Outright Confused

Manila is a film directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. and Raya Martin. This is actually a film tribute to Ishmael Bernal’s Manila by Night (City After Dark) and Lino Brocka’s Jaguar. I knew this was coming since most of our independent directors have their absolute and all-out praises for these two prominent filmmakers at a time when our film industry is soaring high. Last year, I had the chance to read interviews of Lino Brocka. They were very insightful and perhaps presented opportunities for curious people like me in having a glimpse of his intellect and predilections towards creating films. Based on that interview alone, Brocka might be displeased with this film.

Lino Brocka is known to be a perfectionist. If he does not like what he has made out of his film, he will make the first move to caution his comrades in watching it. In comparison to today’s generation, even if the film is downright sickening, most of them still have the audacity to promote their self importance. This is not about Alix and Martin as this is a direct admonition towards the broad-spectrum of filmmakers. Of course all filmmakers have their own principles. But I could not feel the inspiration that could have been passed over by Brocka or even Bernal towards our diversely influenced artists.

These filmmakers are really confused with their craft. I could now feel that they are more in tuned with creating a new era which they could call their own. And all of them are struggling to be the first. You will notice that with most of their outputs, something lies beyond which is their personal thirst for a larger achievement. Their revolution is of course spineless since they still carry on the mark of the past. Manila is a fair illustration of what they have in mind. If we will think outside of the box or the seemingly bigger idea of what films are, it is not just about being recognized as a post-modern form of artwork. The film is a direct implication of a budding era of films. I think it does not matter for Alix and Martin if the film fails or succeeds. What matters to them right now is if this could lead to their names being embellished in Philippine film history as the birth of the radical age.

Going back to the film Manila analyzed on a normal plane, I could call it the equivalent of Pop in terms of film. It has parody elements all throughout, they could never deny it. Upon seeing the ‘Night’ segment of the film which is directed by Raya Martin, I could not distinguish the artistic difference with the ‘Day’ segment directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. I don’t know who’s copying who nor is it intended that the film must be cohesive even on the artistic voice of the director. Despite the superiority the film has relayed in terms of cinematography, lighting, sound design and all those technical stuff, it has muddled merits that they covet to acquire. It is more of an excuse than a tribute.

Piolo Pascual’s endeavor in making this film might dissipate into thin air. At least there’s the consolation of being part of Cannes Film Festival this year – he’s glad having the laurel leaf in his film portfolio. His acting in both roles as the dirty junkie William and as the bodyguard Philip is not something that you’ll flip over with delight (maybe that was the point). I could hear his conscience saying, “Oh, this is great. I should play darker roles to showcase my bloody abilities as a great actor.” He looks conscious in most of his scenes trying to look subtle as much as possible, it led to superficiality. He should look back to his acting in the film Chopsuey for better acting tips from himself.

Manila has picked-up some pieces not necessarily to enhance the greatness of Brocka and Bernal but for the sake of their own greatness. The point of the story is not only to show the interrelating characters but also has convoluted intentions. If these filmmakers have the primal idea of what Brocka and Bernal’s films are all about, then they should throw away all hindsight. Films are not made only for the marginal few - a film clubby thing. I assume films will always be for everyone no matter how radical the idea is.

Charlie Koon's Rating:


kumagcow said...

I dont even feel that you liked the film at all =/

HI THERE! WUT U DOIN?! :) http://www.kumagcow.com

Charlie Koon said...

uhm, its not about liking it or disliking it.. its not really important anymore these days.. its the new trend i guess. haha. joke.. :)

thanks for leaving a comment.

dodo dayao said...

"Lino Brocka is known to be a perfectionist. If he does not like what he has made out of his film, he will make the first move to caution his comrades in watching it. In comparison to today’s generation, even if the film is downright sickening, most of them still have the audacity to promote their self importance. "

Brocka made a lot of films that were meddled with by studio heads so chances are he would have a lot of product he was dissatisfied with. And bravo for him taking that stance that you mentioned. I don't get the next part of the paragraph,though.

Who determines if a film is downright sickening? The critic? The public? Or could it be that the filmmaker actually liked the film he made . . .and could it be that others might find it downright sickening. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Taste has been relative since . . .well, forever. If I find, for example, Citizen Kane downright sickening, does that make everybody who has called it the best Film of All Time "audacious at promoting their self-importance"?

Also I know of no filmmakers who promote their so-called self-importance . . .unless of course you're talking about flaunting awards they or their films have won,or something like that,which are of course very old school marketing tactcs, the whole practice dates back to . . oh, the 1930s perhaps. Saying your film got accepted at Cannes to help sell it is really no different than saying you have good taste in films, execpt maybe that the latter is a bit more arguable, as taste is relative.

I could be wrong with my assumptions, of course,and if that's the case, what's the self-importance you say is being promoted with audacity?

(No, I haven't wseen Manila yet, just genuinely curious/beffudled/confused about some of the points you were making . . which is why I ask, with respect of course.)

Charlie Koon said...

Hi Dodo!

As for my response:
I think it’s given that my role as a film reviewer is to guide the majority of the people. We should be ahead compared to a regular moviegoer and watch all possible films that are being shown. On my part, I see to it that I watch all Filipino films shown weekly and watch 5-10 foreign films (faithfully) on a weekly basis - in theaters, DVD and IPOD). So in effect, it would be easier to distinguish the finer films from the terrible ones. I hate to believe that if a person reviews or criticizes films, it’s always subjective to one’s taste or predilections. Seeing so many films could help us refine our taste level... challenging our way of understanding this serious art and leading us to be more objective. It’s really a process.

I would like to add what Lino Brocka said in the interview. We have to use our common sense. Logically, everyone is aware that trash stinks. It’s not even relative or subjective that a person will react in disgust with its smell, right? Its just a fact. Not unless you are immune to it... Tastes do vary, I know. But as a reviewer, the challenge at hand is to properly guide the moviegoers. I did not say that Manila is trash. I think it’s just not proper to address the film as a masterpiece or even above average.

Good day.

dodo dayao said...

Fair enough, Charlie.:)

But we might have to agree to disagree on a few points. I read an article somewhere that distinguishes a "reviewer" from a "critic" by your very definitions: reviewers are like consumer advocates, they stay as objective as possible and feel a certain responsibility to the public - - -and more power to that. Critics engage in discourse and the public they're responsibile for are those who've seen the movie. I don't consider myself either a "reviewer" nor a full-blown "critic". Just a writer is all. But I still maintain that the best critics (Kael, Farber,Bangs, Vera) are writers first - - -philosophers even, poets - - -and everything else second. And that subjectivity is a must. Objectvity is passionless and soulless (again, my opinion) and cinema is anything but. And I don't see why it's improper to think Manila a masterpiece . . . if you really do think it is, what matters is how the praise is articulated. I wish I had seen it so I could make a more informed response but sadly I missed it because of work.

This may sound snide of me, and I hope you don't take it the wrong way, but personally, if someone reads my reviews as some kind of consumer guide, then I don't really want to be talking to that person. That's sort of like reducing cinema to a commodity and I don't really think it is. If one truly loves film, you just go watch - - - bad cinema is as vital to our evolution as good cinema - - - not canvas to get the better deal. To watch anything is the deal for cineastes, if you ask me.

I do agree that there's always room to refine one's taste. . .until the day,perhaps, when we stop watching cinema, which could well be the day we stop taking a breath. But I, for one, do hope it doesn't make me objective.

Brocka has a point . . .but that applies ultimately to trash trash, not cinematic trash. There are filmmakers that everybody can unimaously agree on as makers of trash - - -a recent National Artist for one - - -but I'm not sure Ebert and the Cannes jury were getting the same smell off Brillante's Kinatay or how about when elder statesman critic Jonathan Rosenbaum lashes out at the universally-lauded Last Year At Mareinbad and I, for one, will challenge anyone who tells me Michael Mann's Miami Vice movie stinks to a brawl - - and yes, I think it veers close to a masterpiece, after Heat even. I'm not sure what context Brocka meant that common sense remark but ultimtely, there's no room for common sense in art.

But that's just me.

I hope you don't mind the rather verbose response.Charlie.

And thank you for replying. :)

Charlie Koon said...

before i made this blog, i have a clear objective in mind.. and that is to make reviews for the common people.. in that way, i succeed. writing for other critics or film theorists is like talking to a wall.

i have nothing against scholastic style of criticism.. and its too advance for my age don't you think? we cant be biased and show our predilections as these defeat the purpose of reviewing different kinds of films. but we are expected to be honest. an elitist perhaps... good films are ought to be praised.

but one thing is for sure, we love films.. films have been part of my existence. like what you have said 'perhaps, when we stop watching cinema, which could well be the day we stop taking a breath.'

peace dodo! i havent seen you yet in the festivals. other bloggers i have seen but im too shy to approach them.

dodo dayao said...

To each his own,Charlie,and more power. :) Personally, my approach to film criticism is that of a prose writer - - -the piece is the thing. But there's room enough for everything else, of course.

I was only able to spend one day in Cinemalaya so I missed a lot of films. Missed the UP run,too. But I'm keen on Cinemanila so maybe we can bump into each other there. Don't be shy. :) Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Raya Martin directed the 'Day' segment and Adolf Alix, Jr. directed the 'Night' segment. Just thought you might want to change what's written int he fourth paragraph.

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