make movie going enchanting.

Aloy Adlawan’s “Ang Katiwala”. Ruben (Dennis Trillo), a mild mannered illiterate man who leaves his family in Quezon for a job in Quezon City, rehearses Manuel L. Quezon’s inaugural speech which he heard from a 45 inch vinyl record. As he goes about with his menial chores, we hear Ruben deliver in Quezon’s distinct diction, intonation and temperament. Trillo spellbinds in these scenes. Otherwise, most of the film had us go into stupor.

 Lemuel Lorca’s “Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino”. Doray (LJ Reyes) scours the dark beachside, tentatively checking out the arriving fishermen. The young lass is left alone with younger siblings to feed and she vows to tend to their needs. But what can an unemployed young lady do with no resources to speak of? As Doray appraises her possible source of income, she offers herself up in exchange of a bag of fish (which she then sells at the market). It’s hard not to empathize with Doray’s deprecating dilemma.

In another scene, Cheche (Angeli Bayani), a bar girl in “La Isla Bonita”, gets humped and pounded by a paying customer (Arnold Reyes). I was gripped with fear that the scene would reveal Angeli Bayani’s privates once again. In last year’s gag-inducing “Ka Oryang”, Bayani’s full frontal rape scene – she with the darkest areola and a bushy crotch – had me scarred - for life! I had nightmares for a month, I needed a debriefing. Fortunately, Bayani’s concupiscent scene with Arnold Reyes in “Intoy Syokoy” was dimly lit. More than anything, this middling work heralds the birth of a new actress whose nuanced performance can light up the screen even without saying anything. LJ Reyes is spectacular! 

Julius Cena’s “Mga Dayo”. Ella (Olga Natividad), a supervisor in a hotel’s housekeeping, watches in horror as she opens the door to a room that has almost-literally been swept by a tsunami. There’s vomit on the floor, and turds buoy up lazily in the toilet bowl. For 5 minutes or so, Ella’s reaction evolves into a myriad of emotions – shock, consternation, wrath, frustration. By the time she gets to the bedroom, we were pulling the crumpled sheets with her! Phooey!

 Vincent Sandoval’s “Aparisyon”. Ellipse marks a horrifying moment in the life of new postulate, Sister Lourdes (Jodi Sta. Maria). While fellow nuns (Mylene Dizon, Fides Cuyugan-Asencio and Raquel Villavicencio) watch on helplessly from their hiding place, we hear Sister Lourdes’ plea for help. She gets repeatedly bludgeoned by fists and raped by several woodland bandits. I had to squirm in my seat to shake my repugnance. Other less classy film makers would have filmed a graphic rape scene.

 Jun Lana’s Bwakaw. Rene (Eddie Garcia), a grumpy, aging homosexual, is summoned to “claim” his coffin because the funeral parlor is closing shop. So he has to get the coffin delivered in the evening to avoid catching the attention of his nosy neighbors. Unfortunately, Nitang (Beverly Salviejo) witnesses the delivery. Later that day, Mother Zaldy and Tracy (Soxie Topacio, Joey Paras), along with Nitang (Beverly Salviejo), troop to Rene’s house to attend to Rene’s funeral. Little did they know that Rene’s very much alive! What ensues is one of this year’s most hilarious scenes.

The closing shot is particularly memorable too: Rene, who recently lost his dog, walks a craggy, slightly uphill road, gradually disappearing from sight. Life indeed goes on!

Patrick Sugui is a revelation in "The Animals".

Gino M. Santos’ “The Animals”. With a weekend party in full swing, alcohol and loud music swirl around Jake’s (Albie Casino) upper middle class world. Meanwhile, inebriated girls congregate in the bathroom riddled with grime, vomit and the unflushed excreta. A girl saddles against a toilet bowl, stuporous from intoxication. She dips her hand in the toilet, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. Eww!

 Jose Javier Reyes’ “Mga Munting Lihim”. A protracted argument ensues at a restaurant as Carla (Iza Calzado) unravels to her friends Sandy (Agot Isidro) and Olive (Janice de Belen) the disheartening contents of a journal owned by Mariel (Judy Ann Santos) who died from Pancreatic Cancer. The friends deal with new revelations straight out of Juday’s diary. Though the verbal tussle that ensues is entertaining, I am of the opinion that all this muck raking was pointless. After all, isn’t it clear that despite their differences and scruples against each other, they still end up extending hand when one of them needs it? The smart exchanges may be appealing to a particular demographic, but if they let sleeping dogs lie, they would have all been grief-free. A case of much ado about nothing, if you ask me.  

Adolf Alix, Jr.’s “Kalayaan” (Wildlife) – The film opens with a naked guy seemingly sleepwalking. He heads towards the mangrove until he finds a clearing. A mermaid with greenish scales waits. He walks closer and for what seems like 15 minutes, the mermaid fellates the naked man (Rocky Salumbides). In these desolate islands, lonely men get their kicks from blowjob-loving mermaids. The movie is replete with homoerotic images from start to finish. In fact, It also concludes with another fellatio this time featuring Julian (Thai superstar Ananda Everingham) and another sirena (Angeli Bayani). I have to admit that more people are pointing out the director’s kowtowing streaks, kinda like a glorified Pink Film with directorial indulgences that’s meant to ogle at his actors’ nakedness. Regardless, Albert Banzon’s camera work is superlative.

Mes de Guzman’s “Diablo”. A wide awake Nanay Lusing (Ama Quiambao). Loud radio blaring through the midnight hour. A looming silhouette at the foot of her bed. We get a glimpse of the silver-haired woman through the mosquito net.  The death of a beloved son finally brings her family under one roof. That night, her radio conks out. She is gripped with immense sadness and weeps like there’s no tomorrow… Was it closure? The same night, we finally hear – not the radio – but the loud snore of Nanay Lusing. Images that shall haunt me for a long time.

Emmanuel Palo’s “Santa Nina”. In a desolate quarry of a lahar-ravaged land, Pol (Coco Martin) digs up the coffin of his two year old daughter Marikit. He walks the mile, carrying the preserved body of a child he lost a few years ago. Oblivious to the stare of the townsfolk, Pol takes his daughter home. Another St. Bernadette perhaps? Handsome, cryptic. Pol’s face rankles with irresolute affect. Is there redemption in a child that has long passed on? Vintage and indie caliber Coco Martin prior to getting ensnared by the pitfalls of melodrama schtick. 

Alessandra de Rossi plays Madel, Pol’s cousin and Markit’s mother. She has long moved on, but the unexpected turn of events takes her back to her shady past. And I have to say that every scene involving de Rossi is memorable; the scene with her estranged mother (Irma Adlawan) particularly bristles with pathos.

Raymond Red’s “Kamera Obskura”. Two decades after his incarceration, a man (Pen Medina) sees a city engulfed by new technologies. He gazes at the sky and finds bikes flying in mid-air. This scene alone is worth the admission. With potent images shot in black and white, Red’s “obskura” tackles issues on a sick society. Suddenly, the kingmakers find salvation – “daliang lunas sa sakit ng lipunan” – in an ex-convict with a magical camera stuck in his hand. 

      Unfortunately, the novelty wears off after the first third of the narrative. The scenes go on and on and on, and the verbose subtitles soon turn to tedium. This was the only film I was tempted to walk out on – out of plain boredom! Though its screening was almost full house (unlike “Kalayaan” that was almost empty), people started walking out. There’s a lesson to be learned here: don’t stretch your narrative longer than necessary. Director Red could’ve taken pointers from Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist”.

Lawrence Fajardo’s “Posas”. Art Acuna. Art Acuna. Art Acuna. Did I say “Art Acuna”? Menacing and canny, Art Acuna’s scenes as Inspector Domingo scared the bejesus out of me.  Meanwhile, scenes with Nico Antonio (playing Jess, the cellphone thief) feel a bit underwhelming; not mediocre, but lacking a gravitas. In fact, when he was ordered to shoot a gagged man, it felt like another day in the life of a criminal. Nothing too out of the ordinary, it seems. Fajardo’s “Posas” pales in comparison to his “Amok”, but this isn’t saying “Posas” isn’t worth watching. Despite what we pointed out, “Posas” is relevant, persuasive and contemporary. 

Marie Jamora’s “Ang Nawawala”. When an accident kills Gibson’s (Dominic Roco) twin, the overwhelmed mother (Dawn Zulueta) gets confused: “Sino ka? Jamie? Gibson?” (Asking which twin survived the accident). Since then, Gibson has refused to speak. (He blamed himself.) This scene was dynamic because the rest of the narrative anchors from this specific moment!  To be quite honest, it seems improbable that a mother wouldn’t recognize her twins, even in a moment of agitation. At the concluding scene, Gibson sits on the bed beside her sleeping mother. He tries to wake her up. It was after all the New Year. She sleepily asks, “Sino ka?” Then after years of not speaking to his mother, he utters his name, “Si Gibson.” I had goose bumps. Director Marie Jamora conjured an almost seamless narrative, deftly piecing together a compelling story, a vibrant soundtrack that succinctly mashes Kundiman (“O Ilaw”, anyone?) and the live band scene, and a little romantic interlude between Gibson and a charming, but conflicted girl.  

In Sigrid Andrea Bernardo's "Ang Paghihintay sa Bulong", the film opens with an old wrinkly woman fully naked (yup, full frontal) as she's being given a bath by her "apo". The whole household of low lives await for her eventual demise so they could "whisper" (bulong) to her for their own wishes! It stars some of the most gag-inducing characters in the history of Cinemalaya. The ensemble includes Shandi Bacolod ("Ben and Sam") who's as bad as an actor as he is as a director. In Chuck Gutierrez's "Ulian" (Senility), a child searches for her missing lola. The face of the girl looks familiar. Isn't Amalyn Ismael one of the actresses in Sheron Dayoc's "Halaw" ? In Hannah Espia's "Ruweda", a pickpocket in a carnival gets his comeuppance. Beautiful cinematography. Kinetic pacing makes for an urgent narrative. :)


Dene Gomez said...

I love your reviews Cathy. We almost share the same thoughts. I'm not much of a writer, so when I get to read your reviews, it's as if it's coming from my head, only smartly worded. Hehehe. And sometimes I don't understand some details of the film, your write-ups clarifies them. Thank you so much.

I'm now a fan! I'll keep checking your site!

Cathy Pena said...

@ Dene:

Awww that's so sweet. Thanks, Dene. Tonight I'll get to sleep with a smile on my face. :)