1. Pitik-Bulag, dir. by Chad de Guzman
There is a resonance of pure terror from the calculated tactic of Chad de Guzman’s storytelling in Pitik-Bulag, simple as it is complex in its one-long-take succinctness. It is able to let its dire set-up unbreathe until its last fuse lets its smoky steam spark up fire on that final image of a smile–at once both a relief and a source of genuine fear.
Everything else works noticingly. The correlated choreography of both camera and performance, all too natural for it to never feel a slight budge, or an accidental slip perhaps, from the overall gnawing tension the film exudes. It owes much to the performances of Ross Pesigan, who elicits the momentous sidestep of innocence, suddenly lost in him, in that single nuance of a gesture; and Jun Quintana, most especially, for not having just worn a mask to excellently portray the lecturing brother, but altogether sheds skin and blood to stitch a new face to his own, and how the transformation is apparent. (4/5)
2. Oras ng Paglisan, dir. by Ian Bondoc
How to translate into image the dirty mechanics of separation? You’d somehow remember Asgar Farhadi’s A Separation, a loud-mouthed film it begins, and yet goes on only to possess quite a restraint that manages to subdue emotions, trickle them down until they dissipate suddenly into your own, as if being hit by a piece of stone unaware. Ian Bondoc’s Oras ng Paglisan is entirely another story, but adheres to the same intentions–what result, what consequence, after this separation?
Thus, it begins: annulment papers approached by the camera with a closeness as to speculate, but not enough to fully comprehend. And it goes on: pure speculation, never enough comprehension. The subtle camerawork distancing itself to let the geography of this otherworldly terrain speak for itself–as if this journey towards separation demands the spiritual excess inhabited in the most silent of gestures exchanged and received. The breathing space of each character–between husband & wife, and between parent & son–allows us to penetrate further, but again only at a level of subjectivity rather than the exacting preciseness of ‘what is’.
What is, then? Where Farhadi’s A Separation begins does Ian Bondoc’s Oras ng Paglisan ends–at once, the seeming final confrontation, but in real terms, only what begins the difficult trek towards the peak of the permanent severance of ties. (4/5)
3. Sanguine, dir. by Koji Arboleda
When to decide that the formula of plot becomes immaterial, and the power which the image holds, its grand substitute? In Koji Arboleda’s dark fairytales, such as his current one aptly entitled Sanguine (perhaps to mean bloody rather than hopeful, optimistic), the female form once again takes the shape of sadness and becomes it, and only it. The image that opens the film is that of a forest queen, perhaps its immaculate spirit caretaker, a fairy in disguise, in use of a human cloak. And her, in frustrated anguish, committing the act of murder.
Such powerful imagery that begins it, then follows through every scene unfailingly, until it turns full circle, comes around explaining the reason behind such savagery from the beautiful tropical enchantress. The overuse of cut-to-blacks becomes a device–here are flashes of moments after moments, as if a series of still photographs are suddenly enchanted the power to be in motion. The forest here is a dreary landscape, even a tad bit reminiscent of Bela Tarr’s dark universes.
The strength here is the power of the image. As we follow the twists and turns of a young traveller who finds his way to his imminent end, there exists the perfect rhythm of image and black, image and black, as if enclosed in them the impending doom that leads nowhere but to flashes of pitch black nothingness. (4/5)
4. Project Weekling, dir. by JM Jamisola
JM Jamisola’s Project Weekling tells about a weakling’s weakling heart, and how suddenly the weakling has some sort of a eureka moment, that in a week he tries to become a weakling no more by wooing the girl of his dreams. The girl whose pictures are scattered like a humongous scrapbook page on his bedside wall. The girl who is offered an altar inside his closet, complete with lighted red candles. That girl, we all have that girl–or better yet, that person.
Project Weekling is amazing because in its ordinariness and how it seems like an already supposed to be overridden cliche that it captures the essence of what it decides to tell, with of course the perfect wit and heart for its achy, hearty narrative. And in that final sequence, with that touch of pure silence and all ordinary (and yet, suddenly all too extraordinary) imagery of what it means to be delighted by the simplest of gestures–that you suddenly get it. That JM Jamisola gets it, and gets it pretty well. (3.5/5)
5. Dalaga Na Si Audrey, dir. by Baschia Mariano
Here is another narrative which pries on the youth who discovers love (maybe even for the first time), and rediscovers its idea only to misunderstand her whole notion of it in the end. A straightforward charm Baschia Mariano’s Dalaga Na Si Audrey has, with a fairly memorable lead character to boot.
The title implies–or rather, announces–that Audrey has blossomed into a full grown woman, and how? That it deals with the necessities of heartbreak that we get a clue as to how Audrey comes of age. Full of it is Audrey facing the consequences of her silly misconceptions, and thus, the need for that realization. Working on the conventions of romantic comedies, the film exudes the confidence of a work that is fully realized from every bit of dialogue down to the precise detail of a guitar strum note. Which helps it pull itself up and differentiate it a bit from the usual romantic flick–funnily enough, it owns moments that are disjoints of whatever formula is known to exist. In a way. (3/5)
6. Umami, dir. by Robert Sarmiento
Hyperlink cinema is tied up, most usually, to existentialist cinema; in Robi Sarmiento’s Umami, the tied-up lives are a bunch of messes, but both an ironic and hilarious bunch they could happen to be. The three main characters the film delves into can all be familiar caricatures: 1) the probinsiyano in Manila; 2) the transexual byukon queen; 3) the poor kid snatcher. But what is admirable in Umami is its attempt to inject depth on these character moulds, and turn them into real people with real lives and real problems.
Real people with real lives and real problems they become, and how their unknowing interactions create such a mystical insight on our interconnectedness as human beings. The mighty do fall, and sometimes, the mighty all fall together. In this case, they all sit down and have a break at life with a delicious bowl of kanto mami. (3/5)