Month: November 2016

‚ÄčEvery Room Is A Planet (Malay Javier, 2016)

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White hallways. Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. A city skyline at night, seen through a condominium unit’s glass panel walls. Antoinette Taus’s solid, sexy woman’s back. Quark Henares wearing goggles coming out of the bathroom. I’m enumerating stored images–residue-memory of this animal-structure of a film–Every Room Is A Planet. It has, at its center, its most captivating energy buttressed by one breathtaking song–a capsule of a short romance you think, after all those weirdness before and after it, is impossible to happen. But despite the movie’s general  disjointedness in terms of plot, there are elements that hook scenes: binary codes that come and go like a silent film’s intertitles, a sound design that’s appropriately eerie. And tolerable except for that instance of loud volume which must have cracked my eardrums, the time that milkwhite-skinned actress, probably with Polish blood, screams with the violence of pulled bound set of knives with edges scraping the bathroom tiles, and that same sound, overdubbed with the grumbling voices of demons. Those many edged pains were unleashed after the woman was reminded of her missing husband whom she believes had been abducted by aliens. 

That woman, Yannie (Valeen Montenegro), is neither stranger nor extremely different from the other cast of characters. Elly (Rap Fernandez) looks like an apathetic Japanese who is bored initially with his visits to his sick sister-in-law. Ms. Taus as the psychiatrist Dr. Cara hides, in her icelike mien in public and in her sexually stimulating voice inflections, what could be her feline, kinky, little, wild animal version under the sheets. Pinky Amador as the mother of Elly acts like a mental patient herself, who must be waiting for an antenna to grow, out through her skull through a sliding opening lid on her forehead to reveal a hole.

Early on, we search and wait for logical and emotional connections in the story. The waiting is too much, too long to handle for a time–that some airplane thrust levers appear on the sides of my seat enticing me to pull them up to eject and propel me out of the theater. I’ve seen a few members of the audience dart into the bathroom compartment to take quick breaks from what could be a prolonged nauseating filmic turbulence. Then the narrative haze and din clear up thankfully, after we see Elly and then Yannie watch a video. At that point, the director must have received our telepathic messages saying that we have begun to relate to his work. We feel the characters’ helplessness. We recall that brief tryst and we wish a couple to live happily ever after. 

When we think that things have finally normalized, the characters become perturbed again. A ‘ghost’ resurfaces. And then, finally, we must go away like Elly who sports the same apathetic look as when the movie started. This time though we can see and feel a thin layer of pain on his face. He must be wishing for things not to turn out ‘normal’ like before, which is really him being consumed with jealousy for sometime as we later would infer–the man victorious in keeping probably this desire to murder someone to himself. 

Every Room is a Planet gives us a deep space ride. It is a unique exploration of relationships and it takes time to be fully grasped. When you’re forgiving and strong enough to withstand the movie’s puzzles and peculiarities, you’ll find yourself rewarded in the end.


2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (Petersen Vargas, 2016)

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The main character in 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten kept calling himself weirdo. We accepted it without really giving it much thought. I mean labeling himself as such sounded harmless coming from a seemingly upright boy. Geek. Bullied. Khalil Ramos as Felix was your typical high school overachiever who busied himself with solitary acts more than being socially active. He studied and daydreamed instead of choosing to date, drink, and smoke–instead of learning all those forbidden habits generally experienced by growing-up kids tagged as normal. But at the onset, we had a preview of some sort of the latent wickedness of this character whose growth was temporarily set aside to give way first to more comedy, to suck the audience in, to let them enjoy how light and fun and pressured it was to be young, to literally make us live again in a little world called ‘school.’ The movie also included details that would make it somehow historical, the specificity adding a certain ring of fact and truth to it more than merely making it freestand as an account of a tale: details like the 90’s generation’s fascination with imported Japanese superhero TV series and like how cool it was to carry a Walkman, how to rewind the cassette tape with a ball pen, what of an old neighborhood in Pampanga be looking like a few years after being buried in lahar. These details were convincing enough to transport us back into a specific past, yet the movie never looked outdated to alienate us. That little dream party sequence of three high school students, with laser beams and all, was an economical gen Y rave.

Felix opened his ‘core’ while he and his tranferee Fil-Am classmate, his tutee Magnus Snyder, were in front of peace-inducing waters which stream above graveyards created by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. There, Felix somehow self-talked about the force of nature and confessed his secrets. He revealed his cruelty when he said that he felt good witnessing their place being destroyed. He hinted at his homoerotic tendencies when he compared the smoke and explosion to a giant mushroom. But Magnus was not carefully listening.

This story evolved an innocent-looking boy into someone most capable of skinning a kitten alive. The conversion began when he was enmeshed with the lives of the attractive Snyder brothers. Felix emotionally connected with Magnus–and events would make them need each other until his budding love, repressed, became indistinguishable from obsession.
Jason Laxamana’s story was an interesting mix of comedy and a little psychopathy. His written dialogues and conceived narrative were potent and elicited instant responses from the audience: giggles, laughter, shock. Meanwhile, the film’s cinematography was functional, pretty, and symbolic. Some frames made me remember scenes from my favorite movies, which enriched the viewing experience.

This commendable first feature could be Petersen Vargas’s homage to Edward Yang, a twisted shorter little niece (in spirit) of A Brighter Summer Day. Not an avid follower of Petersen’s works, but after seeing recently his short film Last Day and having seen the trailer of Lisyun qng geografia, it made me ask: What’s with young characters wearing school uniforms? Are white polo shirts and khaki or dark pants emblems, a fascination or fixture in the same way Hitchcock had his blondes, an early laying down or building up of an auteur’s stamp? Let’s see what he comes up next.
If his succeeding features come out consistently strong like this, it’s fine nobody should be complaining and making a big fuss out of his preferred themes, if they remain about characters conveniently close to his age moving in a milieu the director is familiar with. Fine too if the school uniform is some type of security blanket, fetish, or lucky charm.

Mixed Shorts Reviews #1

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‚ÄčVesuvius (Erik Matti)

What amplify the creepiness in this Matti-Yamamoto short collabo are the layers of sound, the muffled church song, the sound of boiling water as if there’s this witch concocting an execrable-looking and -tasting potion, with eyeballs and intestines ground and juiced to create that green, tangy soup. Also the dubstep and all sorts of crittery sounds looped, the buzz of the fly that moves from the left to the right and back to the left ear channel, and the tinkling echoes of what could be rubies, jades and quartz and onyx stricken or jangled, blasphemously complementing the most evil yet hip among the versions of lady apparitions. The lady’s face is appropriately ghostly, a little japanese-inspired, that spirit disguised by painting the white kabuki make-up on the face of a mestiza-looking actress. The movie is some kind of a tract, a warning for our being superstitious and credulous; however, evil being too clearly defined here decreased the film’s potential of providing a richer, more interesting and lasting, frightful experience.

Two Men and a Wardrobe (Roman Polanski)

Two men from the sea attempt to fit in in town, but obviously their being inseparable from their furniture ostracizes them from their newfound place. If this could be these aliens’ short visit, unluckily for them the trip has turned traumatic. And as we watch them struggle and haggle to be accepted, images of cruelty of men towards their own kind, even to an animal, are shown. So is it a beautiful world we are creating, like what one child does at the beach, building a city of cup sandcastles, when he doesn’t even notice or he’s simply mindless of the two men carrying the drawer pass him by, the duo obviously retreating, unquestionably disappointed with beings considered to have the most advanced minds on earth but whose actions invalidate such perception? The stink and poison creeping from an immoral, self-centered city are a lot more sickeningly fearful than the onslaught of raging waters.


The Big Shave (Martin Scorsese)

This short has a Hitchcockian look and feel to it at the onset, with an initial feature of a worm’s eye view shot of a toilet bowl, and with the subsequent parade of details like shower dials, faucet, and lavatory. A jazzy, big band sound arrives nearly at the same time as the appearance of a Caucasian male. Then the man lavishes his face and neck with shaving cream, takes the razor from inside the built-in cabinet beside the mirror, then strikes to clean his face. There’s a ritualistic, even a masturbatory undertone to the act, which feels interminable for a while. The touch of the blade on the skin could be equated to strokes or caresses, and especially with a horn or sax playing on the background. The movie ends with an image projecting and extending a result of what could be guilt for carnal thoughts and acts, the guilt brought about by a puritanical or Christian upbringing. The mind could be sadly unnecessarily unforgiving and violent.


J’ai faim, J’ai froid (Chantal Akerman)

The two girl characters in Ms. Akerman’s short film want to grow old and taste life urgently, as exemplified by the racy, hasty, one liner exchanges between them, and the fast cuts or edits of shots. The older girl looks like a butch, and the younger one looks like a diabolical walking doll. They do things as they want: smoke, eat, kiss, and then get their ‘job’ done one time with their charmingly bizarre singing at a restaurant like carolers, which earns them the night’s free meal and hooks them with a man. One will experience that which is supposed to be special and that which ‘normal’ lovers do. But with the quick, cold, final resolve to leave after the implied act, it’s unmistakable to conclude that what they learn out of that brief encounter with the guy isn’t worth all the rush. Probably even disgusts them.