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Cinema One Originals 2015 (Part 1) November 11, 2015

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinema One, Noypi.



A number of good things can be said about Erik Matti’s latest film, Honor Thy Father, but what clearly deserves the strongest highlight is its subject. Part of the thrill for the uninitiated audience is the manner in which Matti treats it casually without losing the magnitude and intricacies, the moral high ground slowly being tested and broken into pieces. The drama could have easily come out from the seeming absurdity of the modus operandi — how the desperate need for money has brought about a difficult and complex solution, far from the quick and easy acts of stealing — but Matti and writer Michiko Yamamoto are more interested in larger forces at work, in how people are dehumanized by scheming organizations selling salvation. Cunning is how dignity is examined through contrast, with the elaborate digging and exploding, unexplained and unjudged, coming off rather dignified because of the utter dedication given, while the religious group tricking people into making regular donations, like the Ponzi schemers robbing Peter to pay Paul, is fronted by rectitude but bearing the palpable halo of evil. The dramatic turns may not be consistently on point, but the totality sweeps gracefully, and John Lloyd Cruz, in an admirable career move, delivers an intense performance that can reduce the viewer, who may only be comfortable seeing him in romantic roles, to ruins.



For longtime followers of South Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo, Right Now, Wrong Then is a familiar terrain. It still has his unbelievable knack for turning simple what-ifs into complex realizations of everyday encounters. The two main characters — a filmmaker visiting Suwon for a screening and lecture and a beautiful young lady he meets at an old palace who happens to be a painter — converse shyly and intimately, walking from place to place and hopping reflexively from lucid to drunk and to lucid again, until Hong decides, midway through the film, to repeat their encounter, with the same setup but slightly different details (on the surface and underneath). The result, in all its seeming simplicity, is heartbreakingly delightful, and between occasional laughs and tears, reeling from the infinite nuances found in ordinary situations, one feels the profundity of common experience often taken for granted, and rarely articulated so well, in contemporary cinema.



It’s sad to put down a film with winning charm and candid sensibility like Baka Siguro Yata, but it will be more unkind not to admit that despite these qualities it is unable to pull things off. It looks into three connected romantic relationships, each with varying levels of maturity and vulnerability that make it ripe for highly charged moments which, if executed right, can be affecting, the comedy being a dramatic device in itself. But something from the very start has been amiss: the direction hardly feels skilled and confident — in many cases resorting to amateur tricks — and as a result it fails to give justice to a script that is not only driven by witty dialogue and expositions but also by the easy-to-overlook concept of grand emotions in a small world. There are funny scenes, no doubt, but these moments alone cannot carry the film, much so if it is stubborn to subscribe to the kind of entertainment of humdrum television, from the storytelling and delivery of gags to the sloppy stitching of acts. Ferrer ends up choosing the common and convenient, varnishing the trite and only making it much triter.



1. LL - November 13, 2015

Honor thy Father needed more push in terms of vision? Kaya pa!

For Baka Siguro Yata, rather than the direction, isn’t the problem really just coming from weak parts in the script? The direction I found to be adequate, inspired; it was a joy to see how the best scenes were executed, and 2/3 of the movie. Pastrano, Gil and Davao were fantastic.

Richard Bolisay - November 13, 2015

Hi. I kind of see where you’re coming from for both films. I have no problems with the vision of Honor Thy Father. It’s actually quite clear and precise. But as I’ve insinuated, there are some parts/moments/aspects that I wish were polished or carried out better. For BSY, script is good enough for me, and Joel has improved it, but I don’t think the direction is able to bring out the core. Yes, I was laughing, but I was also aware the film as a whole was falling apart.

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