Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Red Shoes (2010, Raul Jorolan)

Combining the technical competence of a major studio film and the refreshing storytelling of an independent film, the debut film of Raul Jorolan is a winner. Using a non-chronological editing not unlike that of (500) Days of Summer, the film gets to the bottom of a relationship gone sour. It may also be dubbed as (5000) Days of Bettina. A young boy named Lucas caught a glimpse of a petite ballet dancer. That lovely girl named Bettina became his companion and lover for thirteen years.

The inventive script by James Ladioray situates the love story in the waning years of the Marcos regime and the early years of the post-Edsa People Power Revolution. It is peppered with references to human rights abuses. The screenplay was initially a finalist to the 2007 Cinemalaya competition. The filmmakers worked on it for a while but decided to pull the plug after encountering some budget problems. They realized that a beautiful script can only be filmed once, so they did not force it. The project remained stagnant until Unitel came to the rescue.

The Red Shoes was showered with the same loving care and quality befitting a production of Unitel, maker of La Visa Loca and Crying Ladies. It boasts of superb performances by a wonderful cast led by Marvin Agustin and an ingenious story about a filmmaker, footwear, fetishes, Film Center tragedy, forgiveness, forgetful Filipinos, and the follies of the former First Lady. The lush, glossy cinematography by Ike Avellana contrasts the red dress of a sobbing Liza Lorena with the blue sky and the verdant field.

A sour note for me is the musical number from the Madame Vange segment. It falls flat for me. I’m also weary of seeing Imelda impersonations. The former First Lady is so delusional and ‘crazy’ that it is a tough act to impersonate/parody her. I prefer the original Madam to self-inflict some damage. If you’ve seen the fantastic documentary Imelda, then you’ll get my drift.

The former First Lady figures prominently in several films dealing with the Marcos years. Her legacy goes beyond the 3000 pairs of shoes. She was hands on with several projects in Metro Manila. A self-proclaimed advocate of the beautiful and the arts, Imelda Marcos was given a tribute by the people of the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2009. Several questioned why a kleptocrat was accorded such honors. A similar case is happening with the movie industry people's praise for Cinemalaya founder Tony Boy Cojuangco. Have they wondered where he got all the money used to fund those Cinemalaya films?

Imelda may have done some wonderful projects for Filipinos but she is no hero and definitely not worthy of any tribute. The conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda led to tens of thousands of human rights violations being committed and billions of dollars being stashed away in private accounts.

The film's major conceit is it is alright to forgive the doer but not forget the bad deed. Bettina did the right thing at the end. The film noted that a major problem of Filipinos is they have a tendency to be forgetful. We have an impeached President running once more for the top position at the May 2010 presidential election. According to surveys, his voter preference rating is in double digits. Amazing! Only in the Philippines!

He who does not look back from whence he came from will never ever reach his destination. That saying is attributed to our national hero Jose Rizal. The film takes a glimpse at the dark years of the Marcos administration. Just like Filipinos who never learned their history lessons, Lucas repeats the dark deed of his father and loses the love of his life. May we learn from the film. Junk useless shoes and start treading the path to a better, truthful, and honest life. The May 2010 national elections should be a perfect time to reject useless politicians and elect candidates who will pave the way to a better Philippines.


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