Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 in Movies: QCinema International Film Festival

I wasn't even aware this festival was happening until it was already halfway through and tickets were virtually selling out like pan-fucking-cakes. Please, please, please let there be future screenings of "Apocalypse Child." Pretty please.

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61. Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo (dir. Mihk Vergara)

Why do films often find the need to be about a lot of things, when they could be about just one thing told keenly, clearly and perceptively? Is the multitude of themes, of currents and undercurrents frenziedly weaving in and out the gauzy fabric of a story, always an asset? "Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo" could have just stuck to being about silly children and the games they play, a nostalgia trip telescopically viewed, such that this world of naiveté and credulity is suddenly rendered large and lucid, and it probably would have been a lot easier (because hey, truth-telling is hard) to call it "ingenious," "original," "imaginative."

Instead, it refuses to stay on that plane and pulls back time and again to show the "realistic," "normal," "natural" side of things. Thus, the unoriginal exploration of fractured families and the healing powers of tragedy, for example--the death of the chain-smoking grandmother bringing about the reconciliation of the squabbling siblings; the absentee mother as embodiment of the Filipino diaspora. Or when Meng (Nafa Hilario-Cruz), after being offered candy, responds, "Quit na ako diyan," and somehow it's painfully obvious the script doesn't really 100% believe in the cinematic frivolity of putting adult words in children's mouths. Or when the new kid in town is named Shifty, and there seems to be an awful lot of obese kids in the barangay, and it's not really clear whether laughter is the appropriate response because look, "Take me seriously whenever I please," this movie tells its by-now confused audience.

At the center of the saddest-looking and most poorly attended barangay sport fest is the harshest game of patintero ever played (one would be of sound mind to think twice before signing up and thus risking skull, limb and possibly life). It is so violent, riddled with profanity and images of kids dramatically being shoved and hurled, it's obviously not meant to be taken literally. It knows what it is and stands by its nature. That's commitment--a quality this movie as a whole unfortunately doesn't have enough of. 

62. Sleepless (dir. Prime Cruz)

"Sleepless" isn't really about two people who are in love. The emotional boundaries aren't exactly clear-cut, and more than once, the characters' intentions seem half-hearted (in the context of the story), if not dubious. And yet, the film leaves you thinking about the idea of romance itself, how it is to love and be loved or unloved. How it is to feel, in a manner of speaking. You wonder how, in a city of strangers and uncertain jobs and unblinking lights, love could still be pure, if not perfect. You wonder about alternate endings--how missing the train could have meant meeting that someone on the platform; how an extra couple of minutes in line for pretzels could have convinced you to buy that new David Mitchell novel at Fully Booked, and once there, you both unknowingly lay hands on that last copy at the exact moment. You wonder at the possibility of never meeting someone, of growing old alone in a room thirty floors above ground, with only the sunset and neon city lights for company. You wonder what goes on in the mind of the sleepless, the dazed, the ones who have long surrendered to the constancy of the real, instead of dreams. The best movies aren't the ones that sweep you off your cold seat during those two hours in darkness; they're the ones that won't seem to leave you long after you've rejoined the bright, noisy, humdrum world. We have to wake up sometime, after all.

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