Reel Freedom

Trio Mio
And so the night came when all the free peoples of our beautiful home-metropolis detached themselves from the substrate of their functional particularities in order to hark to another form of substantiated simulacrum which the philistines refer to as ‘indie culture’. There they were, the milk-lipped movie enthusiasts pseudo-mingling with the culturati of the blogosphere, all in their cat-eyed, long-haired, vitriolic glory. The air was rife with the colors of freedom, and so it should, as Raya Martin’s much anticipated and grant-bestowed Independencia puts the waiting crowd in a rare thirst, that which can only be quenched by a decent independent movie or as a matter of fact, a free movie, the latter being immune to any scruples of public decency and choosiness.
But as it turns out the audience did make a choice. Perhaps palled by Hollywood’s asphyxiating tinsel truck or the flesh parade of the quotidian Filipino indie film, they are starting to realize that maybe it’s time the directors stop fucking up and start making real movies. Whether Martin is the bearer of good things to come has yet to be seen but at least the good tidings are at hand. His film scintillates in a stylistic sense. The studio scenes are both innocuously attractive and deliberately nostalgic, trying to evoke no doubt the irony of the Philippine-American war set in an extinct aesthetic of a made-up American movie reminiscent of Hollywood’s early, in-studio period. Succinctly, the whole movie feels like a perambulating diorama. The claustrophobic forest with its synthetic weather and painted backdrop introduces Martin to an international audience as well as to his own countrymen as a technically proficient twenty-something colt with a flare for sepia tones and Lutgardo Labad’s classical music. Certainly the soundtrack is eerily gorgeous and the scenes maintaining a static loveliness thanks to the unmoving camera (again part of the aesthetic irony) but the film in general lacked the sensual violence that could catapult Martin’s work into the realm of masterpiece.
But the movie itself is not a failure; it is in fact direct evidence of Martin’s increasing maturity. He opted for a more conventional plot, quite peculiar since the movie was intended for Canne’s Un Certain Regard which tends to be more experimental. The scenes were less sprawling, less Antonionian, and certainly followed a clear and accessible trajectory. The subject matter also lacks the self-indulgence of a lot of Filipino indie films. The merits are still rather closeted but ineluctably undeniable. It has always been the opinion of this blog that the public has been yearning for stories to be told. Never mind art, never mind the idiotic prettiness that flowers in the breasts of dead rats and subtle angles. The days of the art films are over, should be over. If a director wants to find true art, he should look for it through the eyes of his tangible audience, not in the limpid pools of his own abstractions.
And such palpable forces Martin’s characters find themselves in. Confronted by the encroaching realities of war, a mother and her son are forced by their own volition to live in the forest, left with their human devices in an inhuman wilderness. They are typical Filipinos, moved by a typical hunger and a typical lust. It was intriguing to watch Sid Lucero, a young and obedient naïf, masturbating on the riverside, not a staple scene for most period films. The acting was itself like that of a 19th century play with de Rossi shining as the most natural despite the classical dialogue. Characterization in general is presented in two layers, the one seen by the outside world and the other intrinsic landscape conveyed through dreams and taciturn stares. Though the ending required a little prestidigitation, overall the characters are moved by the hackneyed and powerful hand of nature, to which they respond as the plot does, with a very Filipino sense of dignity and equanimity. Women are raped, seniors expire, children, like sylvestrian ghouls, come and go like the blinding dusk-edge, but the banana leaves must still be laid, the twig floor swept with the good ol’ broom. It is always a difficulty to live despite of your freedom. Before sidling towards the movie house I noticed Anita Linda entering the restroom, it was probably a sign telling me that though the movie I was going to watch free of charge, some things cost more than we expect.
Written by: Alex Milla (Guest Critic)
Independencia is shown in the recently concluded 14th French Film Festival held in Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong during the Philippine Independence Day (June 12).
Independencia also competed in the Un Certain Regard section of the recently concluded The 62nd annual Cannes Film Festival held from May 13 to May 24, 2009.


Charlie Koon said...

so Alex, in short, the film is ordinary??

well, for me, i liked it. at least in here, there's a story. there's a script, which is not being integrated in his previous films.

i think this film is not yet a masterpiece but it has promise.

overall its 4/5 for me.. its technically proficient. story has a lot to improve. come on, its the 21st century and i would not want to hear that the film just mimics old movies and its content, somehow attaining its objectives. go further...

other remarks:

this quote (from the review) is a challenge to our beloved filmmakers... "If a director wants to find true art, he should look for it through the eyes of his tangible audience, not in the limpid pools of his own abstractions"

well, i know some will never listen. still up to you.

macky said...

"If a director wants to find true art, he should look for it through the eyes of his tangible audience, not in the limpid pools of his own abstractions"

Whatever :D

Charlie Koon said...

well, its still up to them :)

Douglas Racso said...

i think martin has a certain target audience, this simply is not for everyone.

i usually enjoy boring films, but this movie went way overboard boring. i fell asleep! hahhaha

Charlie Koon said...

hahaha. me too, i love boring films! haha.

yogi afrianto said...

very good movie for the watch,,,, lots of inspiring stories in it ... so make the heart amazed

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