I just got my congress pass for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. I have always been a part of the screening committee, but since work got in the way early this month, and I was sent to Cebu for some recruitment and marketing work, I had to suffer the consequence of seeing the entries with the party goers (comprised of family members, kids, teenagers, jejemons, bekimons and more kids)
It was fun! I just realized I missed a lot of entertaining audience screams and tolerable cinema noise inside the theaters these past years.
Despite our emerging pride in our conscious effort towards sophistication and ethics, it is still refreshing – yes, refreshing – to experience the same old bakya culture in the 50s even with our new generation of moviegoers.
Pinoy pa rin talaga tayo!
Consequently, I woke up really late today and have to pick up my nephew and niece for a Christmas treat. I pushed my way through the crowds in MOA to get a better seat, or at the least, a better view.
With only a few hours before the last full show, I only managed to watch three entries.
All were good. Fairly good.
MANILA KINGPIN (Scenema Concept International)
After learning that Tikoy Aguiluz will once again direct an entry for this year’s MMFF, I already took an oath that I will not miss it for the world. Remembering Aguiluz’ obras in the 80s and the 90s, I have often asked why he hasn’t been doing much work in the last decade. MANILA KINGPIN: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ASIONG SALONGA (2011), for me, was an entry worth waiting for.
Somehow, I was wrong.
The film revolves around the lost history of Manila’s notorious criminal leader Nicasio “Asiong” Salonga. His rise to notoriety, power and fame is Aguiluz’ thesis. It was ambitiously planned, creatively delivered, stunningly viewed but unexpectedly distorted.
Aguiluz was able to present bigger plot aspects effectively. But the universal challenge of presenting a real-life story on the big screen has made this film a notch lower than the director’s previous works, and from what I expected. In terms of continuity and alignment, the film suffers immensely.
Much can also be said on the lead actor’s (Jorge Estregan) representation of the great Asiong Salonga. His usual antics somehow save him from some scenic fails, but his general depiction of a confident criminal lord falls short accordingly. I’d say that Joseph Estrada did a better portrayal of the same role in 1961. On the other hand, I raise my cup of Coke Zero to Ronnie Lazaro and John Regala, who played the film’s villains. Amazing how, these two anti-heroes can manage to make their presence felt in every scene, despite under-actings and subtle, uncommunicative undertones. If that’s not the standard presentation of evil in Philippine Cinema (except, of course for Silayan’s portrayal of the evil patriarch in KISAPMATA), I don’t know what is.
Despite these criticisms, I say that MANILA KINGPIN has a deconstructive take on the MMFF’s technique on putting money into the box-office through cheap laughs and melodramas. Aguiluz, presented a clear, visually enticing black-and-white spectacle, reminiscent of Sorsese’s RAGING BULL (1980) and/or de Leon’s BAYANING 3rd WORLD (1999). Another delightful take home is an almost campy kalesa chase; too entertaining you’ll end up smiling.
SEGUNDA MANO (Agostodos Pictures, MJM Production, and Star Cinema)
Bb. Joyce Bernal has once again ventured beyond her comfort zone and took on a genre far from her typical scope. After D’ ANOTHERS (2005), she has again touched a delicate genre on fright and suspense. The result was fairly acceptable, if not triumphant. SEGUNDA MANO is a horror flick that touches on the Filipino’s preference on second hand items, and Bernal weaved a plot comparable to Star Cinema’s WAY BACK HOME (2011).
Kris Aquino is surprisingly subtle, reserved, uncommunicative; during the first act, that is. Bernal has efficiently preserved Aquino’s character-plantings for the final payoffs, and the outcome is a bang-up. If you ask me, Aquino’s portrayal for SEGUNDA is her best, to date. (Not that I’m alread a fan.) But Dingdong Dantes’ take on a more mature character is flawless, convincing and horrifically sexual. His clear representation of innocence, danger, psychosis and rage develop accordingly as the plot moves from act to act. But of all that can be said on the performances, I give two thumbs up to the hysterical Bangs Garcia, who plays a supporting, yet exciting, ‘best friend’ role. Her funny throws and tantrums give the audience a barrel of laughs and cheerful applauses – a careful reminder that Bernal is still maneuvering the camera.
Bernal, however, still has to work on aligning her continuities. Putting in mind that planting is far more important in the horror genre, than in comedies and romance. If you’ll look closely in one of the scenes, you’ll see a blood smear on a guard’s collar before a poltergeist cuts off his throat.
Foreshadowing, perhaps? I don’t think so.
And did I say that the ending was pretty much expected? Stereotypical?
Luckily though, Bernal was able to effectively deliver a fairy acceptable MMFF entry this year. With good performances, concrete plot-lines, visual designs and appropriate sounds, she was able to prove, once again that she’s one of my most anticipated directors of this generation.
SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL 13 (Regal Films)
For the franchise, the number 13 indeed proves to be a lucky number! Despite our ready biases against another installment, SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL 13 is an MMFF 2011 entry every fan of the original must see. Yes, there are flaws, cinematically and technically. As a matter of fact, there are a lot. But the entire package provides a stronger assurance that the series will continually surprise audiences and critics alike.
Richard Somes’ EPISODE 1: TAMAWO narrates a story of a dysfunctional family who moves to the city, and sooner comes across strange creatures that are after something that was allegedly stolen from them. Though the story is quite weak, and matched with a ridiculous screenplay, proper use of cinematic techniques and direction saved the entire episode. Not to mention, the superb performances by Bugoy Carino, Maricar Reyes and Zanjoe Marudo.
EPISODE 2: PAROLA by Jerrold Tarog is a Freudian take on horror and suspense. It tells the story of two girls who braved the other line beyond death to call upon the spirits of deceased sorceresses, unknowingly bringing back their old grudges and consequently involving the two main characters. The story may be unelaborated, and without frills. But Parola, for it the flawless direction, design and presentation, is a SR&R episode to remember. A thriller with psychosexual undertones; thus comparable to Yshmael Bernal’s classic RR&R contribution in PRIDYIDER.
The FINAL EPISODE: RAIN RAIN GO AWAY, would have been a flop for it’s pathetic plot involving water had it not been for Eugene Domingo’s portrayal and the unexpected character developments and sub-plots.
Yes – the 13th offering of SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL is not as flawless, but who cares? Despite running for more than two hours, the stronger points redeem the failures.
Watch it, and see for yourself.