Monthly Archives: January 2014

YCC and UP Art Studies to screen ‘Qiyamah’

The UP Diliman Department of Art Studies, through the Art Studies Foundation, and the Young Critics Circle present Gutierrez Mangansakan’s award-winning film Qiyamah on February 3, 2014 at the UP Diliman Cine Adarna, 3 and 6 PM.

The film chronicles the many signs that presage the apocalypse. Set in a remote Qiyamah stillvillage in the Philippine South, residents of a farming community confront the specter of doom and the seeming end of the world as foretold in the Koran. They struggle with fear and doubt and are forced to confront a complex web of moral choices: tainted pasts, fraught family ties and the sudden arrival of an evil stranger in the village. As tragedy unfolds with menacing slowness, they rediscover the bonds that kept them together. Upon the shattering glare of world’s end, they realize they are linked by mortality, dreams, absolution and nature’s inescapable revenge. Qiyamah foregrounds unwavering faith with inevitable demise in stark visual poetry and a well composed film narrative, a suitable piece for deep reflection on the precarious state of humanity in our time.

Qiyamah is YCC’s Best Film in 2012. It also won Best Editing and Best Sound and Aural Orchestration.

Mangansakan will be present for Q and A after each screening.

Tickets are available at P100. For ticket reservations, you may call 927 0581 or 981 8500 local 2115. You may also procure tickets at the venue itself.


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Posted by on 29 January 2014 in Philippine Film



Framer Framed Framing: Critique of “Porno” (Second of Two Parts)

Porno’s prelude takes us to a room in a motel where a closed-circuit television peeps into a couple engaging in the rigors of sadomasochistic practice. The role play takes an awful turn when a murder occurs off-screen and the murderer refuses to pull her gaze away from ours.  The blood in her hands is almost black in infrared light.

This scene serves as the zero degree of the pornographeme.

Such is the advance guard for a cinema whose diaphane between the erotic and death itself has become by turns porous and rigid.

Then, the ultraviolet in another motel scene provides us with the languorous milieu that entitles voluptuary non pareil Rosanna Roces to minister to the needs of a client (Yul Servo), who is paranoid with the thought of voyeurs in the adjacent room. After going through the motions of a rather awkward sex, they try to exchange post-coital pleasantries syncopated by existential meanderings until they have nothing left to say and we can no longer ignore the television frame above them depicting ecstacies infinitively. Yul Servo, we discover, has failed to deliver death to an archbishop. When Rosanna leaves, the operative tasked to bring Yul back to jail kills him.

One less hitman to terminate this terminologist.


The vignette that proceeds brings the video of the coitus between Rosanna and Yul to the studio where voice talents like Aleks (Carlo Aquino) would substitute mournful sentences with euphoric vocal pyrotechniques.  His director (Allan Paule) complains that his talent’s skills are limited to monotones; Carlo, it seems, can only be distracted. The mis-en-abîme tells us that a certain social script is attempting to deduct the pornographeme from the speech acts of sex by supplementing sounds which although are culled from a sensual syllabary are not allowed to make sense as ejaculatory passages. Words should not interrupt moans. They get in the way of the sex.

Pornophoneme is hazardous to pornographeme.

Aleks compensates his lack of energy at the studio in the social network. His chatbox is riddled with the signs of a consciousness both allured and alluring: jokes and puns drown the oohs and the aahs. Conversations extend to telephone calls of unlimited expense. His room is lit under the cool tinge of a lurid green. And it is this dark room of desire that makes up for the privations of an “excitable speech.” His desktop is a frame of the “society of the spectacle” where the self regains whatever aspect of it has been rendered as effete in the public sphere.  This savvy is undercut when Aleks witnesses before the screen the suicide of a jilted lover. Aleks suffers a seizure as soon as he leaves the dark room.

Carlo Aquino offers a most attuned performance in his adult career by tackling a premier pornographer. His face possesses a vacancy of possibilities. The way he gives absolute licence to pleasure in a span of a third of minute sums up the totality of pain a body must deal with at various cusps of desire desiring itself and its alternate affects, including that irreducible life between enervation and rage.

And Carlo Aquino as Aleks is punctured by Angel Aquino as Alex.

Years after the seizure, he becomes the queen of Club Mwah, which runs the most fantabulous drag show in all of queer Manila. Alex keeps an Australian lover, and on the eve of the latter’s trip to Sydney, they watch the video of Rosanna and Yul that Aleks had dubbed at the studio.  Alex and the Australian dismiss the monotone. And then, we only see the hard core of movements in the bedroom shot through a soft lens.

Aleks is father to a son. The mother calls up Alex from abroad, telling her the son wants to see Aleks on skype on the former’s birthday. That proxy self has long gone, so only Alex can show up.

Could this be a scandal of the pornographeme?

Angel Aquino seizes this opportunity to be, at every turn, riveting.

And then, one night, after missing out on an exotic finale, Aleks finds herself running toward a hall of mirrors: her face framed by her own, her tears wholeheartedly her own.

After Jover and Alix’s Porno, what else can cinema in these parts inhibit?


jasonJ. Pilapil Jacobo is Assistant Professor at the Department of Filipino in the School of Humanities of the Ateneo de Manila University. He holds the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and the M.A. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was a Fulbright Scholar from 2006 until 2011, and the A.B.-M.A. in Filipino Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he teaches Literature and Literary Theory in two languages. He is currently preparing manuscripts on the colonial letter and on the poetics of tropical reverie.


Posted by on 17 January 2014 in Film Review, Philippine Film


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Framer Framed Framing (First of Two Parts)

A critique of Porno (Adolfo Alix, Jr., 2013): First of two parts

J. Pilapil Jacobo

The surprise in Porno is not so much the sensory assault that teeters on the indulgences which will turn whoever toys with the genre tremulous with each step; the thrill is the cognitive choreography that persuades the viewer to grapple with the tightrope act from that voluptuous space between the wire and the net. Slyly, and almost too shrewdly, the film veers away from the skills set of the sex-acrobat who is no longer so svelte to bend ligaments just to exceed the curvatures of the erotic. The pornography in Porno is frustrated every step of the way until what remains is a dimension of the surface one never expected to be there in the first place. The surface that is exploited in the mode is then relieved of its superficiality. The sex is never merely a matter of zooming in and out the skin in question, but a means to apportion to cinema in these parts in these so-called vanguard days a scale of inquiry it has not quite known to rehearse after exhausting, pace Bataille,  “visions of excess,” during a time of dictatorial duress. Some hard core of discourse should be banging on this sly surface.


Of course, various angulations of genitalia colonize Porno’s screen.  The penis and the vagina once again take over the face and the voice as loci of a primary cinematic articulation. And yet, these organs appear sans the orgasm that must complement them. Hence, an actress’s mammaries are just those, lactating embarrassments; Rosanna Roces has got nothing left to conceal from hereon, except the forlorn recollection of those years of relentless rosiness. And when the other characters are shown to be naked, their heads seem to have been severed from their own bodies. The picture of pleasure is incomplete; the harlot and the hustler are denied the chance to be seen with their faces. Outside sartorial sanction, and within bordello premises, an actress is obviously substituted with a body double whose corporeal proportions do not cohere with her optimal embodiment of prurience. And when a certain phallus imposes its amplitude upon most of the screen’s quadrants, its prosthetic tumescence cannot quite come to terms with the accuracy by which the pendulum swings of testosterone rage is portrayed. When the luridity of the exercise has been exhausted, so that things are reducible only to the tedium of technique, what can be magnified should be left as such, a body part that does not refer to the rest. And so there it goes, a dismemberment.  Porno is no allegory of resistance, then, when the opportune metonymic moment is invalidated.  Nor is it spectacle of defeat, when hyberbole never quite appears to be bold enough to exhibit its convex effrontery.

The pornographic tradition is hailed from the literature on the lives of prostitutes and their purported métier, fornication itself. Pornography is the writing of sex. And further, sex writing itself.  What cinema has done to this premise is to disavow for the genre its intimacies with indeterminate erotique by removing the bar that seeks to signify pleasure incompletely, that is, again, through the synecdochic arc of metonymy.  Pornographic cinema promises to disclose the totality of the sexual act and remove the reluctance of the sexualized body. Every angle, even when marginal or posterior, is a frontal absolute. Nothing is ever spared the violence of exposure. It is here where the prostitute becomes uninhibited. The writing that enables the vision of sex to gain the suppleness of flesh provides for a time to buy the prostitute out of the reifying conditions set in high relief by the obscene gaze. It is this time-lag of visibility that separates the pornographeme, the word that serves as signifying fundament of sex-writing, from the pornographic signified, the scene of sex summoned upon reading the sex-writing. For example, the reverie of silken neglect that would possibly be let loose after one reads “négligée” is no longer possible when the video forces its intended voyeur to see the tightest red spandex lingerie.

Alix deftly interprets the zeal that hovers above Ralston Jover’s screenplay by foregrounding within the mis-en-scène a mis-en-abîme. The scene encloses a version of itself that seeks to enlarge a discourse of the cinema through the ruse of the diminutive.  Pace Trinh T. Minh-ha, the framer is framed, and we catch him at a significant moment: framing. Alix has employed this trope in Chassis, to refute a supposed movement inherent in national progress, particularly when the subaltern is forced to reckon with scavenger ethic as the only way to apprehend the cusps of hunger and thirst. Porno departs from the kind of pornography that entitles itself to gain full scopic control over that kind of poverty by removing from the chassis the stasis that destitutes the political from the paradigmatic. The frame within the frame intrudes in the enclosure as it calculates a pace that would turn the picture to implode, and look the part of the disseminated. Porno is progressive in the sense that the mis-en-abîme is a true recursive. The frame acquits itself well as a vortex that can engineer iterations across vignettes in the diegesis. Turning to and fro into image and onto narrative, the device pursues a counter-intuition to one’s perspective of what a frame is.

There is something thoughtfully tropic in this Alix film.


jasonJ. Pilapil Jacobo is Assistant Professor at the Department of Filipino in the School of Humanities of the Ateneo de Manila University. He holds the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and the M.A. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was a Fulbright Scholar from 2006 until 2011, and the A.B.-M.A. in Filipino Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he teaches Literature and Literary Theory in two languages. He is currently preparing manuscripts on the colonial letter and on the poetics of tropical reverie.


Posted by on 13 January 2014 in Film Review, Philippine Film


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