RSS

Monthly Archives: July 2015

Ang Maaari pang Palahimigan ng Himagsikan: Sipat-suri sa Sonata Maria (Ug ang Babayeng Halas ang Tunga sa Lawas {2014})

J. Pilapil Jacobo, Ph.D.
Kagawaran ng Filipino, AdMU/Film Desk, YCC

Mula sa sarili niyang dulang pampelikula, dinirehe ni Bagane Fiola ang Sonata Maria bilang pelikulang Bisaya na may tagpuan sa lungsod ng Davao at tanawing pandaigdig mula sa lunan na ito. Sinusundan nito ang isang araw-gabi sa buhay at buhay-malay ni Ramon, binatang dating makata at lirisista ng kasintahang mang-aawit ngunit sa kasalukuyan ng pelikula agent sa isang call center. Bago tayo ipakilala sa tauhan ni Ramon, inililibot tayo ng sinematograpiya sa isang maaraw na hapon sa lungsod ng Davao. Dinaraanan ng tanaw ang maraming mga pook, tulad ng eskuwelahan, mga tindahan, parke, at iba pang mga sulok at pasikut-sikot, mga lugar na bumubuo sa buhay ng siyudad na nagkakanlong sa isang kamalayang tulad ng kay Ramon. Bilang pagtataya sa gampanin ng lugar bilang pangunahing hulagwayan ng pelikula, heto ang sipi mula sa kritika ng palasuri ng sining na si Tessa Maria Guazon: “The images that make the almost disjunctive story art artfully composed in its combination of the fantastic and the ordinary. The local is the scene that anchors an inner landscape; the former is Davao and Visayan, the vernacular language; and the latter is the meandering imagination.” (24/25th Annual Circle Citations 64)

Inatasan ako ni Propesor Aristotle Atienza, kasamahan sa Kagawaran ng Filipino rito sa Ateneo, at Pangulo ng Film Desk ng Young Critics Circle, na bigyang paliwanag ngayong hapon ang pelikulang Sonata Maria sa tanglaw ng pangunahing tunguhin ng kurso sa Panitikan ng Pilipinas dito sa Pamantasang Ateneo de Manila. Batid ko na isa sa kahingian sa inyong kurso sa Filipino ang isang sanaysay na naglalaman ng inyong reaksiyon sa pelikula. Ito ay gawaing hindi lamang responsabilidad ng mga estudyanteng tulad ninyo kung hindi ng mga katulad naming guro na kasangkot sa panunuring pampelikula ng Pilipinas habang may pananagutan sa pagtuturo ng wika, panitikan, at kulturang bayan na muli rin naming inilalatag ayon sa mga hinahakang bagong pamaraan ng saliksik.

Bilang texto na naisisiwalat sa mga kalakaran ng mass media, ang pelikula ay mahalagang anyo kung saan mapag-iisipan ang pagdaloy at pagka-antala ng panahon, at ng isang paraan ng pagsipat dito, kasaysayan. Bagaman nakabatay ito sa dulang pampelikula, na uri ng panitikan, hindi na rin ito panitikan lamang, katulad ng mga binasa ninyong bugtong, salawikain, epiko, kuwentong bayan, tulang relihiyoso tulad ng Pasyon (1815), metriko romanse tulad ng Florante at Laura (1838), nobela, tulad ni Noli Me Tangere (1887), maikling kuwento, tulad ng “Aloha” (c.1920). Higit na malapit ang integridad ng anyo ng pelikula sa mga anyong nalilikha sa pamamagitan ng, pace Walter Benjamin, teknolohikal na reproduksiyon, tulad ng potograpiya, musikang popular, telebisyon, at video, ngunit hindi naman ito basta-bastang maihahambing sa higit na kontemporanyong mga anyo ng social media, tulad ng Facebook, twitter, instagram, at ng maraming apps na umuusbong sa bawat minuto dahil sa android telephony. Dahil sa partikular na anyo ng pelikula, nagagawa nitong pag-isipan sa natatanging paraan ang kasaysayan ng bayan sa pinipili nitong salaysay at ang pinagpapasyang larawan na pupuno sa salaysay na ito.

Wala akong sapat na panahon upang bigyan kayo ng isang madaliang kurso sa panunuring pampelikula, subalit ang katanungan na mungkahi ko sa inyo bilang gabay sa inyong mga pagsusuri ay heto: Ano ang kasaysayan ng kamalayang bayan ang maaaring halawin mula sa pelikulang Sonata Maria, at paano nagiging posible ang imahinasyong historikal na ito sa danas ng anyo, sa mismong penomenolohiya ng pagpepelikula? Tandaan lagi na ang pelikula ay isang pagliliming historikal, at ang pagdalumat na ito ay magmumula, sa ayaw man o sa nais ng direktor, mula sa kasalukuyan. Kaya, lagi ring isang kontemporanyong texto ang pelikula, lalo na kung susuriin kung anong pagmamalay sa kasaysayan ang sinasabayan nito. Ngunit anuman ang diwang sinasabayan, tandaan din na ang pakikisabay ay pansamantala. Kaya nga: contemporary. Sabay sa panahon, subalit panandalian lamang, matitinag din dahit hindi magpakailanman, kung nais, maaaring mapag-iwanan o magpaiwan.

Subukan nating suriin ang Sonata Maria gamit ang gabay na tanong na inisip ko para sa ating talakayan sa hapong ito. Alalahanin na anuman ang tangka kong pagbasa ay probisyunal lamang, hindi naman ninyo itong kailangang panindigan, o paniwalaan. Bagaman, sa pagkakataong ito, ang higit na mahalaga ay ang paraan ng pagsipat; hindi naman nalulubos o nahuhusto ang kaisipan sa sanlaksaan ng diwa riyan. Sa ganang akin, ang Sonata Maria ni Bagane Fiola, ay isang muling pagtuklas sa sensibilidad na romantiko ng isang binatang Davaoeño, sa pamamagitan ng isang imahinasyong musiko.

Sa gawing bungad ng pelikula, ikukumpisal sa atin ni Ramon ang sandaling pangkasaysayan ng kanyang kaakuhan bilang tauhan: 1) ang pagkapanganak niya sa kaarawan ni Andres Bonifacio; at 2) ang paglisan ng kanyang ina upang makibahagi sa armadong pag-aalsa noong panahon ng Batas Militar; 3) ang hiwaga ng mga paruparo sa burol ng kanyang ama. Lahat ng tatlong detalye ay mailalarawan natin bilang romantiko, mapagyakap sa nakalalampas na abot-kaya: ang unang dalawa nagpapatunay sa romantisismo bilang prinsipyo ng rebolusyon; ang huli hindi kaagad rebolusyonaryo, sa halip higit na “lo real maravilloso,” magpalampas din kung tutuusin, katulad ng paghabol ng mga mariposa kay Mauricio Babilonia, tauhan sa nobelang Cien Años de Soledad (1967) ng Kolombiyanong si Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Sa pagtahak ni Ramon sa sarili niyang salaysay, matutuklasan natin ang pag-iwas kung hindi man pagtalikod sa adhikaing mapanghimagsik: lalampasan lamang niya ang isang kilos-protesta sa isang pangunahing lansangan ng kanyang lungsod. Wala siyang panahon na makisangkot sa lipunan, dahil madaratnan natin siya sa sandali ng pagkalugmok ng kalooban, kalagayang ilalarawan niya bilang “miserable” sa harap ng mga realidad na hindi na mailalakip sa haraya ng isang metapisika ng pag-asa. Maaari nating iugat ang miserabilismo ni Ramon sa pagkaulila niya sa kamay ng rebolusyong magpahanggang-ngayon hindi pa rin napagtatagumpayan. Ang huling kasaysaysayan ng rebolusyong 1896 ay nagbunsod sa kanyang mga magulang na dumayo sa Davao upang magsaka sa lupaing pangako ng Mindanao, at sa kanyang ina na iwan siya at ang kanyang ama upang mamundok sa panahon ng diktadura. Maaaring basahin ang nasawing himagsikan na ito bilang batayang dusa ni Ramon, danas na kanyang pinagsasakitan kasama ng mga Pilipinong natangay na rin ang liyab ng pag-asa sa maraming dantaon, pag-andap na malay man tayo hindi, isinasangkot tayong lahat dito sa loob at labas ng bulwagan.

Subalit kung aantabayanang mabuti ang pagkabuo ng malay ni Ramon, matatagpuan natin ang larang ng kanyang pakikisangkot sa personal niyang pag-unawa kung ano ang sining at kung paano nito nababago ang mistulang likas na miserabilismo ng buhay sa daigdig. Kung sa sining niya inilulunsad ang panukala tungo sa pagbabago, maaaring ito ang pinipili niyang pamaraan ng himagsik (matapos magmistulang naghihimutok lamang), tulad ng Sisne ng Panginay na si Francisco Balagtas, ng Unang Pilipino na si Jose Rizal, nina Isabelo de los Reyes at Apolinario Mabini, nina Vicente Ranudo at Tomas Bagyo, o nina Ramon Muzones at Magdalena Jalandoni.

sonata 1

Bilang isang makatang nagsusulat sa wikang Bisaya sa Davao, maaaring balakista, tulad ng pangunahing praktis poetiko mula Cebu, may pagbaling si Ramon sa mga payak na imahen sa kalikasan at sa kalunsuran, nang may pananaw na matalisik ang suri sa kamay ng kabalintunaan. Lipos ng giliw ang kanyang mga tula, lalo na kung ginugunita ang pagdating, pananatili, at paglipas ng larawan ng kanyang paraluman, si Maria, kababatang musikera na nilalalapatan ng himig ang kanyang mga taludtod at hinahandugan naman niya ng titik ang mga kanta noong sila’y nasa pamantasan pa. Sa pamamagitan ng anyo ng musika, at ng musika sa piling ni Maria, nagkakaroon ng saysay, ng kinahihinatnan o kinahuhulugang salaysay, ng kasaysayan na nga ang malay ni Ramon sa labas ng rebolusyon at sa loob ng kanyang panulaan na sinisipat niya bilang sariling himagsik sa miserabilista niyang lipunan. Dito nagiging diskursibo ang pelikula bilang gayon, at ayon sa sarili nitong pagkakataga—“Sonata Maria”: 1) ang panulaan ni Ramon na umaawit hinggil sa sinisintang si Maria; 2) ang panulaan na naging loob ng musika ni Maria; 3) ang panitikan ng musika ng bandang Sonata Maria kung saan mang-aawit si Maria; 4) ang nalalabing pagdurusa ng kaluluwa matapos maglaho ang tula, ang musika, ang musa, dahil sa kung hindi ipinapaliwanag na dahilan, hindi nagkatuluyan sina Ramon at Maria, tulad nina Francisco Balagtas at Maria Asuncion Rivera, tulad nina Jose Rizal at Maria Segunda Katigbak. Mababatid natin na ang kabiguang ito sa pag-ibig ang nagbunsod kay Ramon na tuluyan nang talikuran ang romantisismo bilang diwa ng poetikong pakikitalad sa buhay.

Ang salaysay ng pelikula na ating matutunghayan ay pagtatangkang manumbalik sa romantisismong nagbigay ng pagkakataon kay Ramon na umibig, at maranasan ang pagkatugnaw ng miserabilismo bilang prinsipyo ng pamumuhay sa daigdig. Sa isang pasyal sa loob ng karnabal at sa mismong lungsod, magkakabalikan kahit pansamantala sina Ramon at Maria, sa pamamagitan ng katwiran ng kanilang pag-iibigan—ang musika. Sa dakong ito ng aking panayam, imumungkahi ko ang paraan ng pagsipat sa anyo ng kasaysayan na mababanaag natin sa mismong usapan nina Ramon at Maria; ang simulain ng suring ito ay walang iba kundi ang pagdanas ng musika na pinaghahalawan ng pelikula ng taimtim niyang kalooban. Maaaring magsisimula ang pagsusuri kay Johann Sebastian Bach, pasimunong kagawad ng musikang klasikal sa Kanluran na kapwa hinahangaan nina Ramon at Maria, at itinatanghal nina Misha Romano at Miracle Romano, sa pamamahala nina Maki Serapio, Wrap Meting, Mark Limbaga, at Jad Montenegro. Ayon sa Gawad para sa Pinakamahusay na Tunog at Orkestrasyong Awral ng Film Desk ng Young Critics Circle na kinatha ng kasalukuyang Pangulo ng pangkat na si Propesor Aristotle Atienza: “napatutunayan” sa Sonata Maria ang “mabisang papel ng tunog at musika upang pagdugtungin ang mga hindi inaasahang ugnayang kinunan sa magkakaibang panahon. Mahusay na napanghawakang gawing sariwa ang gasgas na tunog na siyudad upang ilantad ang pagtahak ng tauhan sa pagbibihis ng siyudad. Sa hindi inaasahang paglalaro sa musika ni Bach (kakatwang nanlalaro o nanloloko ang pagpapakulugan ng badinerie), at musika ng karnabal, nagkakaroon ng tekstura ang naririnig at napapakinggan upang maipadanas din ang parehong kabaliwan at katinuan, pantasya at realidad, nitong bernakular na modernidad.” (www.yccfilmdesk.wordpress.com) Samakatwid, ayon kay Propesor Atienza, musika ang siyang prinsipyo na gumagabay sa biswalidad ng pelikula na likhaing muli ng pelikula ang sarili nitong kayarian bilang malikhaing sining. Ang nakagawiang pamaraan—nilalapatan lamang ng tunog ang imahen, nakikibagay lamang ang musika sa galaw ng larawan.

Kailangang balikan ang mga sandali kung saan nagkakaroon tayo ng pagmamalay sa panahon, at ng pagsasaysay sa mga guwang nito dahil sa musika ni Bach at nina Serapio at Montenegro na kusang nakikipangusap sa klasikong kayarian ng tunog at himig ng una. Ito ay kung ang bernakular na sinasambit ay uunawain na pumapatungkol sa musika bilang wika. Sa kumbersasyong nagaganap sa pagitan nina Bach at ng mga musikero ng Sonata Maria, kabilang na sina Ramon at Maria, higit nating mauunawaan kung ano nga bang wika ang pinatutungkulan ni Propesor Atienza sa mapaglimi niyang mga kataga na “bernakular na modernidad.” Bakit kaya si Bach, at hindi si Mozart? Paano kung ang piniling piyesa ay “fugue” at hindi “badinerie,” isang “cantata” at hindi “sonata?” Ano ang mayroon sa musika ng Alemanya sa panahong iyon na maaaring magsilbi bilang kontrapunto sa musika ng Pilipinas sa pagkakataong ito? Ano naman ang maihahandog natin sa Alemanya ni Bach mula sa ating bayan ngayon? Upang mapalawig pa nang husto ang musikal at musikolohikal na pagsipat na ito sa kontemporanyong pelikula, maaari ring ihambing at itambis ang pelikula ni Fiola sa gawa ni Dan Villegas sa “The Breakup Playlist” (2015) at nang lubus-lubos na ang suri, sa “Begin Again” (2013) ni John Carney. Sa isang palahambingang post-kolonyal, ano ang pagkakaiba ng ganitong kumbersasyon ng Bisaya kay Bach sa pagbali ng pangungusap ng klasisismo na isinagawa ni Heitor Villa-Lobos, sa kanyang “Bachianas Brasileiras” (1930-1945)?

Sa usapin ng bernakular bilang bernakular, maaaring munang magbuhat sa isang diskusyon ng Bisaya bilang wika ng pelikula, lengguwaheng dinaranas natin bilang salin sa Ingles, at bilang salin na rin sa masalimuot na hugpungan ng sinematograpiya, disenyong biswal, editing, at siyempre, ng tunog at orkestrasyong awral, dahil, at kung maaari, laban sa iba pang mga wika ng kapuluan, at sa huli, laban sa musika. Ganunpaman, hindi rin nararapat na mapako lamang tayo sa usapin ng tambisan sa pagitan ng rehiyunal at nasyunal, o kung mamarapatin man, ng rehiyunal at global, mga sitio ng diskurso na ginagalawan ng Sonata Maria bilang textong kosmopolita. Sa ganang akin, kinakailangang ibalik ang “bernakular na modernidad” na mababanaag sa isang pagsusuring musikolohikal sa pelikula sa mga kondisyon ng himagsikan na kumukulob sa malay ng pangunahing tauhan sa pagitan ng romantisismo at realismo, sa pagitan na nga, na isang surrealismo, upang hindi lamang natin maipagdiwang si Ramon sa bingit ng bini at digma, o sa loob ng kung anumang tambalan na mapagpapantasyahan ng kung sinong isip-rebolusyonaryo. Samakatwid, kalakip na paanyaya sa atin na binabasa ang musika ng rebolusyon sa isang pelikulang mula sa rehiyon na taluntunin ang inabot na landasin ng palahimigang mapanghimagsik mulang “Jocelynang Baliwag” at “Marangal na Dalit ng Katagalugan” na marahil ang alingawngawan ay ngayon pa lamang natin napapanagimpan, kung hindi man unti-unti nang naririnig. Daghang salamat ug maayong gabii sa inyong tanan.

Talasanggunian

Atienza, Aristotle. “Pagkilala sa Pinakamahusay na Tunog at Orkestrasyong Awral ng 2014.”www.yccfilm.wordpress.com.

Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach. “Badinerie.” Sa “Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067.” Leipzig, 1738-1739.

Benjamin, Walter. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Sa Illuminations. Pinamatnugutan at binigyan ng pambungad ni Hannah Arendt. Isinalin ni Harry Zohn. New York: Shocken Books, 1968.

Guazon, Tessa Maria. “The Wonders of Getting Lost.” Sa 24th and 25th Annual Circle   Citations for Distinguished Achievement in Film for 2013 and 2014. Diliman,   Quezon City: Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle, 2015.

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Cien Años de Soledad. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1967.

Sonata Maria. 2014. Direction: Bagane Fiola. Screenplay: Bagane Fiola, kasama sina   Margaux Denice Garcia at Melona Grace Mascarinas. Actors: Krigi Hager, Prexy Whittmer.

*Editor’s Note: This paper was supposed to be delivered on 6 July 2015 at the Ateneo de Manila University, but heavy rains caused the cancellation of the event.

Advertisements
 
 

Tags:

Primal Scenes of Our Foremost Yearnings: Critique of Contemporary Filipino Selections at the World Premieres Film Festival Philippines 2015

J. Pilapil Jacobo

A mode of production that attended the rise of independent cinema in the country is a practice of filmmaking that would aspire a first screening in a festival of cinema somewhere, as long as the city hosting the event could claim global or post-colonial pertinence. This critique is not saying that there is something essentially wrong with such an attitude of motion picture technology, but, at the very least, the mentality that has been bred among a few, if not most, of our Filipino film practitioners in search of their metropolitan audiences can be described to be counter-productive. The idea of a “world premiere” that must be situated “elsewhere” elided the public that also needed to be transported with the concept of “independence.” The converse to this problematic is of course an inauspicious reality to a portable cinema always already overpopulated with self-proclaimed advance guard aesthetes: that local spectatorship was abandoned with the movie in our directors’ minds desperately seeking to be played in a theater somewhere else, like in Northern Europe…anywhere, as long as it is not North Edsa, the premiere shall have been perfect. This effort of the Film Development Council of the Philippines to program a sizeable number of local films in sections like ASEAN Skies and in a set exclusively devoted to Filipino New Cinema aspires toward a corrective of sorts, particularly when spectatorial consciousness is conditioned to believe that the “world premiere” will be held “here.” As a critic who labors with the genre of the review, and intends to subject the “second look” under severe erasure, I choose to write about film, not with a “deliberate intent of being difficult and nothing else” (as my detractors have conveniently phrased), but with the idea of difficulty itself as a category of critique, particularly as the circuits of exchange that our species of cinema in these parts have traversed impossibly entails a form of writing that merely tracks form and its appreciative resonance when disseminated in the public spheres of neo-imperial Filipino democracy. How can one receive a text “with difficulty” when it is expected to be accepted as such, a product that effaces its own material precarity, because it is always already “beautiful,” “different,” “inventive” (the idiom of current review adjectivation is limitless). So now I ask: What recalcitrance is proposed to screen a Filipino world film “here” in a particular conjuncture already monopolized by a culture industry that preempts every other broadcast opportunity through a network of misrecognizing identitarian polities? What primal scenes have our filmmakers narrated so that a cognition of the contemporary could at least insinuate is coming into sound and image? How does one resist the facility of reception? How does one take pleasure in a “dissensus” of taste?

da dog show 2

In “Da Dog Show” (2015), Ralston Jover revisits abjection as a rubric of social analysis through the figure of an animal under the duress of spectacle. As in “Bakal Boys” (2009) and “Bendor” (2013), constraint is embodied by the lack of access to the culture of commodity, forcing a lumpen family to reside in a mausoleum in the Cementerio del Norte, and earn a living in the metropolis through their practice in an itinerant troupe centered on a canine duo domesticated to perform humanoid games for city folk begging to be entertained in spite of the vigors of their own aspiration toward urban excitability. The lure of abjection somehow becomes persuasive in the endearment of the animal into a social unit where maternal absence gains a spectral argument and where the embodiment of progeny remains incomplete with a son estranged with his mother abandoning patriarchal protection in search of better domiciliary equipment. Feminine desertion is represented to effect the debilitation of the body of a formerly virile father, the exposure to the erotic of the elder son, and the initiation of the daughter into female forms of reverie, an imaginative mode that can only be perceived by her public as an irreparable foray into madness. This maniacal moment lends the film a phantasmatic patina that was last seen in Mario O’Hara’s “Babae sa Bubungang Lata” (1998) and “Sisa” (1999), arguing for a surrealist turn within the social realist agenda. The finale resolves the case of the estranged son, but only after an act of exchange discharged in a scene that occurs off-screen but whose violence we hear with the most fearful, the most tremulous ache. As he has consistently asserted in a filmography that embraces the open end, Jover argues for the calculus of indeterminacy whenever a somatic predicament is encountered. In this case, the question of a soul that comes and goes, like the “monsoon,” is allowed to howl, and then abruptly fade, to that point of rhetorical facture, before all manner of despair. Hence, Mercedes Cabral’s pursuit of the irrational must assay a path into a tender understanding of a lingering breakdown that refuses sheer breakage.

maskara

Genesis Nolasco’s “Maskara” (2015) is a competent piece of cinema, insofar as it offers an intelligible critique of governmental surveillance in the age of information technology, through a conjuncture of conspiracy whose coordinates are plotted out in print and broadcast media, military intelligence, and Sinophone imperiality. The complexity of such an anatomical scrutiny of socio-political ills is held together by the folk tropology of secrecy and truth disseminated in the island of Marinduque during its Longinian rites of passage in the Lenten summer. Such directorial control over a materiel of sociological texture is complemented by an ensemble of actors who manage to infuse the mood of thriller with a serendipitous ambience of romantic comedy, the uncanny triangulation delightfully calibrated by Ina Feleo, Ping Medina, and Lance Raymundo.

kwento-nating-dalawa_2

Just like “That Thing Called Tadhana” (2014) and “English Only, Please” (2014), “Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa” (2015) is a failed attempt at subverting the Filipino romantic comedy genre. Nestor Abrogena labors to achieve the exception by investing on a screenplay that imitates the flânerie of bodies as well as the aimless speech that engenders them to inhabit amorously the collective trauma that is embedded in a metropolis, a la Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy (1995/2004/2013). It would have been instructive to screen a method of romance that could argue for the post-coloniality of feeling while the amorous subject negotiates one’s place in a city that decays in “combined and uneven development,” but what the film affords to depict is a portrait of bourgeois entitlement evinced by the antipathetic face of Emmanuelle Vera, who is too committed to an imperturbable pretense to sentiment, driving an inherently expressive Nicco Manalo to develop a histrionic technique that intimately resembles a normative strain of attention deficiency. The interdiction against such a romantic entanglement finds a convenient alibi not only in art but also—and this is more significant—in an aesthetic regime that prohibits all the more because purveyed by academe. What this premise contributes to the claim to romantic exception is a form of assault to the narrative groove that essentially provides for a defense of the amorous arrangement: a sentimental education through cinematic technology, particularly through an apprenticeship in the schemes of screen/writing. If the singular screenplay that is submitted at the end of the film chooses “the story that never was” rather than “the story that could have been,” “Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa” is not only a reactionary work, it is a piece of cinema that is afraid of its own claims, and of itself, ultimately: erotophobic, in the sense that it must repress the exception that it is capable of conceiving…if at all, even as a passing reverie. That said, there is one moment worth one’s while: a bed scene where the anticipated deshabille no longer belongs to the body but to the narrative written all over bodies reluctantly disengaging from a protracted engagement with affection and the terms which further impede its release. Here is where the film becomes an index to a zone of cinema that can already be gleaned in 1) a mise-en-scène that demonstrates the amplification of longing in such a Procrustean space and 2) the sound engineering of breaths by turns cleaved and tethered until a pointillist arrangement of silence. As well, one is finally allowed tactile relation to strombolian registers within the subterranean tension between Vera and Manalo; their choreographic intimacy convinces one that a gesture held back, and held back till lost and forgotten, like a touch that can no longer perch on the Other’s skin, is what takes us to erotic gnosis.

piring2

Craig Woodruff, Jr.’s “Piring” (2015) arrests ideology as the misrecognition of one’s relation with the modes of production, with a metaphor of the fold that blinds the eye from perceiving reality separate from the effects which make it more real than itself. The originality however ends where this trope is initiated, for the rest of the film is a rehearsal of a Philippine species of the pornography of poverty, particularly through a thesis of destitution that drives bodies of distress to turn to prostitutive acts of survival. When the blindfold materializes in the finale, Philippine cinema might have descended into a nadir like one other, and one that is difficult to overcome, especially when the failure of immanent critique reveals a concominant penury in the aesthetic plane; the piece of cloth is that which allows the incest taboo to be violated in a spectacle that inadvertently affirms the sanction of poverty as economic essence as far as the third world lumpen is concerned. This is where contemporary cinema’s adherence to naturalism proves to facilitate the breakdown of an ethic when one is found out eroticizing an impasse that arrests the irrevocable passage of crisis.

143ty

Set in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Siem Reap, Charliebebs Gohetia’s “I Love You. Thank You” (2015) aspires to configure a gay Southeast Asian romance from a diasporic Filipino perspective. The vision that this position yields is a Philippine enamoration with the capital that is circulated in the Southeast Asian mainland, just because the Filipino aspirant has not subjected his neo-imperial entitlement to an auto-ethnographic account of the post-exotic. Whatever modicum of affective labor is written over the Filipino characters, they remain consumers of an alien culture that is refused engagement. Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia are not contact zones where a solidarity against the global could be forged through the Philippine; instead, they are prostitutive spaces where the Filipino can generate disposable income, access sexual licence, and invent a triumphalist version of the self while eliding the national predicament. Just like the film itself, Joross Gamboa, Prince Stephan, and CJ Reyes are tourists who trample upon the ruins of Ayuthaya, Saigon, and Angkor; their pillage is implemented in a misreading of homosexual affection as effeminate affectation, and one that cannot rise to the dignity of feminist insight, because of a melodramatic sensibility on victimage that further debilitates the narrative to arque for queer affect. Effeminacy does not turn into male femininity—the male actors are just staging their homophobic rehearsals of bakla embodiment; no amount of pouting, catwalking, and screaming along the gay district of Bangkok can persuade any self-respecting advocate of gender sentiment that these performers have any regard for the history of trans-subjectivity this region of queer possibility has painstakingly, and painfully imagined.

pangkoy

Fifteen minutes into Jonah Lim’s “Sino Nga Ba Si Pangkoy Ong?,” (2015) one should already know that the rest of movie will be a waste of synaptic employment to anyone who can muster enough patience with a bourgeois apology for its male subjects who refuse to participate in an economy premised on the possibility of dignified labor through unalienated work. The guiltless swindling and scamming that the characters resort to in order to generate income make the wantonness of the gambling in Ian Loreños’s “Saturday Night Chills” (2013) a forgiveable case of adolescent felony. That Kiko Matos, Paulo de Vera, and Elston Jimenez fulfill their fantasy as best-selling authors in the end not only purveys a condescending notion of the literary through a rationalization of the populist ideology that the works of Bob Ong and Marcelo Santos III have perpetuated; their purported success as writers also misrecognizes a possibility of the popular that can be derived from forms of pop culture which can legitimately permeate national consciousness through aesthetic movements intercepting networks of investment and pre-empting circuits of profit.

sinners

In “Of Sinners and Saints,” (2015) Ruben Maria Soriquez stages the limits of the Roman Catholic missiology that Europe still fantasizes to be current by having Spanish and Italian friars curate the Mother of Divine Providence Parish in Payatas. Such an assignment exposes the Roman priest to hapless cases of child labor and domestic violence, while holding comparative language lessons in Italian and English during Sunday School and proto-feminist modules within sessions on catechism with the Legion of Mary. Engaged with this brand of ethnography, the film deftly covers an ambit of compassionate social analysis, with a cinematographic grain that is uncompromising in its exposure of the affects which make a congregation unravel alongside the fringes of an already worn out social fabric; ecclesiastical intervention in the social sphere is convincingly articulated to abrogate state custody of bodies invested with deleterious political destiny. Just when an Italianate predicament comes to grips with Latin American liberation theology in the Philippine post-colony, Castilian neo-conservatism interferes with the screenplay, and reveals a miscegene to have been born and raised between the Roman when he was still a deacon and a Filipina in her nights of harlotry. This complication afflicts the narrative with a sense of criminality, which consumes the last third of the movie in an indulgent raid of the syndicate’s lair and a chase within the slum’s labyrinth. Together with Genesis Nolasco’s “Maskara,” the film announces Philippine Cinema’s return to social realist form. Miss Chanel Latorre’s previous attempts at dramatic versatility might have illustrated a cloying eagerness to be noticed as an indefatigable executor of serious actressing, but with the range of susceptibilities she has exhibited in this piece, I can be persuaded to revisit impressions of her incapability. At last, her face can register a gamut of agonistic sentiment without descending into the abyssal negativity of victimage. Again, Althea Vega, with that Nazarene sufferance, is stunning.

filemon

As written by esteemed children’s short story writer and playwright Christine Bellen and inimitable theater actor and director Jethro Tenorio, “Filemon Mamon” should have been a radical piece of cinema. It situates the obese child (at the outset awkwardly acted, but finally calibrated well by Jerome Ignacio) within a dietary regime (the bombast is played like no other by Nanette Inventor) that is a symptom of diaspora (portrayed by an affectively migrant Sue Prado) and dissent (essayed by a subtly melancholic Smokey Manaloto). This figure of alterity is further subjected to radical insight in the context of theater itself, when he is tasked to play Andres Bonifacio, the revolutionary. After the birth of the clinic in the film set, Ignacio is diagnosed with a risky condition that can only be dramatized in a parody of the nineteenth century’s queer friar curate. The director Will Fredo squanders this cinematic opportunity through a scenographic sense whose norm is horror vacui, an editorial technique that seems to cut down on longevity by way of a dietary logic, and a cinematographic mannerism that only turns characters into talking heads, scenes into tableau-vivants any freshman from some reputable high school can acquit with respectable flair. An animation sequence should have been sent to any of our film schools for a visual overhaul. The music is also forgettably orchestrated, except for a bar that Guji Lorenzana somehow sings with the requisite tonal augmentation when scoring disagreement.

Mercedes

Finally, like Ralston Jover’s “Da Dog Show,” Alvin Yapan’s “An Kubo sa Kawayanan” (2015) tackles domiciliary equipment. Mercedes Cabral plays Michelle, an embroiderer who lives in a bamboo hut by the Bicol River. Cabral portrays such residency with lackadaisical nonchalance, embodying the drawl of Bicolanos in the peninsular interior, as if she has truly understood the “tristes tropiques” that turns anyone at home at world’s end into the “gens beatissima” of absolute autochthony. Of course, this indigenous innocence can only be false, but Yapan makes it a point to furnish the error with a folk intelligence that finds joy in what the outside may deem as faulty sentiment. At the very least, there must be a domesticated form of outrage in this persistent anti-modernity that entitles Yapan to allegorize the cubistic hut as an infrastructure of nativity where alienated labor is foreign to the craftworker, while calibrating an atavistic rule of metaphor to deface distinctions even surrealism would not dare to retrogress into, so that affective labor may be fully experienced as the only acceptable way of wordliness. Yapan avoids the perilous path of noble savagery through a recourse to cinema as “object-oriented ontology,” where earthly matter takes precedence over human agency. I am not sure yet whether the cinematic language the director has experimented with can be said to apprehend the neo-impressionism this kind of paradigm shift must evince, or if such a metaphysics of the tropical can take us to an analysis of historical modernity through a critique of empire that has coopted even the sensorium Yapan himself protects with impunity, but yes, at least, this spirited instance of possibilization; a tactile programme might have been laid out for our cinema from Yapan’s torrid zone, where worldly objects have always been waning beside earthly things witnessing our contemporary habitude from their truth only most anterior.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on 06/07/2015 in Film Review

 

Tags: