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

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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: I LOVE YOU TO DEATH (Miko Livelo, 2016)

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My notes on I Love You To Death:

1. As soon as Janice de Belen showed up on screen as Kiray Celis’ mother, all I could think of was the popular 80’s catchphrase (“Oh my god! Ang anak ni Janice!!”) that was used in the trailer of Regal Films’ cult classic Tiyanak and spawned the flop sequel Anak ni Janice.

Whether this was intentional or not, the movie’s best moments involved the running joke of her character’s brutal honesty towards her daughter’s physical appearance. She was the type of mom that would scream “Wag mo nga akong ginugulat anak!” upon seeing Kiray’s I-woke-up-like-this face or would recommend to fix her daughter’s bridal look by covering her face with a veil.

2. This brand of comedy harkens back to the early 90’s Rene Requiestas Pido Dida/Cheeta-eh era that I wasn’t surprised when his lookalike actually showed up. It made me miss this type of humor, especially in this day and age of political correctness. One simple punchline in his movies (say Michael and Madonna) would be Rene smiling and showing his missing teeth and it would be okay for people to laugh (“Ay bungi! Hahaha!”). If you’d do that now, a group of keyboard warriors would demand respect for dentally-challenged people while a group of activists burned effigies of the President protesting the lack of funds for dentures and the proliferation of lowbrow comedy in local cinema. How times have changed.

3. The biggest problem of this movie was that there really wasn’t a lot going for it aside from making fun of Kiray’s looks. It shouldn’t be a surprise given that the movie’s supposed highlight extensively used in promotions was the kissing scene between her and Enchong Dee (wait, was it supposed to be icky because of her looks or because of his…never mind).

This reminded so much of Joe Dante’s Burying the Ex, another awful dark comedy about a spurned lover that rose from the dead to seek revenge. Even with torn limbs and blood spurting onscreen, it didn’t have much of a story either.

4. I didn’t bother taking note of the young supporting cast’s names because I hadn’t seen this much bad acting since the last season of Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Edition. I had so much fun seeing them get killed one by one because it would just mean one less irritating person to watch. Besides, I wasn’t even sure why Kiray was friends with them when they would openly mock her appearance and blatantly wish for her character’s harm (was it because she only owned one orange Prada bag that she used every single time, regardless if it clashed with her outfit?).

5. Burning questions:

• What bowling alley would allow kids to wear Jimmy Choo heels?

• What was up with Enchong’s hair? His short bangs reminded me of that scene in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey placed a bowl over his head before getting a haircut.

• Why did these kids never grieve for their dead friends? After one of them got murdered in school, the next scene showed the gang in a salon. I guess the best way to really move on would be to get a Brazilian blowout and a mani-pedi. Yet in another scene, they were shown mourning…in a club.

6. Speaking of club, this was a Regal movie so I wasn’t surprised that there was an extended dance-off sequence. I should just be thankful that it wasn’t at a beach.

7. I never really understood the “mukha kang pantasa” joke, especially when the woman looked more like an eraser. And that #deathbypencil scene reeked too much of Zoolander 2.

8. Two obvious signs that their wedding was doomed: 1) she had her engagement ring on her middle finger, 2) her wedding gown had a sheer skirt that showed her boy shorts underneath.

9. In one scene, Kiray was kidnapped by her friends and had a sack thrown over her head. After it was removed, there were rice grains stuck on her face that made her complain, “Di nyo man lang tinanggal ang bigas sa sako!”. It was one of the few effortlessly funny gags that worked in this movie. I wish there were so much more because after this and Love is Blind, Kiray definitely deserved much better.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆