Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Birdshot (Mikhail Red, 2016)


Mikhail Red's sophomore effort is a surprisingly assured film revolving around two mysteries: the disappearance of a busload of agrarian reform activists and the killing of a Philippine (popularly known as 'monkey-eating') eagle.

Actually the second isn't quite a mystery as we know who did it: a young girl named Maya (Mary Joy Apostol, also her second feature) who wanders into a nature preserve and unwittingly brings down the great bird. But why is the felony being prosecuted so vigorously by the police when they have other more urgent cases to resolve? Who is the mysterious red-shirted figure stalking Maya through forests and farm fields on occasion standing silent outside her house?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tobe Hooper 1943 - 2017

He came he 'Saw he conquered

Tobe Hooper 1943 - 2017

The original Texas Chain Saw Massacre was shot for something like $350,000,which wouldn't even cover the makeup budget of the remake; they didn't even have the money to make a special effect 'saw so what you see for the entire film is a live and working chainsaw. Gunnar Hansen,who plays Leatherface says the 'saw started up every time and that sometimes he would work the saw just three inches from an actor's face looking through the tiny eyeholes of his Leatherface mask. I figure the fear you saw in their faces wasn't all acting. 

There was in fact one scene where he goes beserk with the 'saw (you see it in the film), and he could see through his tiny eyeholes the director of photography, one of the producers, and director Tobe Hooper running for their lives. 

One of my favorite stories that Hansen tells is of one of the characters who took ten hours to put his makeup on. After that ordeal he announced that he wasn't going to do that again, so he wanted all his scenes shot NOW, and then he's leaving for good.

So they shot round the clock for 27 hours to finish all his scenes, the most extensive of which was a dinner party in an enclosed room with an average temperature of 100 degrees indoors.

Everyone was broiling literally from the Texas heat, had gone without sleep for more than a day, and were under enormous pressure to finish the scene which was experiencing plenty of trouble, technical and otherwise. 

Gunnar Hansen confessed that several times he lost it. When someone yelled at him to "Kill the bitch (actress Marilyn Burns)," Hansen, thinking by this time that he really was Leatherface stood up and walked over, ready to really kill her.

Later in the same scene Burns' finger was to be cut by a knife. Hansen held a knife with its edge taped for safety, and a tube on the hidden side ready to spout blood. Only the fake blood had congealed and the tube wouldn't spout. 

After the umpteenth take with the blood not spouting Hansen turned around took the tape off,and on cue actually sliced Burns' finger open. Burns' horrific reaction to Hansen's cut wasn't acting either. 

Really there's an energy and force and--well, I hesitate to call it realism--to the original Texas Chain Saw that I don't think any remake reboot or rehash is ever going to match.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Salvage (Sherad Anthony Sanchez 2015)


Sherad Anthony Sanchez's Salvage (2015) takes its title from the common Filipino slang word for summary execution, which Pete Lacaba in his Manila Times column "Carabeef Lengua" explains: "It was during martial rule that salvaging came to acquire its present Filipino meaning. To salvage is to save things from a wreckage, but the visual similarity of the word to the Tagalog salbahe (naughty, abusive), which is itself derived from the Spanish salvaje (savage), inevitably led to the present denotation of salvaging as extrajudicial or summary execution of both criminal and subversive elements."

I remember a simpler explanation, though I can't remember where I got it nor find any documentary basis online: that the military is 'saving' or 'salvaging' the victim's soul from the evils of communism.

Hamog (Haze, Ralston Jover, 2015)

Children of the mist

Ralston Jover's Hamog (Haze, 2015) starts appropriately enough with just that: a thick cloud hovering low over humid Manila canals. The camera (presumably mounted on a drone) glides towards and rises over a huge sewer pipe lined with cardboard, on which the homeless young lie sleeping.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kita Kita (I See You, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2017)

Eye of the beholder

I'm guessing the secret to Sigrid Andrea Bernardo's success with Kita Kita turns on two things: 1) She wasn't looking to make the usual romantic comedy and 2) Audiences were sick to death of the usual romantic comedy and wanted something else. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright 2017)

Wheel fast

Edgar Wright's Baby Driver is like a little go-cart that whizzes by lickety-split; the action scenes are reasonably coherent with little visible CGI effects unlike some recent fast-car movies I can think of (Fast Five anyone?) cut to the rhythm of a catchy if not genuinely eclectic sound track.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream, Mike De Leon, 1977)

Love is a closely pondered thing

(Warning: plot and narrative twists discussed in detail)

Trust Mike De Leon not to pursue the usual career trajectory. If most aspiring writers and filmmakers are advised to write (film) 'what you know,' with Itim (Rites of May 1975) he spun a haunted tale evoking Gothic atmosphere with uncanny skill,* demonstrated a mastery of sound and image that made critics sit up and ask "What'll he do next?"

*(There's a rumor--not taken very seriously--that Hideo Nakata once worked in or apprenticed at or at least visited LVN Studios around the time of this film's release. True or not, tickles me pink to think that De Leon's first film may have had an influence on Nakata's own

Next apparently was a quiet little comic romance, not just intimate but downright confessional. Admit to not having met De Leon or knowing much about him, but Kung Mangarap Ka't Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream 1977) gave one the impression of an extremely private man allowing a glimpse into his soul. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan 2017)


Christopher Nolan's latest deals for the first time with an actual event, massive in scale and complex in nature--the mass exodus of over 300,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, arguably the greatest retreat (some might prefer the term 'escape') in history.