Wednesday, May 20, 2009

thoroughly lifeless

for dear ms. o, here are more interesting kinatay reviews.

one thing i noticed, which i presume you have noticed too, almost all reviewers emphasized the english meaning of the title. kinatay means butchered in english, now isn't that a very appropriate title? lol... am getting so mean.

  • from joan dupont of the new york times

... Mr. Mendoza made “Kinatay” in a spirit more of Brechtian anger than provocation. The director, who showed “Serbis” (Service), which is set in a porn movie house, last year, was then the first Filipino to compete since 1984, when Lino Brocka came to Cannes with “Bayan ko: Kapit sa patalim” (Bayan Ko: My Own Country). He makes movies about violence in a poor society with the help of Didier Costet, his French producer.

“I’m not showing ‘Kinatay’ commercially because I didn’t want to go through the censors to make it,” Mr. Mendoza said. “I don’t make money with my films. With a small amount of money — under $1 million — I can tell my kind of story.”

In the film, Coco Martin plays Peping, a sunny young criminology student, who goes from his happy wedding day to a special night project, organized by a crime syndicate.
His journey into nightmare territory begins with the kidnapping of Madonna, a prostitute played by Maria Isabel Lopez. A group of men drive her in a bus out of Manila to a remote house. Peping goes along for the extra cash. “He needs money especially since he just got married,” the director said.

Mr. Mendoza films much of the drama in real time, so that on the drive out of Manila, we see the youth’s face as he grasps what is happening shift expression. “I want the audience to live what he lives in claustrophobic space,” he said.

The filmmaker, who began his career in advertising, says that the way he films space is part of the film design. Day and night are metaphors for showing how the youth is trapped. “When suffering and poverty are part of your life, you take whatever comes your way,” Mr. Mendoza said.

“The night is like life. Filming in real time makes it more effective.” Peping doesn’t know what’s going to happen, making him — and the audience — that much more fearful. “He’s not just an accomplice; he’s also a victim. After this night, his future is butchered. And that’s what is horrifying, because it could happen to anybody,” the director added.

Afterward, the criminals clean up the mess; one man showers, puts on his clean shirt, the shirt of a police officer. Peping’s horror is complete. He sees he has no place to hide.

Parts of Madonna’s body are bagged and dumped in garbage bins, the river. When you tell Mr. Mendoza that women have trouble with this kind of subject matter, he agrees. “Madonna represents all of us, trapped in a situation. It’s men’s abuse of power,” he said.

Mr. Mendoza, who is 49, worked with Brocka. “He was a very good man. My films are intense in another way, more documentary.”

He describes himself as a farm boy from the provinces, who studied in a Catholic college and majored in fine arts. He says that he is religious. “It’s in the film,” he said. “I’m not a practicing Catholic, but with everything I do, I acknowledge a power above,” he said.

  • from wesley morris of the boston globe

One of the staples of this festival is the walkout. It’s an art and a skill. Done right, the members of a packed house will turn from the screen to you and, depending on the film, follow your lead. The skill necessitates a certain intuition. You need to know you’ve attended a film that could inspire your dramatic, unmistakably aggravated early departure. So a seat on the aisle would cause the least fuss. And there are certainly walkers-out who manage to cause a fuss merely by trudging up the aisle at an opportune moment.

But there are others at this festival who like to sit in the middle of a row ( the rows are long here) and leave in a huff or a grumble, their bags, umbrellas, and other “personal effects” knocking people in the head as they depart. The best mid-row, mid-movie exits remind me of how when a contestant’s name is called on “The Price Is Right,” said contestant excitedly climbs over what always seems to be 50 people to get down to the bidding row.

Tonight saw at least one "Price Is Right" exit during Brillante Mendoza’s “Kinatay.” The movie counts as the festival’s first official disaster. Mendoza, who’s Filipino, has endeared himself to critics partly because he didn’t start making movies until his late-30s (he’s in his mid-40s now) and partly because the Manila he captures (most recently in last year’s “Serbis,” which had a run at the Brattle two months ago) is a hotbed of sexual, familial, and bodily strangeness (not to mention a hotbed of humidity). Mendoza likes melodrama. He likes human energy, and emotion; drag queens, hookers, big families, and porn. He likes locating the beauty and comedy in the gross and unhygienic. And in “Serbis,” the beautiful, comic grossness was also the stuff of life.

“Kinatay” is thoroughly lifeless and more about what Mendoza doesn’t like. Here that appears to be women. The movie we think we're getting (a story about two young Manila parents who are marrying each other) turns in a nasty exercise in which the groom rides along with some thugs who’ve tossed a hooker into their minivan. They beat her, tape her up, and proceed to drive her to a remote house for more horrors. The drive is shot in what feels like real time, and the van isn’t lit well enough to catch any of the characters in thought. Mendoza's camera wobbles around, aimed, for long stretches, at the highway, until we reach the house, where all manner of degrading foulness begins, including the camera taking long glances at bloody nubs.

The characters are passive or monstrous, never human. I don’t need to like movie characters. I do need them to be people. One of the final scenes tries to situate the heinousness within a larger spree. But the audience had begun to trudge out at that point. “Kinatay” is as close as a good director should come to current American torture-pornography –- at least until we see Lars von Trier’s attempt at straightforward horror (“Anti-christ”), which debuts tomorrow. It’s really unclear what Mendoza was thinking. When a movie like this goes right, it feel like magic. The same is true when it goes it goes wrong: How did this happen?

And yet I couldn’t leave “Kinatay.” For one thing, I’m terrible at walkouts. I usually can’t commit. I gather my stuff, sit on the edge of the seat, and wait for some imaginary sign that it’s OK to leave -- as if bad moviemaking weren’t sign enough. The movie’s badness managed to push me to the back of the house but not out the door. Partly because I’m na├»ve. Maybe Mendoza would find a way to right this ship. (Hurry up, Brillante. One minute, forty-five seconds!) But mostly because I wanted to stay for another Cannes staple: the jeer. Sure enough, when the credits rolled, a wan, smattering of applause met a not-insignificant round of boos. Booing -– real booing (especially of something that can’t hear it) –- is uncomfortable because I always expect it to lead to something worse, as though a chorus of boos leads straight to riots in the streets. I left before the credits ended. So who knows, maybe the red carpet is on fire as I type.

(Bad segue alert: Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci cause sheer pandemonium on the red carpet this afternoon, headed to their press conference to discuss sharing the same soul -- or something like that -- in Marina de Van’s “Don’t Look Back.” I missed my intended screening, so that title sounds like good advice: I won’t.)

1 comment:

Orange said...

W.O.W. it does sound really, really, really bad...

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