MOVIE REVIEW: ANG PANAHON NG HALIMAW (Lav Diaz, 2018)

87E6BF31-1F93-4A30-9830-598971BFCB03

Timely and relevant, but the awkward and repetitive chanting just wasn’t my cup of (talampunay) tea.

(Side note: Napanganga talaga ako when Piolo said the line “Ano kaya ang lasa ng pwet na hinihimod ng iyong dila?” huhuhu.)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published May 30, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: LADYFISH (Jason Orfalas, 2017)

7BF00912-E090-4201-BC91-F4514DD263A4

Painfully unfunny, very much like its nth iteration of a local barangay gay beauty pageant. It didn’t feel like a complete movie at all, just some stitched-up random moments that tried really hard to create humor out of supposedly silly stuff.

I felt bad for Martin Escudero since he seemed to be forever typecast in the gay/trans role post-Zombadings. In one scene, he was required to act delighted while JC Santos peed on his face. Ick.

There was a hysterically wicked stab at Lav Diaz films and their endless nothingness. I wish there were more of that kind of smart humor here instead.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

(Originally published March 14, 2017.)

MUSMOS NA SUMIBOL SA GUBAT NG DIGMA (Iar Lionel Arondaing, 2018)

BA6691D3-7F45-4926-8F39-19A01B568657

SPOILER ALERT!!

Tipid Tip of the Day: Whenever critics describe the story as a slow burn, it’s just their polite way of saying that watching the film may cause drowsiness. If you’ve ever seen a Terrence Malick or Lav Diaz without ever nodding off, then you’ll have no problems with this one.

To be fair, I liked the performances of the lead kids and the beautiful (oftentimes haunting) imagery (sure win for this year’s Balanghai for Cinematography?). I do have a limit on the amount of time I can watch a burning field before it turns from mesmerizing to when will this end.

I think it was an inspired choice to frame the entire thing with religious chanting (prayers/verses from the Quran). Having the characters speak entirely in Tagalog made everything feel less authentic, though.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published August 8, 2018.)

MOVIE REVIEW: ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz, 2016)

img_5715

SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Babaeng Humayo:

1. Do you know those times when you would rather watch a silly Adam Sandler movie than wallow in all the glorious art of a Terrence Malick film (I still could not finish The Tree of Life without falling asleep)? I had that experience while watching this four-hour Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner from master filmmaker Lav Diaz. Although this one was just half the length of Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, I still wondered if all of those scenes needed the extra two to three minutes of…something (nothing?).

2. I kept imagining the film as a glorified version of Charles Bronson’s revenge flick Death Wish and I had my own wish for a scene where Horacia (Madam Charo Santos-Concio) would throw away her cap, remove her denim jacket, raise her fists, and fight mano a mano with the person that sent her rotting in prison for thirty years. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I kept switching sides during its entirety), this was an art film so instead we were knocked on the head with various metaphors while our heroine waited (and waited and waited and waited and waited…) in the shadows.

3. Speaking of shadows, as with any Diaz film, this was meticulously shot in gorgeous black and white. Every scene was just picture perfect and ready for cinephiles to screencap for their year-end best of lists. (I would like to suggest that scene outside the church with Horacia standing next to a billboard saying “Huwag kang papatay.”)

4. It was a delight to see Madam Charo back on the big screen and she managed to give a good performance despite the long hiatus. There were still moments though when her classy, glamorous persona came out even when the role required more pathos and grit (or angas, especially when delivering lines like “Loaded ako, pare.”).

One scene required her to assault a woman twice her size and it was obvious that she pulled her punches. Another involved a lot of wailing on the stairs after learning that her husband died and it was met by laughter from the audience. At her best, she was able to effectively convey the moral journey of a scorned woman. At her worst, she reminded me of Kris Aquino playing a beggar in Pido Dida.

5. There were several instances where Horacia narrated her own horror story (one kid brilliantly butted in with “Wala bang fairy tale?”) and as soon as I heard that familiar soothing voice straight out of MMK, I immediately started guessing an episode title.

6. My favorite scene in the film involved a joyous song and dance number between Horacia and Hollanda (an epileptic transgender that she took under her wing, played with great nuance by John Lloyd Cruz, as if we expected anything less from him). It started with Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, then continued with Somewhere from West Side Story, and ended with the familiar “shadam dradam” sounds of Donna Cruz’s Kapag Tumibok ang Puso. It was great to see the characters (and actors) finally lowering their guards and just simply having the time of their lives.

7. When Hollanda mentioned the funny faux story of how she got her name (her pregnant mother spun the globe and her finger landed on Holland), I was so happy that my mom never thought of doing that because Uzbekistan Javier would have been bullied to death in school.

8. Even with Lloydie playing against type (sounding like a millennial gay in the 90s) and hilariously complaining about his painful butthole, the standout performances were from the dependable Nonie Buencamino as the hunchback balut vendor (I craved for balut while watching, no kidding) and Jean Judith Javier (no relation, I swear) as Mameng, the taong grasa that kept accusing everyone of being demons (“Puro demonyo ang mga nagsisimba dito!!”) Applause!

9. In the film’s final moment, it showed Horacia walking round and round (and round and round and round and round…) on the posters of her missing son. Was it a metaphor for her futile search? Was that another social commentary on the state of the country during that time (and even today)? Nahilo ba sa eksenang yun si Madam Charo?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

5AB717C3-01AD-4F82-9F97-97CC3786A379

My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆