Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cinemalaya's Amor Y Muerte

Amor Y Muerte showed the life of an "india" namely Amor who married a Spaniard and had to live the life according to her husband's desires. An erotic 16th Century period film showing Spanish colonizers' influence on our ancestors-- from love, to religion, to how some of them changed their names, to lust and how they caused the natives to rebel. It's a reminder of the huge influence of the Spanish colony in the present time. Whether good or bad, be the judge. It somewhat reminded me of a topic in Sibika at Kultura because the film tackled the dynamics of Filipinos and Spaniards during this period and I recalled that the Spaniards were here for 300 years!! O_O

This film is something that one MIGHT not enjoy. The theme is about the old times, it played with moral implications of religion-- particularly Christianity and idolatry, it involves infidelity and for the conservative, it also has a lot of nudity and wild sex scenes. But these themes are actually the reasons why I was thoroughly entertained by the film. The film sometimes got ridiculous yet amusing. The words used were hilarious!! It actually made me laugh several times throughout the film.

There is one scene that I consider as one of the scariest footage I've seen in a movie which also shocked the audience (one screamed Oh my God!!! lol). It was when Diego, the Spanish husband of Amor hired Apitong, an indio who's an ex-lover of Amor, provided a python to get rid of the rats living under their nipa hut. There's a close up footage of the snake devouring a rat and how the snake clamped it with its teeth and consume it was horrifying and beautiful at the same time (snakes are my biggest fear). This is not a horror film but it achieved to scare its audience (something a horror film is supposed to accomplish, and something The Diplomat Hotel, another Cinemalaya Entry, failed to produce).

The primary actors were committed into making the movie true to its 16th century setting. This is the first film I've seen starring Althea Vega and from start to finish, I admired her qualities as an actress. She has the perfect face of a Filipina beauty. Her facial features are very distinct, her eyebrows are shaped so well that intensifies her emotions. She carried the whole film with her charming ways of portraying an "india". Another standout for me is Kuya Manzano's portrayal of an old time Spanish Padre who teaches "the good news of salvation" to the natives. He's very playful with his character and I truly enjoyed the way he spoke the Filipino and Spanish languages. He's very believable. I came into watching this film knowing Amable Quiambao's still alive but it's saddening when I found out just right after it that she just passed away last month. As usual, her portrayal of an old, calm and mysterious Filipina was superb. I've always known her for portraying the lola of Anna and Noli in the educational TV show Bayani and it sucks to know that she has passed away. Her performance in this film is a good swan song though and I wish she's more recognized for her work before she died, even if Cinamalaya's the last. I would probably be more haunted by her character if I knew coming into the theater that she's already dead. Adrian Sebastian was hysterical as Apitong! His voice and facial reactions suit the indio archetype. He played his naive character effectively and authentically. Let's just not talk about Markki Stroem's performance as Amor's husband Diego, as he's apparently the weakest of the bunch. But kudos to him for going frontal. Who knows? This could be a way for him to follow the lead of Coco Martin from his performance in Serbis. I guess we'll have to see.

To me, Amor Y Muerte is kind of poetic in a sense. It showed a lot of differences between the natives and the Spaniards and it also demonstrated how Filipinas live before. We've been taught that women during those times were powerless but I think it's only something the Spaniards enforced to our ancestors. Amor is an example of a native that did not follow through the desires of Spaniards and even if she showed qualities that people nowadays would disagree, it's something that during those times is probably not as bad or immoral but now, because of religion, it is considered a mortal sin. Amor symbolizes the flowers in this film. It blossoms when she fulfill her earthly desires and it wilts whenever she's deprived of it. Diego's sword personifies his power and dignity in Amor's life when he used it to kill the rat for Amor but it was really Apitong's python that appeased Amor's fear. It showed which one she preferred even if it lead to a tragic end.

To an extent, this film is not only a story about love, death and tragedy, it also pitched that religion is implied. But every person has the freedom, which was disinherited to the indios during those times, to accept the beliefs that one chooses to acclaim. It was kind of troublesome that the film showed how ridiculous it would be like when someone lascivious who does not believe in anything originally, gets consumed by Christianity. What made it more painful is that the audience seem to parodize the Christian awakening showed in the film. But still, it's an entertaining take of a period film which probably showed what we already know, but it's the story of Amor, the underlying meanings and the realizations you get from the film are the reasons why I commend it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Take on Cinemalaya entry: Transit

If you haven't seen Transit yet, go Tran-see-it :p! Yes, it's heavy and kind of depressing but it is beautifully made and is definitely not Transhit (sorry for the cheesiness -_-, I love word plays)

It is another film about OFWs and the hardships they battle to live for money and for their family. But what I like about Transit is that it explored more outside its main subject. It presented more adversities of being an OFW while focusing on a single setting. In this film, it's Israel. I got a glimpse of life in Israel because of Transit.

I also love its narration. It focused on one Filipino family and was able to show the stories of each member dramatically. The screenplay is really good and the editing was commendable. It's very realistic and the Hebrew parts were impressive. All of their efforts created a great film.

Speaking of Hebrew, the actors were able to convince the viewers that they really speak the language. They sound so legit and it helped on making the film more authentic. Irma Adlawan was fantastic as a mother with a daughter (played by Jasmine Curtis-Smith) whose father is an Israeli. Jasmine Curtis-Smith is a revelation and a legit talent. Her character cannot understand nor speak Filipino and she's very convincing in her acting and the way she spoke Hebrew. I cannot judge them if they spoke the Hebrew language well or if it is right, but they sure sound like they know the language. These 2 actresses have several heavy scenes that for sure touched many of its viewers. Other actors such as Ping Medina, Mercedes Cabral and the kid, Marc Justine Alvares also showed brilliant performances. The cast definitely delivered and it added to the reasons why Transit did not disappoint. That's 150 pesos and 2 hours of my life well spent. Jasmine Curtis-Smith is my favorite though. Not only her acting, but her character is also a standout in the film. Oh and by the way, Toni Gonzaga randomly appeared in the film. :)

I cannot end this review without recognizing its cinematography. Israel is sublime! and it was photographed amazingly in several still shots throughout the film. Well, there are a few (very few) motion shots that are headache inducing but still, they're beautifully filmed. I love when they showed the Bar Mitsvah, I've always wanted to see something like that. They managed to show the beautiful sides of Israel without concentrating on the place, but because it is needed to the story. I also have to add that I really like the title logo :3

As a film, it's not the most exciting of the Cinemalaya entries that I've seen but it's definitely on top of the list in terms of its technical specs.