MOVIE REVIEW: ANINO SA LIKOD NG BUWAN (Jun Lana, 2015)

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SPOILER ALERT!! (Also: Rated R-18)

My notes on Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan:

1. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a big favor. Stop reading this, head over to the nearest cinema, and watch this two-hour one-take achievement in local filmmaking. You can thank me later.

2. I was greatly reminded of two things while watching. The first was Joe Wright’s adaptation of Anna Karenina, a visual feast with its moving sets and changing backdrops all within the confines of a theater. This one had the exact same feel, although it was limited to just one camera moving around in a tiny hut. Everything was expertly-staged and it had to be because there wasn’t a lot of room for errors (I could only imagine how frustrating it would have been to keep reshooting if major flubs were committed).

This type of staging also supported the oftentimes theatrical cadences and lyrical dialogue (one character’s description of another: “Lubog ang mata, humpak ang pisngi, ang mga linya sa mata niya na tila bahay ng gagamba”, which was exactly how I would describe myself before breakfast).

3. With just a few choice words (“walang kuryente”, “walang tubig”, “kamote ulit”, “nakaw na sardinas”, “sobrang init”), it quickly established its setting in treacherous ’90s Marag Valley (also known as “No Man’s Land” in Kalinga-Apayao). The battle between the military and the rebels placed the land in such a depressing state that one character actually felt relieved that his wife had a miscarriage, rather than watch their baby die of hunger. Now I would always remember that before complaining about something as petty as EDSA traffic.

4. Farmer Nardo (Anthony Falcon) kept saying the line “Wag mong gagalawin ang asawa ko. Akin yan!” that it all but guaranteed wife Emma (LJ Reyes) and bantay-salakay soldier/friend Joel (Luis Alandy) hooking up in that now notorious 10-minute graphic sex scene (even in black and white though, I could have sworn that Luis used plaster; don’t ask).

But really, if there were only three actors and two of them had full frontal nudity, whatever happened to solidarity? We could have easily judged who had the bigger ari. (Also, I take everything that Mo Twister says with a grain of salt so…)

5. I could still remember LJ as a Starstruck Survivor trying her best to squeeze out the tears in that drama workshop under Gina Alajar so that she wouldn’t be replaced by an Avenger (Starstruck, not Marvel) in the weekly eliminations. Well, this fearless Urian winner had definitely gone a long way. She was just amazing here, to say the least (even better than when I last saw her in Tanghalang Pilipino’s Juego de Peligro).

If I remembered correctly, in the entire two hours, she only blatantly tripped during the “puke at mga suso” line, but then who wouldn’t (again, one-take, no cuts)? Even her cunnilingus aria was spectacular. Brava!

6. Similar to Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe, I really liked the inclusion of a local mystical creature in the discussion. Nothing else could describe the horrors of that time like a homegrown kapre. To quote one character, “Sino ba talaga ang kaaway?”.

7. Oh, the other thing that I was reminded of was the FX TV show The Americans with its smart take on spies, lies, double crosses, deceit, and even unrequited love.

8. “Lahat tayo ay mga baliw na nagpapanggap na may katinuan sa pag-iisip.”

9. It was funny that after the final scene when the screen faded to black, nobody stood up and left because we were all expecting an end credits sequence. Waiting for it, though, was like waiting for redemption that will never come.

Rating: ★★★★★

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Burr Steers, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies:

1. I’ve seen several versions of Pride and Prejudice and my favorite would have to be the one directed by Joe Wright and starred the quintessential Victorian beauty Keira Knightley. It must be said though that Colin Firth in the BBC miniseries is and will always be Mr. Darcy (even my literary twin Bridget Jones agrees). Look for any of these versions and watch them instead.

2. I still haven’t recovered from the awfulness of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and this other genre mashup wasn’t any better. The zombies could have been replaced by vampires or werewolves and it wouldn’t have made any difference since the zombie plague was just a mere backdrop to the story. If anything, it actually felt like a crime to ruin the Jane Austen classic. Why not turn Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) into a manananggal instead? That would have been more interesting. I hope they also make a Crime and Punishment and Tikbalangs or William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Undin Juliet.

3. James was really lovely so I was confused when she wasn’t deemed the prettiest one among the brood. At least in the Knightley version, Jane Bennet was played by Rosamund Pike so it was a bit more acceptable. (FYI, James must really love wearing a corset because she’s also in Downton Abbey and the lead in the current BBC miniseries War & Peace.)

4. The supposed novelty here was that the Bennet sisters were actually trained in martial arts and swordfighting so they always entered a scene in a Sucker Punch formation (slow motion, of course) ready for battle. Most of the fight scenes involved mere poking (simple tusok-tusok) and some scenes were even too dark to actually see all the action happening onscreen.

5. One of the few sources of enjoyment here was Doctor Who’s Matt Smith playing the bumbling Mr. Collins. He seemed to be aware that he was trapped in a dud so he fully embodied all the silliness required by the role.

6. “If they don’t eat brains, they don’t turn into full zombies.” Ahh, that explains Plants vs. Zombies.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆