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Cinemalaya 2014 (Part 5) September 3, 2014

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian cinema, Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Noypi.
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dagitab

Dagitab (Giancarlo Abrahan)

Almost every aspect of Dagitab, from the story and direction to the cast and technical details, makes it a cut above the rest of the entries in this year’s Cinemalaya. Its opening image sets the mood of mystery, evoking a sense of richness quite conscious to unfold something larger than life, emotions and thoughts of considerable weight that put the viewer at ease, alternating between mind and heart. Despite the nature of its characters to talk a lot, there is a quietness that keeps the story steady while in motion, gently peeling its many layers until it reaches the core. No doubt the beauty in the first half captivates: the humor, the temper and indulgence, the marital and personal issues, the attachment to one’s alma mater, the feeling of living there for years and having this particular frame of mind, the horse latitudes, the entanglement of youth and middle age, the demons, the wires waiting for current to flow.

But it is upon contact with this core that writer and director Giancarlo Abrahan finds himself helpless like his own pair of characters, struggling to keep hold of the pretty pieces and wringing every possible item soaked in its sentiment. As he tries to look for a proper closure, the film crumbles the way it is built, slowly, with grace and refinement, poking at softer spots, unsure where to end but certain that it has to remain introspective. It’s easy to be carried away while watching it, to find a moment of connection that will clear all the stains, the stilted dialogue, the blitz of overly conscious UP markers, to identify with the couple’s belief that had they led “more normal” lives, it would have been different —this claim of being out of the ordinary, possibly in a higher position than others but wounded and hurting all the same, oblivious to the things they take for granted—but by all means it won’t. Dagitab is too stiff and careful, too absorbed in the idea that it’s fascinating, and too focused on its subject that it fails to see the whole from afar, like looking at the dark sky and noticing only the stars, not the constellation. B-

#Y

#Y (Gino Santos)

Several reviews of #Y commend director Gino Santos for walking around the reason for its main character’s suicide. While it’s obvious that such ploy is intended to produce this seemingly startling semblance of insight, there is sneakiness in its execution, the discreetness easily mistaken for skill. People talk about it as though he were saying something meaningful or interesting, while in fact everything in the film looks lip-synched, and the worldview to which it affixes its statements and insinuations reeks of piss.

One can’t help but wonder: is being inarticulate now a benchmark of good filmmaking? Or does it have something to do with the allure of ambiguity, how, in real life, nothing can be completely understood? Hardly pointed out in these reviews is that the motivation has always been there, loud and clear, and conveying it in plain conventional terms defeats the film’s objective to reflect (and not reflect on) the lives of upper class kids who flaunt their pleasures and preoccupations in a manner that puts the audience in this position to formulate judgments based on their crassness, pretense, and indifference. These characters are flat on purpose, designed to be pumped with air, but even with shape, they have no silhouette. Why create them and give them nothing inside? Why speak on their behalf and sound gibberish?

The Animals is sloppy, but it’s the right kind of sloppy: its transgression makes the viewer feel dirty and violated. The intent to offend is explicit, and it can’t help but go overboard because it has nothing much to say. #Y, on the other hand, is more conscious of its mischief, beholden by this duty to represent, hiding in this veneer of inscrutability and itching to be taken seriously. Santos and writer Jeff Stelton should have known better than pulling the angst card and making the suicide feel trivial and frivolous, unable to capture the nuance of it that is actually universal, preferring instead to show the layer that gleams with self-congratulation. D

mariquina

Mariquina (Milo Sogueco)

Writer Jerrold Tarog has always had issues with time. His scripts, most notably for Senior Year and Sana Dati, find their fulcrum in the past, in decisions that cut deeper as years go by. His characters are often put out of action, powerless to let bygones be bygones, trying to reach and pick up something from way back. Time is his beloved villain, and in Mariquina, it comes with a goon squad, tormenting the protagonist with memories that form the bulk of the film, events that already happened, and it isn’t so much about seeing things swell and burst but observing how they become smaller, get creased and folded, reduced to this tiny square, a handkerchief damp with tears. Clearly it is neither about the place nor the shoes that have made it famous—Tarog uses these elements only to make the ache specific, to have some corners that will define the context and subtext and limit the course of action, but he ends up confronting larger rocks along the way: the degree of pain can never be precise.

But the script can’t stand alone. For a narrative that digs out many unpleasant items, most of which are bones whose nature has always been to frighten, Mariquina moves smoothly, conscious of every step and rest, and breathes in and out evenly. One sits through it and feels the softness of its heavy scenes, light but never slight, dense but never difficult. Director Milo Sogueco is attentive to blanks and beats, providing his cast with a similar level of understanding of the material, no one higher or lower, all on the same plane, armed with the same weapon. Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao, Barbie Forteza, and Bing Pimentel complement one another, and whenever they are off-screen, they are felt more, their absence more imposing than their presence.

The presence of Imelda Marcos and the insinuations of a seemingly better life during her husband’s reign are shadows seen and felt on a daily basis that people have learned to deal with over the decades, vestiges of his regime that not only persist in present surroundings but are also embedded on one’s consciousness, inescapable, noticed only on particular occasions, so when Imelda walks in and delivers her lines she sounds like a bad version of herself, because she makes an effort to be real. But even this weak point speaks volumes, something that can be argued with interest. One of the pleasures of watching Mariquina is being overwhelmed by its generosity: how it finds the compelling in the ordinary and feels grateful for every particle of dust that settles. A-

Comments»

1. business man - September 3, 2014

kung merong paligsahan ng “Most Flowery and Verbose Film Review,” sigurado ako na ikaw na ang runaway winner. sa dami ng mga petals na nagkalat sa mga rebyu mo, pwede nang magdecorate ng labin-limang engrandeng kasal. posibleng yumaman ka sa business na to.

2. anneonymousse - September 3, 2014

Love your metaphors. Mariquina’s (musical) score is one of its many strengths, yes?

3. Richard Bolisay - September 3, 2014

@anneonymousse natuwa ako sa score ng Mariquina. hindi issue sa akin na Ingles ang mga kanta (issue ito sa karamihan)

4. anneonymousse - September 3, 2014

Di hamak na mas pipiliin ko ang maayos (at orihinal) na score na Ingles kaysa mga cheesy na pamagat na hango rin naman sa mga lumang kantang Ingles. (Oh no she didn’t)

5. JL - September 4, 2014

I beg to disagree. #Y felt more real and immediate and authentic. Mariquina felt so old fashioned in its storytelling rhythms. It felt manipulative and fabricated in its emotional tugging. Does anyone throw shoes in a river while crying anymore?! C’mon! And Ricky Davao as a horny husband feels like fantasy of the first order. Disappointing to read a seasoned critic like you fall hook, line and sinker for this emotional tripe. Will still read your blog though.

6. Richard Bolisay - September 4, 2014

@JL With opinions like those, maybe you shouldn’t care too much about what I think.

7. noli m - September 4, 2014

mariquina better than kasal? hustisya that bad? dagitab is middling? and almost all cnemalaya films were bad. this critic kuno is so pretentious and pa-high brow e wala namang sense ang mga reason nya. retire na.

8. beksandthecity - September 5, 2014

gustooooo kong mapanood ang #Y!
pinakafave ko ang mariquina sa lahat ng napanood ko! as in paglabas ko ng screening wala akong ibang bukambibig kundi ang ganda. lol

9. Torio - September 6, 2014

^^ actually, NOLI M, most cinemalaya films this year were not as good as the previous years’. truth is mas walang sense ang post mo. isa ka siguro sa staff ng mga na-okray na films no?


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