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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Capsule Review: The Animals

Tessa Maria Guazon

The Animals (The Cinemalaya Foundation, Stained Glass Productions and Lunar Saints)

Directed by Gino Santos

A flagrant, gripping picture of indulgent, aimless youth, The Animals leaves a bitter aftertaste. Left to fend for themselves, teenagers on the verge of adulthood tackle life on their own shaky terms. Partying as if the world is to end, they careen to repulsive excess. Flighty passion and smouldering tempers lead to nowhere good. The film weaves a harrowing vision of shallow, self-absorption, one that demands equally trivial belonging. Underneath the layer of their picture-book lives boils a cantankerous sore.

Teenagers Jake, Trina, and Alex prepare for school and all else that seems mundane. The party they all looked forward to turns into an unwieldy, sinister event. True to its name Shutdown a no-holds barred party seems to have abandoned reason or restraint. Beneath the sophisticated nonchalance, they all reveal themselves children in dire need of love. Miserably drunk, spurred by booze and drugs, their uncontrollable passions lead to tragic consequence. While well put together, The Animals unleashes wave upon wave of despair but the kind that fails resolution or reflection. It ignites a fluttering fury but doesn’t entirely succeed in untangling the roots of a cruel misery.

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2012 in Film Review

 

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Capsule Review: Aparisyon

Tessa Maria Guazon

Aparisyon (Cinemalaya Foundation and Autodidact Productions)

Directed by Vincent Sandoval

Aparisyon is taut and limber- a film that marries restraint with vibrant energy. While the story is not new it is retold in superbly choreographed suspense. It is a tale where silence is moulded to become a visual motif, a trope that goads, guides, and eventually reveals. In Aparisyon silence is connivance, silence is shallow peace, it is retreat, and Sandoval fashions it in elegant, effortless complexity.

(Warning: Contains spoilers) Novice Lourdes arrives in the Adoration cloister in 1971, a year that saw spectres of oppression by the Marcos regime. Placed in the care of Sister Remy, an extern (one allowed to go out of the cloister for errands in town), Lourdes is drawn into Remy’s ever increasing preoccupation with the outside world. This happens after her elder brother, an activist from university went missing for two months. Remy is torn between vows she took as a nun and the response demanded by the “chaos of the outside world”. Returning late from a town visit, they were accosted by thugs in the forest surrounding the cloister. Lourdes was repeatedly raped.

Abiding their vow of silence, the nuns endure the uneasy peace of the convent’s suddenly guilt-burdened air. Rupture occurs soon after Lourdes births her child from the rape, and martial law was declared. After Sister Vera’s disturbing dreams and visions, the film finally reveals that Mother Superior Ruby and Sister Vera witnessed the rape but were too afraid to halt the perpetrators. Silence then is imaged as blood on their hands, the mark of Lourdes’s death from childbirth which becomes the burden of the cloister, and symptom of the regime’s grave abuses during martial law.  A

*Notable performances by Mylene Dizon and Jodi Sta. Maria / Production design and cinematography / Direction

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2012 in Film Review

 

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Capsule Review: Diablo

Tessa Maria Guazon

Diablo (Cinemalaya, Sampay Bakod Productions, Cartagina Productions)

Directed by Mes de Guzman

Diablo unleashes a spell. Exploring the anxiety and anticipation of waiting, de Guzman succeeds to paint an enduring image of motherly love. He surveys varied forms of stillness, taking us through unchanging landscapes, immersing us in the well worn routines of daily life and reliving for us enduring rituals of hope. The film ruminates on the nature of good and evil and its manifestations.

In Diablo, de Guzman finally masters fluidity missing in his other films. Well lit and beautifully shot, story and locale fuse poetically evoking metaphors of death and life, of endings and beginnings but in a manner so subdued it can be likened to the faintest movement of clouds shrouding a midday sun.

Beginning with a seemingly displaced scene of a demonic possession, we are quietly led from the depths of a cave to the vacuous interior of an old mansion, and finally to the hollow warmth of mercenary love. Narrative is patiently stitched together, segments of the story carved like niches into which perceived resolutions are effortlessly placed. We are drawn into the film because we are made to guess the fleeting shadows, the sounds the house makes, the all-seeing eye of Nana Lusing and her nightly companion, indeed whether the film is any genre that is at all familiar. This evasiveness is Diablo’s lure. A

*Notable cinematography and production design / Sound design / Direction

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2012 in Film Review

 

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Capsule Review: Jingle Lang ang Pahina

Tessa Maria Guazon

Jingle Lang ang Pahina (Film Development Council of the Philippines)

Directed by Chuck Escasa

Engaging, well-told and tightly edited, this documentary never once sagged. Interest is sustained by the careful placement of stories and accounts by musicians, writers and Jingle Magazine publishers. The chronicle of Jingle Magazine at the heart of music, protest and art is told with erudition by someone who lived and knew the 70s and 80s. Not succumbing to nostalgia, Jingle proves as multi-faceted as the magazine it revisits. Recollections are woven in measured gravitas and light-heartedness, yet the remembrance of the oppressive Marcos regime laces the narrative with menace. Having grown straddling these two very interesting decades (now retro fashion) yet quite removed from the strides and strums of Pinoy music of the period, Jingle lang ang Pahina is instructive and revives the power of art, music, poetry and criticism when they meld in harmonious promise. A

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Capsule Review: Pureza, The Story of Negros Sugar

Tessa Maria Guazon

Pureza, The Story of Negros Sugar (Bonfire Productions)

Directed by Jay Abello

A well-researched documentary on the history of the sugar industry in Negros Province, with interviews that span three years and which included landowners, SRA (Sugar Regulatory Administration) officials, millers, planters, farm workers and their relatives. Staid narration and chronology burden the documentary flow.

The film predicts a bleak future for sugar production and trade due to lower tariff rates imposed by AFTA regulations beginning 2015. Despite many interesting studies of the relations between sugar production and the building of empire, it fails to foreground the complex position sugar now occupies in global and neoliberal trade. It may have profited from an examination of the ecological ramifications of singular crops on large swaths of land. The film surprisingly ends on a benign, nearly disappointing tone. It begs for a more driven conclusion instead of flagging uncertainty. C

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2012 in Film Review

 

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