Krimen: Kayo ang Humatol (Jun Raquiza, 1974) August 25, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.
Photo Credit: Cesar Hernando
Written and directed by Jun Raquiza
Cast: Leo Angelo, Gina Pareño, Marianne de la Riva
Krimen: Kayo ang Humatol is the opening film of “Overlooked Films, Underrated Filmmakers”, a monthly program organized by the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film. Founded in 1993, SOFIA is a small but vital group of kindred professionals “fueled simply by their passion for film and their resolve to preserve the film heritage of the country”. The program, which includes films by Danny Zialcita, Efren Reyes, Johnny Reyes, Butch Perez, Cesar Gallardo, and F.H. Constantino, is curated by Teddy Co. The screenings will run from August 14 to January 15, every second Saturday of the month, from 2 P.M. to 5 P.M. at the CCP Tanghalang Manuel Conde.
By the looks of it, Krimen must have been a rare find. It kicks off an event that highlights less appreciated works, a serving of Philippine cinema’s finest without the usual stuff of Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Mike de Leon. Introducing the film, Teddy explains how the group managed to get hold of the film. He says that one of SOFIA’s members works for ABS-CBN; and since the network has a vast archive of old movies, neatly shelved and maintained, they were able to get the only existing copy of the film from its collection. He warns the audience about the quality of the print—the transfer from Betacam to DVD diminishes the color quality (it was shot using Eastman) and there are some of those 16mm grays and lines throughout the print. To everyone’s surprise, the copy looks damn good you start to wonder how elegant it may have looked in ’74.
I can’t remember what exactly the occasion but I had the chance of bumping into Teddy a few months back and listening to his goals for the project. He held a small piece of paper where a list of possible films was written—he still had to look for actual copies, he said—and as we talked he consulted it from time to time. He was kind to ask for my opinion and suggestions, that is, if I were bright enough to have one. For the life of me, I could not think of anything to say aside from assuring him one sure seat when the plan pushed through. More than a year later, here is the reflection of that project, at the Tanghalang Manuel Conde—the venue that couldn’t be anywhere but on Conde’s wings—graced by the presence of Krimen’s star, the great Mama Pet and Lola Getz, Gina Pareño.
Krimen is Jun Raquiza’s second film. His debut is Dalawang Mukha ng Tagumpay starring Nora Aunor and himself (under the screen name Leo Angelo). It was the 70s. Brocka and Bernal were starting to direct movies left and right, some of them acclaimed up to now. In ’73, Raquiza won the FAMAS Best Director for Dalawang Mukha, which he proved wasn’t a fluke after winning again the following year, now in the Manila Film Festival, for Krimen. Critics and film people were doubtful. According to an article in Expressweek, dated August 22, 1974, Raquiza had his share of “wrathful detractors” who called his win for Dalawang Tagumpay “lutong makaw” (rigged). In addition, the acclaim for Krimen was unfortunately short-lived due to the release of more popular films that year (Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang; Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa; Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa; Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara). Considering time and history were a matter of political favoring, no wonder Krimen was set aside. Nevertheless, the film signaled the arrival of another interesting filmmaker. Only that filmmaker, the son of a prominent Marcos ally Antonio Raquiza (former governor of Ilocos Norte and DPWH secretary), left too soon.
The same feature from Expressweek—apparently the only article on Raquiza that you can find on the Internet, and I assume on anywhere else—describes him as a man of many influences. In the interview Raquiza shares his passion for photography, an aspect of filmmaking he apparently is very fond of. “One should remember that the only bridge between the script and the screen is the camera. What gives life, therefore, to an otherwise dead story is the camera. The director who handles the camera with expertise and imagination, in a way then knows what you may call the secret of good direction.” Upon reading that, I wonder if any of our local directors at present could have an idea of filmmaking as clear-eyed as that one, or at least as spirited as Raquiza once was.
Raquiza then mentions several references to directors whose films have remarkable visual strength. “There is David Lean whose craftsmanship in the handling of the camera exploits mundane scenes into moving symbolisms such as the vast exposure of space with a solitary horseman in Lawrence of Arabia and the way the sun was photographed in The Bridge on the River Kwai.” He adds: “There is Gillo Pontecorvo. Remember such visual artistry in scenes involving sounds in the Battle of Algiers? Or, the Rembrandt-like quality of the scenes of the many movies of that great master of art direction, Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman. Or, that great Frenchman Claude Lelouch of the unforgettable Man and Woman. There are still many others who equal those I have just mentioned.” Raquiza seemed accustomed to film-dropping like everyone else, but this guy surely knew which films to drop.
While Brocka is particular about acting, Raquiza is very critical of his visuals. Sadly, Krimen is the only proof that I have to conclude that. His style was frequently called “avant-garde” and “controversial”, which was probably the moviegoers’ way of saying “oh, we really didn’t know that defocusing the lens was ever possible” or “does it really have to be so meticulous?” Fascinating are some scenes in Krimen that capture the cityscape: cars passing by, snotty kids playing on the sidewalk, a wooden bridge leading to a poor urban housing, a multi-level tenement that allows the camera to make amazing use of tilt, hollow blocks walked on like cobblestones, all of which make the city a bit of a character, though not a strong one like, say, Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag or Manila by Night. Those films are not made yet in ’74, but Raquiza, as far as I can discern, is not aspiring for that look of the city. His father is a known Marcos crony and he likes Battle of Algiers, so it’s fair to say that he’s probably stepping on the middleground. However, the title is also one good example of how the film reflects its time. A poster of Krimen is pasted near the door of the venue, and upon closer inspection, I notice that the word “Krimen” is not written in the publicity material. Only the subtitle “Kayo ang humatol” and a fancy Hitchcockian artwork bearing the names of the cast and crew are shown. I ask Teddy why and he only has a word to say: Marcos.
The first scene is so telling it needs to be told. Anghel (Leo Angelo) walks the streets of Manila with an air of relaxed indifference. He observes the cars passing around him, the pedestrians strolling along, the bystanders taking a drag on their cigarettes or waiting for their companions to arrive. He squints at every person he sees without realizing that each one of them also squints at him back—he is interested, but not so much to make him bite a lip. As he walks on the sidewalk, he knocks over a kid who deliberately shoves her lanky self to him. Then she cries instantly. Her brother comes over, castigates Anghel for his carelessness, and slips his hand in Anghel’s back to get his wallet. The kids go away—apparrently their business is done—and Anghel enters a cafeteria to eat. He orders, looks at the other customers, and minds his own. At this point, you get the idea that Anghel is a little wary of his surroundings. Whatever the reason is, his eyes never rest to observe.
He finishes the meal and gets the bill. He fumbles for his wallet, confused how it may possibly be lost. He makes up an excuse and goes to the bathroom. He locks the door, checks the window, and slides out. He is now on the other side of the cafeteria, discreetly walking away. Someone calls him out. It’s a lady in a shirt and maong, wearing a cap. He doesn’t recognize her at first, but after introducing herself as the sister of Anghel’s friend, they warm up to each other’s company. Tony (Gina Pareño) seems to have his eye on Anghel all this time, and she returns the wallet he thought was lost. He returns to the cafeteria, pays the bill, and claims his dignity.
What I like about that opening scene is that it glides so intimately. The city looks fresh and familiar. The sight of the dusty streets gives you a sense of nostalgia, but not a biting one; the noise of the cars blowing their horns surprises you because the traffic in the film is nothing but smooth; and the glimpse of the houses and buildings leaves you missing old black-and-white photographs. In short, it all seems happening just then and there, outside CCP, along Roxas Boulevard, around every nook and cranny of Manila where there is a bit of life left. You look at that scene and you see the city that you see every day. You smell it and you feel the heat. You recognize Anghel. In Harper Lee’s words, “you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” In just a few minutes, you knew him already.
And from there it starts to fall apart. Well, not really. My gripe about Krimen is that it has a narrative so thin it doesn’t pull you in. A tightening of the script may have helped. I don’t usually complain about slow films, but Krimen is too slow, sluggish to the point of disinteresting the prissy viewer. It is a serious film, possibly too serious, and sometimes it works against its advantage. The story goes like this: Anghel stays in Tony’s house. He finds out that she keeps kids in her home—like an orphanage—feeds them, and acts like their mother in exchange for their petty thieving. The kids who stole Anghel’s wallet in the beginning are under her care. She’s a good person in their eyes. On the other hand, we discover that Anghel just got out from prison. He wants a new direction in life. Looking at these kids taking advantage of other people, he grabs the opportunity to speak from his experience. He sounds like a father.
Later on Anghel meets Myra (Marianne de la Riva). He goes to a bar and he sees Myra hounded by goons. He tries to help her, only to be punched in the face. He wakes up next morning at Myra’s flat with a sore head. She prepares him breakfast, which means she likes him, and he feels awkward but returns to see her more a few days later. In short, they’re in love. Tony likes Anghel, for sure; she waits for him to come home; she even forgets the comfort of mannish clothes and dresses up one night just to surprise him. But to her heartbreak, Anghel stood her up. Aw.
This is the part when it all gets too mashed up. The film tries to form a balance among the three characters, only it winds up losing the charm of all three. There is not much of that drama that involves the two lovers, or the tug-of-war of the two women—nah, Krimen is too stiff for that. In fact, it abandons Tony’s lovely character and shifts to Myra’s wasted rich girl. Anghel is so bent on reforming his life that he gets mixed up in Myra’s troubles. Wait, what trouble?
Myra has been doing business dealings with a drug syndicate. Anghel finds this out and tries to help her. All that jazz of thug-thumping and negotiations and threats happen, including Tony getting raped and the kids crying their hearts out without Anghel knowing it. As I said, he’s busy reforming his life and practicing his balisong skills, which, to be fair, he is able to use in the film’s confounding finale. Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee flew all the way from Way of the Dragon to Krimen and kicked some lousy ass. Crime does not pay, so Anghel, despite saving his lover’s life and his own (but not his friend’s), ends up in jail, sentenced to life imprisonment. And the words in the closing credits go: “. . . at si Anghel ay nagbagumbuhay sa ilalim ng Bagong Lipunan.” And there’s a stifled laugh in the crowd—from me.
The pacing, as Gina Pareño says in the Q&A, is all but reminiscent of its time. The movies made then adhere to the language of novels. They build up slowly before the plot spreads bit by bit and reaches the resolution. Try watching Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang after Run Lola Run and you will see what I mean. Krimen nudges its plot with care, which makes it a bit too in love with itself, unmindful of the necessity of action. In a way, it may have been made more to suit Raquiza’s thirst for visual experiments than to pull a film of remarkable significance. He has this lust to make the shots too beautiful, delivering what seems to be the crowning achievement of Krimen: its visual palette. Higino Fallorina, the director of photography, understands Raquiza’s requirements. Both of them seem to follow Fellini’s regard for lighting—how the Italian auteur claims it to be the most essential aspect of cinema—and, touched by light, they turn each scene into a memory of texture: soft, fragile, and intimate.
There are times when that obsession wants all the attention to itself. A scene opens out of focus, then the camera focuses, and afterward it zooms out, revealing an empty road or a bunch of leaves. It’s pretty and neat, but Raquiza does it in succession you forget it’s called “style”. On the other hand, there are times when the shots are just crazy beautiful. Every director, from William Wyler to Wong Kar-wai, wants to have that stylized shot of a cigarette burning as the smoke comes out of the character’s mouth; and Raquiza, in a streak of utter perfection, does one too. Inside the bar, Anghel looks around as if waiting for someone. He takes a drag on his cigarette and there: the smoke hangs around, enveloping him in melting manliness.
While the cityscape teems with texture, the interiors, on the other hand, bleed with lushness. Close-ups of a young Gina Pareño, focusing on her soft eyes and beautiful skin, are comparable to Jean Seberg’s in Breathless. She glows literally like a light bulb; her face, albeit flooded with light, illuminates the screen with charm and provocation. Despite—or more appropriately, because of—the fact that she plays a tomboy, these features get even more pronounced. Her head-turning figure, not to mention her prominent bust, is the equivalent of her recent acting leap: divine and regal. Such rediscovery of her elegant youth, while she’s seated at the front row watching herself, may have led Gina to exclaim her delight numerously in the Q&A after the screening. That scene when she wears a dress to impress Anghel—her hair untied and her face without any touch of make-up—reminds us of an Ilsa who, after being reminded of Paris ten years ago, is still wishing for her Rick to fulfill his promise of “Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.” Raquiza, for all we know, is paying homage to that love story, particularly how Krimen ends with the two characters emotionally together but physically apart.
Raquiza is an ambitious artist who wants to do a lot of things, and succeeds in delivering them. If Krimen were to speak on his behalf, here is the man who doesn’t say yes to an OK shot. He wants it the way it should; but it only begins there. The editing also follows. In the middle of the film when Tony is being raped by one of the goons—mouth watering at the sight of her silky legs—it cuts to a shot of the sea, completely unrelated to the action, as the waves hit the rocks and she screams of pain. The sound of the water complements Tony’s cry for help, and it heightens her helplessness. At some point, there is also that dream sequence which I find hilarious—simply because no one I know dreams that way—when Anghel is brought to a clinic and conjures up one of his bloody balisong exploits. It’s the old-movie way of filling the screen with both the image of the dreamer and the dream, and it looks as if Raquiza is trying to see if the raggedness works or if the device is clever enough to disguise as a flashback. It’s a good thing that he thought better of doing it again.
There are many more things to describe about the film’s visual style and I can go on and on discussing the richness of its shots—the Zabriskie Point reference, the use of freeze frame, the quirky use of reflections in the mirror—but it all boils down to one thing: Raquiza understands the effect of light. He overuses it but he perfects it. Only a man as knowledgeable as he can get away with excesses. I can not think of any film to compare it with aside from Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag, which is, of course, shot by the brilliant Mike de Leon. Much of Maynila’s emotional grip comes from the weight of de Leon’s compositions. His shots have a sense of panic in their precision, lending the film an atmosphere of tender fright. On the other hand, what the narrative of Krimen lacks in tightness it grinds in symbolism. The occasional defocusing contributes to the noir texture of the film, and the framing couldn’t have been anything but uncompromised. It’s as if telling the viewers, Hey, wait till the colors bleed out of the screen.
Oh, right. What a shame. I have spoken about the film in detail but I haven’t described Jun Raquiza yet to you. To be honest, while watching the film, I am not aware that Raquiza is the one playing Anghel, so all this time I keep reminding myself to stay for the credits and know who the actor is. The first thing I notice about him is his built. He is not muscular, like the type that lives in the gym, sleeps in the gym, and dreams of the gym, no, not that. But he is not also ungracefully thin and rawboned. His posture is that of a man who is really a man: firm and straight. When he takes off his shirt, to everyone’s curiosity, there are no chunks of beef that resemble a six-pack. But his arms look strong and capable. When he puts on a new shirt that Myra gives him as a gift, he looks more confident. He is more relaxed than ever.
His face is far from expressive. It is neither pert nor innocent, but it is by all means attractive. It’s a face that you can look at for a long time without getting tired. His hair has this flip in it that is raring to be touched, a flip between combed and tousled, which serves to punctuate his cold eyes and comely cheekbones. When he starts to talk, oh well, that’s when the illusion crumples a bit. His voice is not just cold—it’s icy. Whenever the dialogue requires a specific emotion, he can only deliver it in lifeless monotone. Suffice it to say, Raquiza is not the best person to portray Anghel—he’s no Buster Keaton or Clint Eastwood or Jacques Tati—but it’s hard to think of someone else.
But to star opposite Nora Aunor in Dalawang Mukha ng Tagumpay may have meant that Raquiza, using the screen name Leo Angelo, is confident of his looks, and there’s quite a good reason for it. Unfortunately, the film industry doesn’t usually share my taste for men. Raquiza may have felt dejected after his two films, never to appear again as an actor in his succeeding works Katawang Lupa (starring Elizabeth Oropesa and Eddie Gutierrez) and Zuma (his final work after a ten-year hiatus). Although they are somewhat far in terms of looks and demeanor, Raquiza reminds me of Alain Delon, particularly his killer taciturn charm, and the way he is always certain of his movement— that inimitable grace under pressure—without batting an eyelash whenever danger comes near.
There’s that fear of ending this article knowing that this may be the last time I’ll be writing about Jun Raquiza. Regardless of my misgivings toward the film—and this is not out of forgiveness that nostalgia always brings—I believe that Krimen is an interesting and important work, a disciplined film that deserves scrutiny as much as the lesser-known films of Brocka (Angela Markado) and Bernal (Tisoy), in their own mysterious ways, also find viewers who keep pressing for their space in history. I think there is nothing wrong digging the classics—everyone starts from there, and everyone always feels elated to be in the league of critics and scholars who champion them—but there is always something honorable, something grand and noble, in making an effort to share a film with an audience, who is hungry for a proof that a less appreciated work does exist. That said, dear friends, Krimen is in good hands. I am proud to have seen it. And I hope I’ll not be the last person to write about it.