Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Movie No. 168 (2013): EVEN THE RAIN

Even The Rain (2011)
Director: Iciar Bollain
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Juan Carlos Aduviri, Luis Tosar
In Spanish, with English subtitles

A film crew led by the idealistic director (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the opportunistic producer come to Bolivia to make a film about Columbus' conquest of the New World 500 years ago. The film is supposedly aimed to denounce exploitation. Ironically, however, the production team appear to be exploiting the native Indians of Bolivia that they've hired as bit players. The film gets interesting when, during shooting breaks, the bit players, led by Daniel, a native Indian, who has a very important role in the movie, join protests over the privatization of the region's water supply. This will lead to bloody clash between the protesters and the police. Daniel gets jailed. Many bit players get hurt. The production is stalled.

This layered film is a kind we call "a film within a film." The best thing about the film is in how it shows the parallelism of the Columbus' conquest in search of gold using the spreading Christianity as excuse, which is  the subject of the film being filmed in the film, and the unconscious exploitation of the hired bit players by the film crew, and the protests of the (modern) native Indians in La Paz, Bolivia, over the privatization of the region's water supply by capitalists from Los Angeles and London.

All the characters are so interesting that you can empathize with their actions. Gael Garcia Bernal's character, however, appears inconsistent in his actions and decisions. However, I look at it as the real character of that character - being inconsistent under pressure.

One of the best films I've seen in years!

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 11, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Movie No. 167 (2013): THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA

The Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Director: Shohei Imamura
Cast: Sumiko Sakamoto, Ken Ogata
In Japanese, with English subtitles
Winner, Palm D'Or Cannes Film Festival 1983

The movie is an examination of the rituals and customs of a remote fictional village in Northern Japan. There's the ritual sex. There's the custom of practically "dumping" old people in the summit of a mountain (Narayama) once they reach 70 to die, as a form of sacrifice to the deities believed to live in the summit.

The movie, with its gore, violence, and people in inhuman conditions, is not for the faint-heart. There are two things that will linger on my mind for some time: the bleak cinematography and the last minutes leading to the movie's conclusion, which is the ascent, which is simply heartbreaking. The snow in the end left me cold.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 8, 2013

The Old Lady Is A Bitch

I knew that the old lady could see from the outside that people on the rush were already standing on the aisle of the bus. But, she still insisted to get in. While the bus was stuck in the non-moving traffic, the old lady knocked heavily on the door. Or, was she thumping her palm on the door? Looked like she was pleading that she be let in.

Second thought: it didn't look like she was pleading. 

She was yelling. We couldn't hear her but it looked like she was commanding the bus driver to open the door and let her in. The poor driver was hesitant at first. The bus couldn't accommodate another person, unless the driver would give up his seat. But, maybe considering that she was old, he yielded; he opened the door and let her in. She squeezed herself through the warm bodies that were practically packed inside the bus. And then, most of us inside the bus couldn't believe what we witnessed next. This old lady yelled (again), now addressing her ire to the bus conductor: "There should be seats reserved for senior citizens!" The bus conductor, in utter confusion, quizzically replied: "They're occupied!" He then went on with his business of ticketing and collecting fares. We didn't expect the bitchy old lady's arrogant reply: "By these people? They don't look like crippled or old."

I was one of "these people" who didn't look old or crippled. Thank you! The haughty bitch had a good sense of ill humor. I felt blood rush to my face. I had to attenuate the impending embarrassment and being offended (on my face) with a dry smile that, I thought, no one noticed.

It was not play time for the bitch. Her last utterance was pure sarcasm, a display of imposed superiority. If I had a gun, I would have shot her point blank. If I were Carrie, I would have made her heart stop beating. Yes, I mean Stephen King's Carrie. Let's get local: If I were Lastikman, I would have strangled her or wring her neck, and toss her out of the bus. I would have emptied a bottle of 36 M sulfuric acid into her throat. I was really having evil thoughts with all these brooding.

I really got irritated. I could sense that I was not alone. I could see from other people's silent reactions that they couldn't believe what they were seeing and hearing I overheard someone silently uttered: "Some old people don't deserve respect. When she came in she knew there was no room for her."  Susurrus filled the claustrophobic air-space inside. There were faint giggling.

A student who got intimidated gave up his seat for her. I protested in silence. To suppress (my) belligerence, I plugged the handset of my music player to my ears and pretended to fall into (instant) sleep. In isolation, I could only hear Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt singing "Boxing and Pop Music."

At half-past eight in the morning. September 7, 2013

To be continued....


The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Director: John Huston
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt

The film is a morality play with a heavy theme: greed. However, it's presented in a light, sometimes funny, manner, resulting in a movie that's very entertaining and memorable. The transformation of Dobbs (played by Humphrey Bogart) from an ambitious drifter to a personification of paranoia is excellently executed. The irony in the conclusion is something that I can't move on from. Simply classic. The film's black-and-white cinematography captures the rustic milieu and treacherousness of the Sierra Madre, thus an integral part of the film's greatness.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 8, 2014

Friday, September 6, 2013

Movie No. 165 (2013): SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Director: Chan-wook Park
Cast: Ha-Kyun Shin, Kang-Ho Song

In this movie, good people (are forced to) do bad things, all in the name of vengeance. One exacts vengeance, another gets hurt; the one who gets hurt will retaliate, and it goes on in a cycle. In the end, no one wins. That's always been since time immemorial. This is the clear message.

It starts with a selfless desire: a deaf-mute wants a kidney transplant for her very sick sister. He can't donate his kidney because his blood type is different from his sister's. There's no available donor at the moment, and his sister is dying of pain. He gets laid off from his job. He gets to the black market that trades organs for cash and his own kidney. He gets ripped. He exacts revenge. He kidnaps his Boss's daughter for ransom. Something goes wrong. The Boss takes the matter in his own hands, with the aid of a sympathetic cop. And so on...

This is Chan-wook Park directing. Gore, graphic violence to a certain level, and shock factor are expected. But there's more to it than these. The movie itself is well-crafted (on the basis of film grammar) despite its being grim and bleak. 

Rating: 3.5/4.0

Date seen: September 4, 2013

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Movie No. 164 (2013): I SAW THE DEVIL

I Saw The Devil (2010)
Director: Ji-Woon Kim
Cast: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi
In Korean, with English subtitles

The film's story is "ugly." The film, however, is not bad. In fact (in my opinion) the film is among the best in its genre. It follows the disturbing "cat-and-mouse game" between a serial killer and a secret agent after the secret agent's fiancee, the daughter of a retired high-ranking police officer, fell prey to the murderous hands of the killer. In this film, the line between good and evil blurs. The hunter becomes the hunted; the hunted becomes the hunter. Even the idea of revenge is not clear. 

Despite the gut-wrenching acts of violence and gore shown in a lot of scenes, the film still manages to be decent. The script is something to be respected. The editing, particularly in the later part, is unforgettable. The conclusion is stunning.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 2, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Movie No. 163 (2013): ONCE

Once (2006)
Director: John Carney
Cast: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova

The film tells the eventful week of writing, rehearsing, and recording songs after a busker (the guy) and a flower girl (an immigrant from Czech Republic) accidentally bumped into each other in one of the busy streets of Dublin. That vacuum cleaner! We learn about the separate love stories of the guy and the girl from the songs they've written and recorded. The question that hangs is: did they fall in love with each other? The answer doesn't matter. That's the good thing about this film. It doesn't spoon-feed. It's for the audience to decide on the basis of what the see and hear.

Falling Slowly. What a song! For me, this ranks among the best movie themes ever written. It's winning the Academy Awards for Best Original Song was just a bonus. Part of the success of the movie was this song. Of course, the script was well-written.

By the way, the current Tony Award-winning Broadway musical based  on this movie is a good as the movie version. 

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: September 1, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Movie No. 162 (2013): IT TAKES A MAN AND A WOMAN

It Takes A Man And A Woman (2013)
Director: Cathy Garcia-Molina
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Sarah Geronimo, Rowell Santiago, Irma Adlawan, Al Tantay, Joross Gambo, Matet De Leon, Gio Alvarez

This is the third movie that follows the love-and-hate relationship of Miggy and Laida. I hope this is the last. I like John Lloyd Cruz because he's one of the few actors in the local show business who can really act. His studio doesn't fully utilize his thespian capabilities. Instead, he's stuck in these kind of movies that are meant to tickle the hopeless romantic mass. Well, his movies still shatter box office records. That's understandable. 

Every movie with John Lloyd Cruz in the cast is a guilty pleasure for me. This movie, though not as bad as other commercial movies, is still likable in some aspect. But I didn't enjoy it. The story is like a rehash of several movies I've seen before. 

Please, let this be the last movie in this series.

Rating: 2.0/4.0

Date seen: August 26, 2013

Movie No. 161 (2013): SIDE EFFECTS

Side Effects (2013)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum

Here's the basic plot of the movie. The lives of a couple (Emily and Martin) get disturbingly affected by the side effects of the drug prescribed to treat Emily's anxiety. The movie gets interesting when one of the side effects is a murder.

Steven Soderbergh presents a film that has certain level of Hitchcockian wicked twist. This is a kind of movie in which things are not necessarily what they seem. In my opinion, the success of this movie can be attributed partly to convincing performances of Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Rating: 4.0/4.0

Date seen: August 25, 2013