Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rizal sa Dapitan (1997, Tikoy Aguiluz)

Jose Rizal was a gambler who regularly played the lottery in Spain. He thought that a possible win may help big time in having his book published. It was only later that he won a large prize from a Spanish lottery. The winnings were used in purchasing hectares of land during his exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte. The place holds the distinction of being a Heritage Zone mostly because of the innumerable Rizal tangibles and intangibles.

Rizal sa Dapitan, an award-winning film by director Aguiluz and scriptwriter Jose Lacaba, gives us a restraint account of Rizal’s stay in that small town from 1892 to 1896. It features arguably the best Rizal performance by a movie actor (Albert Martinez). The movie may be of worth even for those who are already well-versed in Rizal’s life. There may be a surprise, or two, left for the Rizal enthusiasts.

A well-loved doctor, Rizal’s legacy goes beyond his clinic. He creates the town’s water system, organic gardens, and fruit orchards. He made improvements to the town plaza by planting trees. He is a firm believer in education. Not only did he build a school for the children but he also teaches the kids in the afternoons.

This strong belief in education is one of the reasons why he rejects the idea of revolution as broached by Pio Valenzuela. Jose Rizal (Albert Martinez) believes that the Filipinos are not yet ready for independence. He may be a gambler but he is not a fool to push his ill-armed and ignorant compatriots to wage war against the Spaniards.

Rizal’s honor and integrity is severely tested when friends and allies coerce him to escape. He refused saying that he gave his word not to leave the place illicitly.

It is in this idyllic town that he meets Josephine Bracken (Amanda Page). The film shows the couple having a mock wedding because the Spanish parish priest will not accede to their marriage. They eventually became live-in partners. It is not entirely a rosy affair in the beginning. There is a scene wherein Rizal confronts Bracken about some rumors that cast a bad light on the character of the lady. The heated argument may have led to Bracken giving birth prematurely to a stillborn baby.

Rizal as a father? Yes, he is the father, not of Adolf Hitler, but of Francisco Bracken Rizal. And, he is also rightly called the Father of our Nation. He takes pride in being part of the Los Indios Bravos. He calls for reforms that will in time pave the way for complete independence of the Filipinos. His determination to forge a nation with common aspirations and ideals makes him the First Filipino.

Watch the film and be proud seeing Jose Rizal used his immense talents and skills to great use. Poet. Sculptor. Surveyor. Engineer. Naturalist. Surgeon. Farmer. Educator. Businessman. Nationalist. The list goes on and on…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick)

To be happy is to love…

The extraordinary, scintillating, and cathartic film bombards us with beautiful scenes of love: Children playing happily on the streets… A lad comforting a crying brother… A mother doling out advice to her three sons… Father and son collaborating on a musical duet…

Those halcyon days are long gone for a middle-aged executive named Jack O’Brien (Sean Penn). He glimpses back at the best of times but remembers mostly the worst of times.

Where were You?

A family outing turns into a lesson about life’s dark side. The religious lad asks the Lord, ‘why did a boy have to die?’ His dad, who prefers to be called father, decides to prepare his sons to get adjusted to the real world. It is a world fraught with dangers and evil people. He teaches them how to survive.

The tranquil family life is regularly shaken up with marital conflicts. These shouting bouts soon escalate into physical abuse. These latter events serve as trigger for the lad to have an intense hatred for his father. He releases his pent-up emotions through delinquent acts. He indulges in torturing frogs by tying them up in rockets. He blasts off the pointer finger of his little brother.

In his current state as a top executive, he tries to get a grip on his failed relationship with his father. He still looks up to the sky as if seeking for answers to his questions. (Director Malick is famous for his sky scenes and one of the most memorable is this film’s picturesque skyscraper scene blackened by a swarm of insects).

His father, Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt), is just like most parents who wish only good things for their kids and loved ones. They try to send their children to prestigious schools and provide them with the best food and shelter they can afford. They pray daily for the Lord to deliver them from evil and accidents. But, no matter how sheltered they are, the kids eventually get to face bullies, rumor-mongers, despicable ones, and low-life scums. How will religious, loving kids, who haven’t experienced traumatic events, react to evil things?

Mr. O’Brien’s approach is to toughened out his kids. He hones their boxing skills and teaches them to fight back. Jack obviously is a good student as he gets to make it to the top of a cut-throat world. But, it is a lonely world. There is a scene showing him all alone in a landscape that seems to be out of this world.


Amidst the search for answers, that word suddenly crops up in Jack’s mind. It will turn out to be one of the most important advices handed out by his beloved mother.

Corollary to love being the road to happiness, forgiveness is the key to surviving in an unfair world. Some people will ultimately disappoint and hurt you. The key factor is not to hold a grudge and just to forgive them. Enemies are not vanquished through fighting. They disappear when you love and consider them as friends or loved ones.

This Palme d'Or winner reminds critics of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey because of the creation scenes, wordless segments, monolith-like door in the alien landscape, life flashbacks, and the use of classical music, among other things.

Malick’s film though reminds me more of Sari Dalena’s magnificent short film The White Funeral. The lahar-ravaged landscape, erupting volcanoes, sins engulfing hearts of people, and the themes of forgiveness and rebirth are just some of the major images and topics also dealt with in The Tree of Life. The two films also feature powerful, memorable music scoring and sound effects. Both films have given me by far some of the most inspiring and uplifting cinematic experiences in my life. I can’t wait to see them again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jose Rizal movies: Screening schedules

Haven't seen Gerardo de Leon's epic Noli Me Tangere? In a few days you'll get your rare chance to watch it.... on the big screen!

SM Cinemas, Goethe Institute, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines join the nation in celebrating Jose Rizal's 150th birth anniversary with a simultaneous nationwide screening of the classic movie. The early morning screenings at SM Cinemas are for FREE.

Click here for SM Cinema sked (Jun 16 - Jun 21)

Can't wait for de Leon's Noli Me Tangere? Then catch Eddie Romero's take on Rizal's first novel. The 13 television episodes will be shown at the Cultural Center of the Philippines' Dream Theater. Admission is FREE.

Dream Theater, CCP Sked:

Eddie Romero's Noli Me Tangere (made-for-television)

Jun 15, Wed
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Jun 16, Thu
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Jun 17, Fri
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

If you'll ask me what Rizal-related movies I highly recommend, then the Sisa movies are on top of my list along with Bayaning 3rd World. Mario O' Hara's enchanting, sexy Sisa and Gerardo de Leon's masterful Sisa will be screened back to back this week at UP Film Institute. Admission ticket is PHP 35.

Videotheque, UP Film Institute Sked:

Jun 16, Thu
Gerardo de Leon's Sisa - 5:00 PM
Mario O' Hara's Sisa - 7:00 PM

Jun 17, Fri
Gerardo de Leon's Sisa - 5:00 PM
Mario O' Hara's Sisa - 7:00 PM

Jun 18, Sat
Mario O'Hara's Sisa - 2:30 PM
Gerardo de Leon's Sisa - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Endo (2007, Jade Castro)

Endo: Short for end-of-contract. Slang for last day of temporary workers.

Endo, a cinematic highlight of the illustrious Cinemalaya 2007 film festival, tells the moving story of a habitual contractual worker named Leo (Jason Abalos). He has been accustomed to holding jobs temporarily that he stopped believing in long-term planning and long-distance romance. He lives on a day-to-day basis. His meager take home pay is just enough to take care of his distraught father and shoulder the school expenses of his younger brother.

His relationships with women have been regularly brief. Most of them don’t last longer than five months. He not only endures the pain of losing a girlfriend but also ends up agonizing over the loss of another job. Almost always, his love contract is co-terminus with his employment contract.

The intense pain of losing a job can wreck havoc on a person’s life. The American film Up In the Air has a newly-dismissed person committing suicide. On the other hand, Leo may not be dead but he is nevertheless lifeless. Caught up in a Groundhog Day situation, he gets to experience the pain over and over again with no possible relief in sight. He no longer cares about living life to the fullest. It’s a cul-de-sac for the underskilled lad.

All seems hopeless until he begins to yearn for Tanya (Ina Feleo), a fellow temp worker flitting from job to job. Leo is not entirely immune to pain after all. Losing a job may be a mosquito bite to him but the pain of losing Tanya is akin to enduring a harrowing bout with tooth abscess. The pain gnaws bit by bit until he can no longer ignore the jackhammer pain. The thought of missing her forever wakes him up from his stupor and he resolves to dream and live again.

The proletarian countenance of Endo is vastly different from the middle class sensibilities of Star Cinema romance films. Leo and Tanya go to a cineplex but both decide not to watch a film. ‘Walang maganda,’ says a character. But, in all likelihood, they do not have enough money to buy tickets. All they have is one another and the hope of a brighter future.

The romantic film Endo is notable for its tender moments. The most memorable of them is a cool scene that recalls the refreshing indie spirit of the café dance sequence in Band of Outsiders. The impromptu scene highlights the magical hold of Tanya on Leo (and the audience). The girl improvises an enthralling dance right in the middle of the street. She smiles, charms, and beguiles the guy. Her eyes twinkle brightly like stars in a dark sky. Her hips sway to the beat of the music. The vivacious girl is so full of life and bewitchingly loveable. She then gives him a long, long kiss.

Tanya’s contagious optimism and positive outlook resuscitates the inert Leo. The guy decides to wait for the return of the ship-bound girl. Tanya is no longer treated as a syota or short-time girl but a potential long-term life partner. He has found the girl of his dreams and will not terminate his love contract with her.