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1.11.2011

PAST LIVES AND THE BEAUTIES SUMMONED : MY 2010 AT THE MOVIES

"My function is to make whoever sees my films aware of his need to love and to give his love, and aware the beauty is summoning him." - Andrei Tarkovsky

In a way, a catalogue of downfalls, having missed out on most of the Cinema One Originals and Cinemalaya and the "indie" section of the MMFF and some of Cinemanila and the stray Star Cinema fluke or two, and on the polar opposite, having seen nearly everything Hollywood saw fit to dump on us save for Skyline but I doubt if that counts as a sin of omission. Not that this caveat is anything new. As this is more of an indulgence than a civic duty and isn't really a job, it's perpetually been at the mercy of things like sloth and not having the time and the making of money and the getting of a life.

Mondomanila, it must be said, comes on like some Makavejevian depression musical only Khavn can hallucinate. I champion it heartily even as I hold back from placing it on my list out of my involvement in it and the implied nepotism that comes with picking something you were a part of. Also, I liked at least three other foreign films enough- - -Unstoppable, The Ghostwriter and The Social Network - - - to honorably mention them. The rest of 2010's domestic and foreign cinephile fad gadgets remain unseen to me, until 2011 at least, when these things tend to remedy itself.

Geography has a bearing on my imperfect system, such as it is. 70% of the list must have been publicly screened in Manila during the year, regardless of screening venue or nature of run or if it even had a run, as long as it was in country and in public. The other 30% will be given over to 2010 films that weren’t screened nor released domestically regardless of format, with enough room for that stray 2009 film my radar picked up a little too late. The only criterion I uphold is love and that got me as far as 20 this year, making it a 14:6 ratio. This year, I also tried ranking. It’s a superfluous business, all told, but not without its moments. Still, I might consider going back to alphabetical next year. This is in descending order, but if you're the type who's prone to obsessing on rank, know that I urge you to watch all these with equal fervor, if only because you really owe it to yourself to bite into something more nutritious from time to time before you go back to making do with Jon Favreau tentpoles and Katherine Heigl rom-coms.







The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, Russia, Russian Film Festival) : A bit of a cheat but we can cut Andrei some slack here, can't we? This was, after all, a film event, if not the film event of the year. Certainly was for me if only for how, after being inundated with 3D and HD and IMAX, none of it was still half as glorious as watching Tarkovsky - - - specifically this Tarkovsky - - - in 35mm.






Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand): All the serene arcana we've come to expect of Joe is here, of course, verdant and charged in the ways they usually are and also in ways that they usually aren't. An epistle but not so much to death but to the grace you find in dying right.







Ang Damgo Ni Eleuteria (Remton Suazola, Philippines,Cinema One Originals/Cinemanila): The single take technique counts as insanity, and as a plus given how insanity gets factored in less and less in films these days, but it doesn't show off so much as gives the piece buoyancy and in doing so attaches a sensation to the nonchalance with which we shrug off in real life the social malaise - - or any social malaise for that matter - - - at its heart. Plus, it's funny as all hell.









Agrarian Utopia (Sawan Banna) (Urupong Raksasad, Thailand): Of course, the title's meant to be ironic. These peasant families will toil the land until they're no longer able but will never attain the heavenly home in the fields the film's Thai title literally translates into. Like some Third World Days of Heaven and every bit as ravishingly envisioned.







Ang Ninanais : Refrains Happen Like Revolutions In A Song (John Torres,Philippines, Tioseco-Bohinc Film Series, Netpac/Cinemanila): After twisting a tongue he neither speaks nor understands until it's nothing but pure sound , John Torres proceeds to feed his elusive, sometimes poignant, often lovely, terribly mysterious object through its badly broken codes.









Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France, French Film Festival): In which the divvying up of a family inheritance turns into a consensual dissolution of mundane history and every single member an accesory to their own obsolescence. If anything, an epitaph to the impermanence of things and the eternal hold they have on us.









Sketches of Kaitan City (Kazuyoshi Kumakiri, Japan, Cinemanila): Starved of levity as these bleak tales of ordinary sadness are, there's something in its wintry air that keeps everything gauzy and afloat, a metaphysical helium perhaps, that at points almost passes for hope. Almost.







Kano: An American and His Harem (Monster Jimenez, Philippines, Cinemanila): There is that implied metaphor on how we as a country have always been beholden to the smarmy wiles of America but this is almost an anatomy lesson in the machismo that is often flown like a flag of male virtue here. The fiendishly charismatic Victor Pearson may have struck a lot of people as virtually diabolical, and enraged a few enough to want to do the filmmakers bodily harm, but in some circles, he could well be some kind of hero.











Cameroon Love Letter (For Solo Piano) (Khavn de la Cruz, Philippines/Africa, Tioseco-Bohinc Film Series): Every word like a dagger drawing blood, every complaint freighted with loss, every memory leaking toxins, every line of worst fit, all tangled up in blue and threaded by that mournful, gorgeous piano fugue. Funny how you can't tell a breakup letter from a suicide note sometimes.









Vox Populi (Dennis Marasigan, Philippines, Cinemalaya): The naysayers weren't being merely pissy when they said this looked ugly and tacky, it is ugly and tacky, but then that's a function of the milieu and also the whole point. Ugly and tacky as our cities can get, they're even uglier and tackier during elections. But in nailing the Philippine condition on little more than its surfeit of comic energy it pays the price for not exoticizing anything by disappearing into an obscurity it doesn't deserve.








Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda, Japan): Turns out Jens Lekman got it wrong
- - -the end of the world is not bigger than love. Anime video game endorphin for sating my inner geek the way Scott Pilgrim can't quite do anymore.











Madeo (Mother) (Bong Joon-Ho, Korea, Cinemanila): This is, essentially, Bong returned to the territories he covered in The Host
- - -the tensile strength of family members looking out for their own and the loosing of monsters on a placid community - - - only this time the family member and the monster is one and the same.











Police Adjective! (Corneliu
Porumboiu, Romania): A police procedural that delights more in the tedium of procedure and where every conversation - - - be it about the lyrics of an inane pop song or the moral fallout from arresting a teenager for breaking a law that will most likely not be one soon - - - blows up into a discourse with equal degrees of gravity and consequence.










A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, France, Cinemanila): It's a bit like The Wire transposed to the French penal system, that is, if you go by how the overlapping ethnicities bear heavy on the power struggles of the underworld and also if you go by the ferocious dispersal of energy in charting the apotheosis of a crime lord from the ground up.







Detective Dee And The Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Tsui Hark, Hong Kong): Just when you think all the chaos and opulence couldn't get any more berserk and contaminated, there's Andy Lau doing martial arts battle with magic deer. Oh boy. Sure is nice to have you back, Mr.Hark. Please don't go off and make things like Missing anymore. Or anything with Jean Claude Van Damme in it.



Love In A Puff (Pang Ho-Cheung, Hong Kong):
Boy meets girl during their smoking breaks - - -
now there's a rom-com high concept with universal catch-all that it seems only Asians can pull off, as it's the lack of hurry and the lack of the need to rub everything in and the insistence on actuality as a style that make this warm and lithe and
swoony. The
Rohmer vein a lot of people claim it taps isn't just for
the way Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue talk in circles but also, and more so, for
the sensual causality of their brief encounters.








Senior Year (Jerrold Tarog, Philippines, MMFF): The effect is less of rekindling that rarefied and possibly false sense of magic we inflate our high school memories with but more like observing the social dynamics of a species seemingly removed from us yet somehow not. Were we ever this impetuous in our youth, this oblivious? Jerrold is actually saying we still are.





Monsters (Gareth Edwards, USA, Domestic Release): Either the lack of resources forced its hand or there really is an aesthetic at work here that warrants looking out for as Gareth Edwards may turn out to be that rare thing in Hollywood, an ex-FX man familiar and possibly even infatuated with the virtues of restraint. More than the dreamy and shapeless and awkward languor of his lo-fi sci-fic love story, it's really the world
that
he builds from parts of ours and parts of something else, and of which he only shows us the parts made of rustle and shadow, that makes this such an immersive trip.



Piranha 3D (Alexander Aja, USA, Domestic Release): The dismembered penis scene towers above all but then again I haven't seen Jackass 3D yet. Alexander Aja pees in Hollywood's punch.
Lap it up, fanboys.
Anarchic, almost.















Art & Copy (Doug Pray, USA, Special Screening): The making of scam ads is like masturbating in front of a mirror pretending that noodle in your hand is bigger than it really is, only more deluded because you also pretend you're a genius when you're really just another sad wanker. No sad wankers here.

21 comments:

Noel Vera said...

Two things:

I wish you saw Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio. Or at least write about it when you do.

And--

I disagree heartily about Hark-Van Damme collaborations. I think Double Team is a wonderful film.

dodo dayao said...

I'm on the lookout Noel. Hopefully Oggs and Chard and myself can get back curatorship of the Fully Booked gig we inherited from Alexis. Ang Paglilitis was one of our planned screenings for 2011. And yeah, I do plan to write more this year. :)

Oh I thought Double Team was cool,too. Just that it takes Tsui away from making films in HK. Not that his last few works before Detective Dee were any good. (Except for his part in Triangle,though)

Etchie said...

Sucks though, that Paglilitis has not seen the light of a commercial release. Di ko napanood nung Cinemalaya nun. One of the few things I still regret on not doing...

dodo dayao said...

A commercial release is doubtful. But hopefully screenings will sprout up this year. Crossing my fingers.

Bukod sa na-miss mo yung Paglilitis,pre, nakalimutan din nating uminom nung nandito ka. Hehe. :)

Etchie said...

Oh yeah. Paglilitis and Pag-inom. Two things. Rain check on the latter, pwede? Haha. Hopefully by next year. I'll make the most of it. :D

GREETINGS BY ANTOINE DOINEL said...

Panalo tong listahan mo pre. Glad to see you're prolific. : )

ricky torre

dodo dayao said...

Maraming salamat 'tol. Sana bwelo na nga 'to. At sana maging prolific din sa ibang bagay na mahalaga. Kagaya ng tsiks. :)

Adrian Mendizabal said...

The Mirror. Nuff said. I wish to see sir noel's Paglilitis this year on the silver screen. Siya nga pala, Damgo will be shown sa UPFI sa Jan 26, 9PM, nagtext si epoy. Punta ba kayo sir etchie? Asteeg ng listahan! :) need to watch Detective Dee And The Mystery of the Phantom Flame, is this film as wasak as begotten? or close to it?

Have you watched Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami?

dodo dayao said...

Salamat Adrian.:)

Apples and oranges ang Detective Dee at Begotten, magkaibang uri ng pagka-wasak. Kung fan ka ng trabaho ni Tsui Hark, top-tier ang Detective Dee, kahaligi ng Peking Opera Blues, The Blade at Time and Tide. "Return to form" ang madalas na binibitiwang salita ng mga tao. Pwede.

Certified Copy is part of my staggering backlog. One of these days, when the work eases up.

rico said...

"An epistle but not so much to death but to the grace you find in dying right."

That's some cool-ass writing, man. Can't say I've seen most of your list (I'm never up-to-date, sadly). I'm less infatuated with MOTHER though. There's something about it that felt manipulative and dishonest, but wrapped in the guise of "serious cinema." I remember when Andrew Sarris was anti-Kubrick and his main complaint about him was that he operated within a "Mad Magazine," sophomoric dynamic and yet paraded the work as serious art. I think Sarris has since changed his mind about SK. For some reason, that entered my head watching the film. At least with Kubrick you knew he was laughing at the absurdity of it all. With Bong Joon-ho, you're not quite sure he's laughing with his characters or at them. It reminds me a bit of the petulant kid you grew up with, the one that liked to stick nails in rats just to admire how the blood oozed out, he, he.

Dude, looks like you cranked out these multiple reviews in a huff! That's good-- as a keyboard fighter you've channeled your inner puncher! No more long, drawn-out 12 round decisions-- am whacking these suckahz out, he, he. :-)

dodo dayao said...

Thanks man! :D

Interesting perspective on Bong Joon-Ho (and on Stanley Kubrick). It's a complaint that comes up from time to time with regards to the Coens, too. And I tend to sort of agree in a way. But then I'm a fan of all three. Go figure. :)

Let's hope whatever workout i got from these babies makes me fighting fit this year,writingwise. I plan to eliminate sloth as an excuse for not writing. That leaves work, which, unfortunately, I can't avoid. But I plan to work around.

Check out A Prophet and Detective Dee and maybe Monsters. I think you might like these. Piranha 3D,too! Art & Copy, unfortunately, might be a niche film for those of us who used to be enthralled by the so-called art of advertising, emphasis on the "used to be". Still, nostalgic.

Noel Vera said...

His HK movies were not all that good, either, I thought.

And I thought Triangle only really canme to life with the Johnny To portion. Though parts of the Ringo Lam were extraordinary.

dodo dayao said...

I had high hopes after Time and Tide (which I liked a lot) but yeah, it's been a downhill slog since then - - -only Seven Swords had moments but they weren't much, Missing and that Zu remake were terrible.

Detective Dee reminds me of the Tsui Hark of old (The Blade and Peking Opera Blues are my favorites of that iteration of Hark) . I'm hoping it's uphill from here but then Detective Dee could be just another Time and Tide and we're in for another streak of post-comeback failures.

Still. To's doing superlative work. And so's Pang Ho-Cheung and Pou-Soi Cheang. Dante Lam seems to be keeping the Heroic Bloodshed flame alive. And Woo's making Chinese films again. It's not as it HK needs Hark much. Although I wish Ringo Lam would start making films again. One of his last films before Triangle (Full Alert) was every bit as extraordinary - - -and that Van Damme movie of his, Replicant, wasn't as bad as it seemed.

jayclops said...

great list only i haven't seen the Pinoy films. Summer Hours probably tops my 2009 list (a list probably would never really get going haha).

dodo dayao said...

Thanks. :) And yeah, I know how it is . . . with these lists. Hehe.

rico said...

Do, I'm no Asian movie expert like you (or Noel), but I think one of JCVD's best films was MAXIMUM RISK by Ringo Lam. Awesome sauna/bathhouse fight scene which predated Cronenberg's more famous fight scene in EASTERN PROMISES. Cronenberg's might be more visceral and engrossing primarily because he had the balls (pun intended) to have Vigo do his martial arts buck naked against -gasp!- knife-wielding assassins.

Fritz Silorio, our PD, has "funny" stories to tell about Lam. While working on a movie of his here in the Philippines as Set Builder, Fritz said that every member of his Chinese crew was deathly afraid of him. Word was it was because of his ties to the Triad (gasp again!).

dodo dayao said...

Rumor has it that Maximum Risk had a wilder script. I know it had a far more evocative title (which escapes me at the moment) but it was wrested from Lam's hands by the producers or maybe it was Van Damme himself (again). But it was Van Damme who recruited Lam and they both worked together on two other films so it probably was the studio. I heard the last film they worked together on, In Hell, was pretty good, too.

But yeah, I remember that scene. I also liked the sequence outside the bank. I remember waiting for the film eagerly back then as I was obsessed with all these HK filmmakers (Woo,Lam, Kar Wai, Hark, Chan) but haven't had a chance to see their work yet. Lam I only knew as the director whom Quentin stole scenes of Reservoir Dogs from (a fact many American critics try to sugarcoat with words like "inspired" so as not to implicate their own perhaps but is annoying, moreso after seeing City on Fire) and this was his first film in Hollywood, his Hard Target, and his first film of his I saw. Also, Jean Hugues Anglade from Killing Zoe was in it and that time was my Tarantino-Avary-indie crime film fanboy phase. Haven't seen it since so I'm not sure what I think of it anymore. Weirdly enough, Van Damme's movies with Lam are a bitch to track down.

Nice anecdote ,though. Para palang Frank Sinatra si Ringo. :)

dodo dayao said...

Speaking of tough to find movies and of Ringo Lam, I think my favorite work of his might be School On Fire. I saw it once on cable and been looking for it since. I found a VCD of it for sale at Yesaia, which I might just buy.

I think that movie Lam did here was The Suspect with Louis Koo and Simon Yam. And it wasn't bad. Richard Bonnin was in it but unfortunately he doesn't get an imdb credit. At least Monsour got one for that film he did with Takashi Miike, Two Guys From Paradise, which I have a DVD of without subs. Boo. :)

Noel Vera said...

I liked In Hell, tho it's the most problematic, because it's so dark. And Replicant I thought was terrific--mostly a Rooker film, not Van Damme.

Maximum Risk I remember not for the bath but for the elevator scene. It's like a problem Van Damme and Lam set for themselves. What's Van Damme's greatest strength? His kicking. What if you attacked him in an elevator? He's fucked. What can he do about it?

Lam grinds him down slowly, painfully, and in such enclosed spaces (with accompanying grunts and fleshy thuds) that you're sure Van Damme's finally bought it. Then--what can Van Damme do in an enclosed space when he's a leg man?--Lam presents the solution so suddenly it takes your breath away. Fantastic fight sequence.

tom joad said...

Hi Dodo, I made a compilation of lists of 2010 top Pinoy films and I included yours. I posted it in our blog here: http://threetimezones.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/ten-best-reviewed-filipino-films-of-2010/.

dodo dayao said...

Cool! :) Thanks for the heads up. :D