Ranchero succumbs to disappointment, hangs the subversive, and detonates a fake grenade (Michael Christian Cardoz, 2008) July 23, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.
Written and directed by Michael Christian Cardoz
Cast: Archie Adamos, Garry Lim, Joselito Carascal
In Competition, 2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
The dark horse in this competition subverts the idea of pleasure in exchange for emotional burden. This is cerebral filmmaking at work: the pace that even turtles can outrun, the nothingness that encapsulates a universe of discourse, the minimalism that outweighs the heaviness of the world that Atlas carries, and the ambiguity that kills – – an orgasm to some but a let down to many – – it is the vagueness that disappoints and reassures at the same time, for it is not reflective of life’s fragility but a product of twentieth-century marathon to progress, and incidentally this lack of closure signifies the opening of doors to troubled metamorphosis – – because the modern man is not only lonely, he is alone. More than a day in the life of cooks in prison, Ranchero is life in a day of unlucky men – – unlucky not only because of their actions but also due to the merciless whip of circumstance, of Time’s unrelenting nature to pose challenges, to undress our pretensions, and to push our limits to reach the tip of sanity’s plug and pull it away – – with consent.
But the images are never empty. Interest is relative, so do judgment, but closing one’s mind to this style only proves partial dedication to cinema – – limited understanding can only go kilometers and miles, but an open mind can travel light years, and with it the satisfaction is infinite – – immeasurable like the milk of human kindness. What do four years in film school teach us? (Or in my case, six.) Is it strictly film school? Does it easily turn us into bigtime filmmakers when we graduate? Do our theses speak for ourselves? During those years, did it ever cross our minds that we’re gambling our future in this field that may leave us hungry and helpless with our parents disowning us? Or we never cared? Have we thought of changing paths? Have we learned much to prepare ourselves in the industry ahead? Or are we ready to accept our fates on the wayside? Above all, is cinema enough to be our life?
The answers are still unwritten. One important thing I learned in film school is to open my eyes. Understand and appreciate other forms of cinematic language. Embrace everything cinema has to offer. Love them, hate them, sleep them off, share them – – films are pills that lead us to more serious damages to our system – – and the more damage, the better our lives are, the more we feel better because we’re alive – – we feel pain, we feel pleasure, we feel the ends of living – – that’s where cinema takes us and it’s the greatest addiction we’ll ever sign. Some filmmakers are often accused of failure to satisfy their audience – – but what if their attention is to disappoint? Don’t you agree that behind disappointment, there is a pleasure of discovery?
Ranchero exists in another world; it has the language of the wise old man hidden in the woods, and it promises nothing sentimental, nothing peculiar, and nothing exploratory – – just an incisive look on the lives of people that are different from us – – their environment, their personal relationships, their lenience to food, their idea of freedom, their spiritual decay – – but at that point where all our lives intersect, when fate has decided to link our islands on the seafloor, when our ties are determined by virtues which are universal, when communication requires nothing but experience – – we momentarily share their lives, their happiness, their sorrows, as if in those minutes we are suddenly compelled to examine the small things we usually take for granted.
The long takes are impressive; the first and last sequences confine Ricardo in prison, implying the possibility of not getting out on his supposed day of freedom, but in the end, as Dimaya’s strings pluck the paranoia of this uncertainty, his confinement moves inside himself, his defeat against time, his defeat against the world, his defeat against god, captured in shrilling silence. He cries but he is too far away – – he is consigned to bad luck – – he is helpless both in his world and ours, no one can help him, the modern man is alone.
The lack of conflict tells more on what Cardoz wants to emphasize in his work. It steers away from the usual – – the Prison Break tension, the snake and dragon tattoos, the bloody riots where the film usually hangs its narrative, the desperation of prisoners wrongfully accused of their crimes, their hopelessness, their longing to see their families, their prayer to be set free, their repentance – – haven’t we seen them all before? What’s more tiring than seeing a rehash of a cliché? Ranchero is not refreshing – – tedious films don’t have that edge – – but it presents something that we refuse to see, makes us feel what we hate to feel, and terminates our expectations of grandeur, because if films should only make us feel good then what’s the use of other emotions in cinema if we don’t experience them? Is disgust different from satisfaction? Is enjoyment different from disappointment? The objective rests on the audience; the film provides the argument. I have reservations in calling Ranchero a success, (in closer look, it’s “a successful disappointment” for other people, and interestingly, in a slightly unrelated note, Cardoz is almost the same age when Martin made Indio Nacional) but as of now, after risking an office memo just to see this, I must say that among the films in competition, Ranchero is my left brain’s favorite. * * * *