Dead Sea

Happy Trio

The local indie scene has been very keen on capitalizing on the new wave of directorial talent that has flooded the film industry for the past decade. The term capital, otherwise utilized in the net rather than the negative, is a relative term. Watching Ron Bryant’s Alon in all its sprawling and subtle intricacies with less than half of the theatre occupied adduces the reality. Needless to say, the market for such works is slim if it exists at all. The film’s respite is its understated power to mesmerize the thirsty few. It is, apparently, a slow reverie that drowns the consciousness not in waves but in drops, perhaps a form of torture to some, but to others an enrapturing feat.

The movie starts with scenic platitudes of the beach broken by a voice reciting a poem. The poem itself is obvious in its emotive intent. The film took another course. It is presented in layers, first appearing as a reverse Lolita (Kubrick's film) where the desire is projected from the viewpoint of the coltish naïf Vanni played by the excruciatingly ebullient Charee Pineda. She awkwardly vaunts her whiles to Fiel (Mark Gil) who is curiously obtuse to her advances. Once the audience gets completely inundated with Pineda’s annoying treble, the movie is set to unravel, showing the counterpoint to Fiel’s apprehension. The appearance of Eula Valdez as his sick wife Angela who is much too eager to have her husband move on with another woman is a study in melodrama and marital sacrifice. What comes out is an emotional menaja twa that leaves the audience guessing at the characters’ intrinsic turbulence, best illustrated by Gil in perhaps his most subtle role to date. Though at times elliptical, the movie dissolves gracefully in its own introspection.

Despite the predictability of the landscape, the movie employed a lot of curious points in terms of cinematography. Light was muted, shown perpetually through fissures of leaves, through the interlacing of a hammock, through hazy window glass. There are scenes where light is circumvented entirely, leaving the audience in visual limbo. It is testament to the director’s intent, perhaps a form of emotional expression that has dominated the artistic paradigm of the 21st century. The story-telling too is indicative of this, cautious in its progression but with eventual flashes of silent intensity, obviously not a fixture for the hot-blooded. It is a refreshing alternative to the shock market of hyper-intense realism that has engulfed the indie aficionado’s esoteric world.

And such a small world it is after all. Due to the burgeoning of low-cost productions, directors are able to indulge themselves in otherwise inaccessible work. Effectively, the indie scene has become a clubby enclave, a murder of talented (and not-so-talented) crows perching on trees in the middle of nowhere with only a few to listen to their irreverent squawking. Though it has gone a long way, it still has to connect not just with chosen intellectuals and masturbation fiends, but with a broader “Filipino” audience. Some may say that this defeats the purpose of indie. It is only a naïve illusion in a capitalist world.

Though Alon may have its faults, it is certainly worth the trouble of going all the way to a particular mall, the only place where you can possibly watch it. I guess it gives blood to the term “limited release”. But them’s the terms, you either surf in an ocean of still water or choose to drown with a cup of milk. I think that’s just the philosophical equivalent of freedom leading to inevitable dissatisfaction. Either way Bryant was perhaps not indulging himself in a masterpiece of cinema, but the devices he used manifest a style that is very now, very into the cool. The movie itself is not cool, which is why a lot of people may not like it, and it doesn’t have two guys fucking, which is why a lot of gays (majority indie share-holders) won’t watch it. But for the sake of intellectual argument, watch it. The brain will always ponder first and induce vomiting later.

Written by: Alex Milla (Guest Critic)


Charlie Koon said...

omg. you're too explicit. haha. anyway, i abhor censorship so i would leave it as is.

back to Alon, for me, this is the Best Film of Cinema One Originals 2008. It has the strongest narrative, which i think most indie audience might be confused. we are accustomed to films without a narrative. i would even consider Alon as the Best film of 2008 based from the films i saw and it is way better than Ploning (not of course compared with its technicalities) but on the intricacies of the emotions employed. i could not even guess what is next and it tries to shift from one point of view to another and then back again to the first. this is a complex work. it is hard to see some parts if you are also in those situations. that is so true!

despite charee's annoying diction, i think they are trying to get an effect i certainly understand it.

Watch Alon if its shown again in theatres. This is a story of true love. unconditional love i think :) 4.5/5 stars

Anonymous said...

I should forward this to direk ron, he would appreciate both your comments.

Charlie Koon said...

thanks anonymous. no doubt, its the best film of 2008.

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