Saturday, January 15, 2011

City After Dark (Ishmael Bernal)

A glimpse of death.

Film Review Archive (date seen: September 30, 2010)

Before our film industry has turned into the mainstream disappointment that it has been today, masters like Ishmael Bernal strengthened the industry's foundations, not by big-budget films that boasts of colorful, shallow nationalism, but supported its pillars with 'critical bravery'; exploring the themes, subjects, and immoralities in a time of modernistic bondage of expressive sovereignty (Marcos era).

I've always conditioned my mind that "Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag" is the best film to ever portray the eponymous capital of the Philippines. But witnessing this work for the first time, it has altered my perception of the Lino Brocka classic and at the same time "City After Dark", for me, has immediately entered the realms of being one of the "definitive" Filipino films with the highest artistic control.

But do not get me wrong, "Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag" offered an unforgettably painful look of the city from the eyes of, putting it bluntly, an alienated 'promdi'. It's a film that steers raw emotions, and at times slips into complete melodrama. But "City After Dark" may have been the opposite; it explores apathy in the midst of moral decadence and hysteria without offering much mercy.

There are moments in the film where the characters asks each other artificial questions like "Do you really love me?", or "Will you really marry me?". They're not honest queries, but merely asked so to pass the time. And though same questions may have come from sincere hearts, it's beyond their grasp. Manila's too busy a city to provide secure answers.


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