Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Metro Manila Film Festival 2004

by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
The Guardian, January 15, 2005

Well it seems like it has been a long holiday since I got back to the keyboards for some film reviews. I had a well-spent time off to hangout with family and friends who have been visiting the city for Christmas vacation. But I was indeed able to watch the films of the December holiday.

The Metro Manila Film Festival had only 3 entries that grabbed my interest. PANAGHOY SA SUBA, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS, and SIGAW, which I was MOST interested in among the three. Apart from the rest of the typical sickening flock of tagalog film directors, Yam Laranas stands out as one of the new directors that has an almost flawless quality in directing a movie, no cornball antics, no sequence loopholes and inconsistencies. His other films RADYO and IKAW LAMANG HANGANG NGAYON are movies that possess a quality that can match Hollywood films. His films don't make u cringe in shame like how other tagalog movies would. My single turn-off about this film is the casting: Richard Guttierez as the leading man? I see him as a very bland actor that seems to have that consistent spotlight in the current showbiz scene only because of his "pa-cute" image and the powers of a seemingly unintentional showbiz nepotism. Laranas may be a good director, but in the world of tagalog films, there would sometimes be art-altering demands from a slave-driving producer in the areas of casting and script.

Unfortunately though, I failed to watch SIGAW because it was shown in the first week of the MMFF Films run, which was Christmas week, when I was quite busy with my other schedules.

Later on, I was able to watch SPIRIT OF THE GLASS, which was directed by Jose Javier Reyes, who really is a director that has his fair share of good movies. But his style isn't very outstanding. Which goes out the same for this film. From the trailer, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS looks promising, what with the way film trailers has become such an art in itself already. Sure, the film is all right, but looking at it on a very strict point of view, there are prominent points that only lessened the impact of the film. One is on the costume/wardrobe aspect of the film. I believe that the trendy look of the film's main characters (which is an unquestionably attractive bunch) lessened the supposedly-eerie mood of the film. Many of the scenes are robbed of their "scare-impact" simply because the audience is suspended in adoration of how prettily flashy and trendy the wardrobes of the main characters are, when there is no need for the scene to have that "fashion-show moment". Another issue is that of Marvin Agustin portraying "the Ghost", which is never scary, the fact that not only was there no make-up or special effect used in his scenes, but also that Agustin is just too popular to portray a ghost. Nonetheless, SPIRIT OF THE GLASS also has its little moments that work as a ghost film, with special emphasis of the eerily-haunting theme song that does make your hair stand.

PANAGHOY SA SUBA should have been the best film in the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night. But then again, I never do trust the seemingly shallow taste of the MMFF judges. It was no doubt that those who win this award goes to the richest and most influential filmmakers of the country. No wonder the tagalog movie industry is dying of its own induced cancer. Anyway, PANAGHOY SA SUBA is a film which has its dialogues spoken in Bisaya since the story is set in Bohol during the World War 2 era, and stars Juliana Palermo, Cesar Montano, Caridad Sanchez, and Jacky Woo, among many other Visayas performers. The story revolves around the events in a small river community in Bohol, it taps on the innocence of the people and how they faced the radical changes that have come their way, especially when the Japanese forces occupied their community. Many of the aspects of the story reflects the many quirks of Filipino society that are thought-provoking, such as the ugliness of colonial mentality, and the romantic ways of olden times when suitors would do their harana (serenade) before the woman they love.

Cesar Montano is also the director of this film, and as his first project, Montano has proven that he is indeed a promising director. Although there maybe hitches and tiny dull moments that slowed the film down, it still is quite an impressive work from a first-time director.

The film has sublime messages from its plot that tells many ideas. From the anti-stereotype Japanese general who wants a peaceful occupation, to the inner conflict of Montano's character when he discovers that this own brother is in love with the same woman he is courting, PANAGHOY is a rich movie that is full of drama and healthy with a brilliant storyline. May there be more movies like this.


by Reymundo Salao
Just Another Film Junkie
January 20, 2005

In my last catch-up-on-things Film Junkie article, I was able to review two Metro Manila Film Festival movies; "Spirit of the Glass" and "Panaghoy sa Suba". I intended to watch "Sigaw", which I discussed in the last issue, but I was buried in my busy schedule of family and other matters. However, I would be sorry to say that I have no mood to give a thorough review on the rest of the other MMFF movies. Why? One reason is because the rest of the films were made by the producers that have themselves destroyed the reputation of Tagalog film cinema over the many years that it has sucked.

It seems to be pure coincidence, but Joel Lamangan is the director of the three movies that give me an unpleasant vomit-inducing reaction. First, is "So…Happy Together" This movie seems to make fools of the movie-goers because it carries on the bad tradition of local film makers who OBVIOUSLY COPY well-established popular films. There is a Wong Kar Wai movie which is ALSO about a love-triangle of homosexuality, its plot similar to the Kris Aquino movie directed by Lamangan, and the title of this award-winning and well-recognized movie is "Happy Together" The producers are so reeking with copycat incompetence that they even copied the actual title of the original and just added the word "So…" It is this attitude of OBVIOUS COPYCAT which producers practice quite often that is actually destroying the local film industry. How can the local film industry flourish if those wealthiest of producers are observing practices that DO NOT promote originality?

Another Lamangan film, MANO PO 3…. ANOTHER MANO PO movie?!!! And it is not even a sequel of the first Mano Po movie. Why call it Mano Po 3? On part 2, Kris and Eddie Garcia are playing new characters on an entirely different storyline that is not connected at all to the first movie. On the 3rd movie, you have also an entirely different storyline not connected to Mano Po 1 and 2, with Totoy Mola playing an entirely different role too! It is a franchise that has no sense. Holding on to this franchise name, and to think that 'Mano Po' is supposed to be associated to a term that is attached to a purely Filipino virtue (no offense to the Chinese community). In addition, the title has no relevance to the storylines of ALL the "Mano Po" movies. I would remember how, in her review, Jessica Zafra describes "Mano Po" to look like a silver swan commercial. Why the hell did it win the Best Film instead of Panaghoy sa Suba is beyond me, and I smell IHAW!

Lastly is AISHTE IMASU. You call THIS film a period piece?! Just look at the costumes. The Japanese soldiers look like they all AT THE SAME TIME just went out of the same boutique with the SAME NEW ULTRA-CLEAN UNIFORM! Look at the "townspeople" how their supposedly-daily clothes look so new as well, obviously out of the costume-department tailor. The film has a really REALLY BAD set design. Plus, it ambitions to have this aerial dogfight scene with computer generated fighter planes. This is one common sin local filmmakers do: aspire to have an elaborate special effects scene (when they can actually accomplish similar effects with simple camera tricks) that would only look cheap and awful.

And the directing of all three films? The similar Joel Lamangan cut; numerous loopholes and inconsistencies, corny lines, irrelevant scenes, and confusing sequences. At least "Enteng Kabisote" and "Lastikman" did not have the pretentiousness to be worthy of some film award, for they clearly are family-friendly movies that would only seek to dominate the week's film market, "Aishte Imasu" tried to look historical, when it is only a parade of young drama superstars, "Mano Po 3" was a lovestory attached to a film franchise that does not make sense, and "So.. Happy Together" aspires to "break into the reputation" of being a smart gay film, but it is NOT smart BECAUSE THEY COPIED IT FROM TITLE TO SCENE! Why is the local film industry dying? It is because of movies like these three!

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