Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hinugot sa Langit (Ishmael Bernal)

I have always been fond of Maricel Soriano’s acting range. Be it her occasional noisy self via her comedy films, usually with Roderick Paulate, William Martinez and Randy Santiago, or her truly intense side conveyed through her penetrating eyes, facial expressions and startling line deliveries. Here in Ishamel Bernal’s “Hinugot sa Langit” (written by Amado Lacuesta), the latter is in full display, and not just for show, but a beautiful character representation of a master’s vision of morality (and an adamant view of religious zealotry and hypocrisy) and how modern living, as what Amy Austria’s character Stella stated, requires it to be compromised.

At first glance, or specifically almost half-way into the film, it seems as if it is just a melodramatic story about a young woman named Carmen (played by Maricel Soriano) whose unexpected pregnancy (and worst of all, with a married man) unwillingly plunges her neck-deep in a narrow well filled with crucial choices, heavy-handed decisions and a brooding sense of social stigma. So the film's initial conflict is this: To abort or not? But then aside from that, the film gradually becomes denser in its thematic content. Tackling such themes as death, poverty and cynicism (the same ones that Ishmael Bernal has finely tackled in his masterpiece “City After Dark”), “Hinugot sa Langit” stopped from being a simple dramatic film and turned into yet another multi-faceted exploration of a Filipino society inflicted with distorted moral values, helpless lower class struggles and meaningless romantic flings.

Ishmael Bernal was able to create a perfectly contrasting balance between Carmen’s subdued yet panicky characterization and her cousin, Stella’s loquacious exterior and cynical pragmatism. Although the Stella character seems to be a bit clichéd in its depiction of a desensitized individual conforming herself with an immoral social stream, Amy Austria portrayed the character with a mark that is her own and, considering the moody atmosphere of the film both in cinematography and motifs, is the energetic center of the film that is also the closest thing “Hinugot sa Langit” can get to a slight comic relief.

And then there’s the legendary Charito Solis’ performance as Carmen’s overly religious landlady Juling (that also puts her in the ‘Alive! Alive!’ social stereotype) that evokes suggestive villainy out of her ‘not practicing what she preaches’ type of character arc. It’s also a pure breath of fresh air from her previous, though equally iconic, roles. From her past film projects prior to “Hinugot sa Langit”, she has played the titular “Ina, Kapatid, Anak” (along with Lolita Rodriguez), the martyr wife in “Kisapmata” and the former prostitute mother in “City After Dark”.

With her playing a role that is not an immediate kin to our main character, it exemplifies freshness in characterization and also puts a mysterious depth in her portrayal of a landlady that, in the first place, should have been very well detached emotionally from Carmen’s very personal life but instead slowly takes form that is akin to a possessive mother.

Aside from the unnecessarily happy ending that is a staple for run-of-the-mill Filipino melodramas, the film is a powerful meditation not just of abortion but the overall existential sprawl of social hardships and endless hypocrisy. But its hypocrisy, as what may be the common conception, doesn’t just root out from the film’s portrayal of religion.

There’s this powerful scene near the end of “Hinugot sa Langit” where Carmen, pounding and beating angrily at Mang David (the late Rey Ventura) after he stabbed Aling Juling, exclaimed “Wala kang karapatang pumatay!”, then cut to Carmen’s half-second facial shift from the one accusing to the one accused.

Through this important sequence, Bernal unearthed the sensitive subject of ‘murder’ both in its bloodily immediate connotation and its clinically-assisted one, brought it in an ambiguous light and never sided with any argumentative absolutes. Instead, the said scene puts a simple question in retrospect and symbolically shoves it in Carmen’s very face: “Look who’s talking?”


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)

Vincent, Jules and the divine intervention.

Oh, how "Pulp Fiction" exemplifies the very meaning of the phrase 'it gets better after every viewing'. One can watch this film any way he/she wants to. If you're in a mood for a pretty slick, densely-written comedy of characters and choices, then there's nowhere to look further than this film. If you're in for some pop culture-laden crime film, then "Pulp Fiction" it still is.

Now, if you may initially think that this film is nothing but a shallowly self-indulgent farce that extracts its energy and ideas from worn-out B-movie references and obscure music, then simply look at it through Jules Winnfield's (the immortalized Samuel L. Jackson) desensitized eyes. It will immediately turn into a film of staggering, multi-layered power, and a rough-edged ode towards spiritual redemption and hard-bound honor, which is what the film is really all about, at least in my view.

But do not get me wrong about that 'selective exposure'-type subjective viewing that I have recommended. I mean, it can still be enjoyed in its immediate layer of violence and involving dialogues. But "Pulp Fiction", unlike any other films not just of its kind but of any films in general, gets better every time you dig a little bit deeper. There's little to no doubt why critics have endlessly analyzed the film ranging from its theological relevance to its devilish undercurrents (Did Marsellus Wallace's really sold his soul to the devil?). Many people have since relished all that's been there, surface-wise. Now it's time to further the appreciation.

There have been countless deconstructions, theorizing and analogizing (I'm not even counting how many speculations have been formulated regarding the content of Marsellus Wallace's briefcase) that have occurred and transpired ever since this film claimed one of the uppermost pedestals of postmodern cinema so that it can rightfully stand side-by side with the seminal works of Jean-Luc Godard.

"Pulp Fiction" has also created a colorful, albeit violence-laden, alternate reality where gangsters may kill in cold blood and talk about foot massages and cheeseburgers and rejected TV pilots at the same breath. A parallel but infinitely peculiar netherworld where normal-looking fellows can ably run pawn shops the same way they can also be dangerous homosexual perverts.

But the film, a masterful merging of spontaneous articulacy and empirical pop culture knowledge by Quentin Tarantino, Quentin Tarantino (I just have to mention him twice) and Roger Avary (who both deservedly won an Oscar for the film's unique screenplay), ceased to be just a cynical exploration of the wholeness of crime.

For a film that consists of sex, drugs and violence that blur the boundaries that separate it from the thematic commonalities of a typical B-grade fare, Tarantino and Avary infused their subtly hopeful sides into it to provoke, balance, and substantiate the transgressive nature that they have visually depicted all throughout the film. "Pulp Fiction", with its ironic mixture of cruelty and humanity, displays an unorthodox poise that makes it even more special and, to a certain extent, quite illuminating.

There's not much to say regarding its top-notch all-star cast, with Sam Jackson, John Travolta (as Vincent Vega) and Uma Thurman (as Mia Wallace) delivering the highlight performances, and with Bruce Willis as prizefighter Butch Coolidge serving as our rare glimpse of heroism that may either be self-serving, unconditional or both.

But what really served as the film's transition point from darkness to light is Jules' powerful dual delivery of the "Ezekiel 25:17" Bible verse. Notice his initial delivery that seems to be an oratorical expression of superficial, god-like anger. Then compare it to his enlightened utterance of the said verse in the film's final scenes. For people who may say that "Pulp Fiction" is nothing but a pretentious, overwritten mess that has an almost 3-hour running time but does not even have anything concrete to say at all, take a look at the tonal difference between the two line deliveries and how Jules, in the latter enunciation, stresses the line about how he tries real hard to be a shepherd with glittering conviction. It's just stunning.

Sometimes, it's not mainly the narrative that hands out change, but the characters themselves. Consider Winston Wolf's (Harvey Keitel) unforgettable remark: "Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character." Fortunately, Jules surely is and certainly has.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Departed (Martin Scorsese)

Sullivan's travails.

Stripped off of all the cinematic gloss and melodrama of "Infernal Affairs", "The Departed" is much more raw and pulsating in its delivery compared to the said Hong Kong original, and also more entertaining in its step-by-step revelation and thrills. Headlined by an all-star cast, particularly by Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio (evidently showing how a Hollywood pretty boy before can convincingly pull off a hardened and at the same time conflicted character) and with the film itself fully enhanced with a much extensively realistic and sometimes spontaneously comic screenplay, it's a Best Picture Oscar well-deserved. And don't get me started about Martin Scorsese's best director win merely being an overdue honor for his legendary film career and not for his individual merit for this film. It sickens me, really.

"The Departed", above all, is the crowning jewel of his post-De Niro 'crime' film resume. Unlike "Infernal Affairs", which presents a deep articulation about choice, identity and destiny, "The Departed" ignored those flowery things and instead replaced them with sharp-edged machismo, rough visual texture and a hint of madness. This time, it's not much about the double lives of two moles pitted against each other and their subtle connection but more of an acute generalization of the violent nature of gangsterism itself.

And Jack Nicholson, as caricature-like as he can be, still displayed a thoroughly commanding and menacing presence as Frank Costello, whose knack for unpredictably pungent humor puts a slight comic antidote to refresh and balance the film's dark tone. An overly serious villain for a gravely-toned film is too much a chore to watch, so having someone like Mr. Nicholson to grace the screen with a conspicuously unique persona is, although I know how violently ragged "The Departed" can often times be, a thing akin to beauty.

But that does not mean that Nicholson owned and breathes fire and life unto the film. Damon and DiCaprio, the dual center of the film, didn't give in to Nicholson's larger-than-life screen occupancy. Matt Damon, with films such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley", "Good Will Hunting" and the more recent "The Informant!" as evidences to his stellar acting range, shows how he can be as increasingly heroic as Jason Bourne but can be equally despicable as a con man, scam artist, a nervous liar or as a man who runs a life of cyclic performance art. His Colin Sullivan, a mole planted by Nicholson's Costello in the police ranks, belongs fully to the last, but is a combination of all that were mentioned. That's how tricky and quite complex Damon's role really was.

Again, unlike "Infernal Affairs", who treated its Sullivan equivalent as a redemptive anti-hero, Scorsese (and screenwriter William Monahan) molded Colin Sullivan from pure lies, self-advantage and pure-bred 'pretty face' villainy and manipulation. Maybe it's just me, but I can't see one likable factor regarding Sullivan, except for the fact that him being constantly pushed around by more righteous bullies like Mark Wahlberg's Staff Sergeant Dignam (who would have thought that he's the same guy who played Dirk Diggler?) and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio's Billy Costigan is surely a pitiful view. And after seeing the film for about four times, I believe that Damon's character is much harder to pull off than DiCaprio's, although both performed with equal energy and considerable dimension.

Some scenes were taken contextually verbatim from "Infernal Affairs", such as the wrongly-spelled word in the envelope and the pre-climactic final unraveling of the film's integral secret via the scene between Sullivan and Costigan inside the police headquarters. But what takes me in as to why "The Departed" is the better film overall, quality-wise, is the fact that everything seems to belong, and not a single thing felt forced.

Granted, the Hong Kong original is much more exquisite in its moody cinematography and perfect choice of seedy locations, but there's this pure spontaneity encapsulating "The Departed's" wholeness, enabling all its aspects, from its gallery of characters to the endlessly profane sputtering, to attain a specific level of believability.

Martin Scorsese, after creating opuses after opuses in his directorial heydays, seems to have been merely sitting tight and effortless while directing "The Departed". But that does not suggest any negative connotations. 'Sitting tight', meaning that he's been through so much cinematic gems (It's just not easy to choose just one 'best' film from his resume) that directing another masterpiece such as this one is, for him, not even a walk in the park, but like a leisurely sit in some prairie.

"Could you double-check the envelope?" Martin Scorsese uttered while finally taking hold of his first ever Oscar statuette. Don't worry, sir, that may just be a sole award, but with all the films that you've made that have waited and truly deserved that little golden man, the one that you've just received is much denser in its meaning.

And besides, you've transcended the AMPAS a long time ago, and a masterwork such as "The Departed" is just a mere reminder that you certainly still have 'it' and your burning artistry won't go out anytime soon, on this life or the next. It's (the film) also a clear-cut benchmark of how one must do a contemporary gangster neo-noir: with rough intensity, abundance of grit, and a penetrating moral undertone.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Fly (David Cronenberg)


Before anything else, even now, I still can't believe that I have bought a copy of "The Fly" from a legitimate store for a whopping 25 pesos (that's around 50 cents in American currency), while countless copies of Asylum-produced films like "Transmorphers" and "The Day the Earth Stopped" (Really, they thought someone would fall for that?) are there in the same store sitting comfortably in their overly expensive asses. Oh wait, a film called "Fargo" also sits in the lonely 25 bucks rack. Damn, really.

Now, moving on, I think it's quite refreshingly sardonic for director David Cronenberg and screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue (who adapted his screenplay from the 1958 original and also from the George Langelaan short story) to use an irrelevant insect to shockingly introduce us to the narrative's true frightening pulse. The film could have also worked on a much lighter level if its anomaly would have rooted out from the simple idea of the teleportation device itself, but the film took this common science fiction nugget into the real extremes, not just for the sake of it, but to offer something more.

Now we see the downside of intellectual grandeur not just by how it portrays the toll it gives to a man who has one mentally and socially (living in isolation, a lousy hair, Einstein references and the like), but also physically. The film of course focused more on the very last. But that focus that may seem, at first glance, too shallow a center point for a film, was emotionally balanced by enough doses of drama and "Frankenstein"-ish goth romance. What differentiates "The Fly" from Mary Shelley's literary classic, though, is how the first specifically merged both the 'fiend' and Victor Frankenstein in one wholeness, in the form of Jeff Goldblum's Seth Brundle character.

How he turned into that ghastly, slimy and monstrous creature, that is where the story's Olympian god-like intervention and alteration of the characters' motives and actions take full command of the film. Like the fly inside the teleporter plot mischief, Seth Brundle's motive as to why he carelessly attempted (and technically succeeded) to teleport himself was for one simple reason. No, not those complex internal conflicts regarding a self-debate of how he can change the world and himself by way of molecularly transporting himself through electricity and wires and stuff, but for the simple fact that he was crazy drunk (with a baboon as sole company) during the time.

Like the Coen brothers that seem to laugh at their protagonist's (especially in their neo-noirs) own misdemeanors and faux pas as they go helplessly and hay-wire insane from one situation to another, Cronenberg brilliantly manifests this unconscious natural albeit peculiar flow of existence that purely enunciates that sometimes, things, particularly the crazy ones, just happen. But from this initial, almost comic-like hammering of nails to seal Brundle's 'unfortunate fate', "The Fly", after being initially founded by an uneasy but evidently passionate romance between scientist Seth and journalist Veronica (played by Geena Davis, who later became more renowned as Thelma in "Thelma and Louise"), is emotionally intensified not mainly by its visual horror but by the sheer idea of love.

Through this way, the film became more or less a much relentless horror. A horror of choice. The film instantly became more concerned not about who kills who or who goes where or who decapitates which body part, but what it really takes to give up something. Would you relish love all the same even when the one you continuously love is a physical manifestation of hate and disgust? "The Fly", surprisingly, answered immediately with a not-so-subtle shotgun blast, then a fade to black. Not seeing what happens next is an extreme rarity among science fiction horrors. Not even the most recent "Splice" denied us a peak of an uncertain epilogue.

This is the thing that will surely be a constant reminder as to why I 'll always place "The Fly" on a separate field of existence, far from other films of its kind. It is this brave adamant stance to refuse us the answer to the question "What happened next?" that took me into "The Fly's" almost hypnotic spell of fright, bodily fluids and mad love.

It is this film's shining ability to just live in the moment, the beginning, middle, end and all, and forget about any prolonged post-carnage drama that convinced me of its audacious greatness. Fast-forwarding through the film in weary anticipation of a surprise post-credits sequence and subsequently finding out that there's none, there's this slight sigh of relief. Post-carnage drama? I believe Veronica's brief but infinitely tragic weeping is enough. I was moved, alright.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Infernal Affairs (Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak)


It took me a long time to get my hands (and eyes) on this film that has gained much more attention after it was remade by this fairly obscure director named Martin Scorsese as that little film called "The Departed". And finally, after seeing "Infernal Affairs" for the very first time, there clearly isn't any doubt why such legendary filmmaker would be too fascinated by it that it has inspired him to re-imagine it into a solid Oscar winner.

Of course, suffice it to say that "The Departed" is the better overall film from the screenplay up to the raw performances (although "Infernal Affairs'" solidly ethereal cinematography takes the cake for me), but this film introduces how Asian cinema, as a whole, can accelerate into higher degrees of narrative sophistication and more complex characters without the usual jumps, kicks, and overly stylish gun ballets.

While I'm watching the film, there's the common bias circling within my head as a result of watching a remake and an original in the wrong order. Some scenes seem simplified, a few subplots looking quite underdeveloped and a hefty lot of melodramatic injections that have filled up more than the film can contain. At times, with the choruses of sentimental musical scores, there's this feeling that I'm watching a John Woo film with Woo being on a set piece-sized lazy fit (due to the lack of literal action, that is).

But then there attacks the film's hard-hitting Shakesperean (by way of how it can transcend time boundaries) plotline that is truly powerful and tragic as it is timeless. Really, you can put the film's story into whatever historical timeline and its tensely emotional grip won't get any weaker. Two people on the opposite ends of an equally sharp double-blade. Two goals of two contrasting characters running and functioning on fragile moral codes. This is Lau and Yan (played by Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai with equally silent intensity and incendiary emotions), trapped in ordeals that are choices of their own.

The film may look like your usual cat-and-mouse-type crime thriller but "Infernal Affairs" also appeals in an existential and almost spiritual kind of way that seem to form a lyrical discourse about self-preservation and destiny in the middle of a casualty-laden chess match between the mob and the police force. Like Woo's "The Killer" or even Michael Mann's "Heat", the film perfectly contrasts a couple of isolated characters and filters them through a dramatic lens before putting them into a crucially consequential collision.

"Infernal Affairs" is also wise and articulate enough to put thematic issues such as split ideals, torn loyalties and true selves into a subtle parallelism in the form of Lau's girlfriend's novel about a man with 29 identities. More than ever, thinking once again of "The Departed", I eternally hate Matt Damon's scheming Colin Sullivan (the remake's Lau). Immediately, I assumed the same for Andy Lau's character. I even thought Lau's brilliant facial expressions that show tension, deceit and conceit in different magnitudes of situations evoke an enveloping sense of disdain more than Damon does.

But seeing how the film's events unfold, I see Lau more as a tragically-fated character that merely found himself on the wrong end of the 'black and white' moral spectrum. And deeper and deeper I delve into the film's almost mythical deconstruction of the usual moral 'black and whites', the more I realize how "The Departed's" informant twist regarding Jack Nicholson's character (the remake's crime boss equivalent) was really uncalled for.

But then, both are different films, but there's really something about "Infernal Affairs'" picturesque choice of locations that seem to enhance the story's atmosphere at a distinctly unique level that not even the mean streets of Boston can match.

For me, the produced sequels to this film were completely unnecessary. For once, "Infernal Affairs" is a stand-alone moral fable more than it is an immediate thriller film. It's a deeply human film more than it is about the exploits of despicable gangsters and game-face police officers. And finally, it's a character-driven picture more than it is a twisty little police procedural.

Hypothetically speaking, if I'm a video store clerk and you would ask me which section I'll put "Infernal Affairs" into, I'll gladly put it in the 'drama' section any day of the week.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Jade Castro)

Mart Escudero as the cursed Remington.

I have to give props to this film for being able to carry out a fairly original horror-fantasy narrative, and extending a considerably offense-free humor regarding the homosexual sub-culture. But aside from that, I highly commend Mart Escudero for his great performance as the titular character (and also for the film's highly talented cast that are also good sports) that is condemned to undergo a 'fairy' metamorphosis and then to die of 'shokot' (a gay lingo for 'fright', for the uninitiated). Although an indie film (and we all know how some indie films take themselves too seriously), "Zombadings" wallows in its own exuberant B-movie cheesiness, filled with awkward editing, a stupendous murder MacGuffin (the 'gay-dar'), a quiet town (as always), and of course, hordes of cross-dressing zombies. But what makes it different at the very least is the fact that although we have seen endless amounts of comic homosexuality on film, I think this is quite the first time that I've seen a film that have dealt with homosexuals as if they're a generalized, cohesive and interdependent group.

With those mind-numbing 'gay-lingos', is it really their official language that spans borders of place, age and degrees of homosexuality? What if Remington, cursed by Roderick Paulate's character to be gay when he grows up, transformed into a discreet, shy-type one in the sense of how other complex 'bromance' genre films came to portray them? And why are gays in this film so, so sensitive? Is it really possible for a naïve kid's tease of 'bakla, bakla!' to inspire a spirit-summoning wrath? But again, questions like these aren't really particularly relevant let alone valid for this type of movie. Films like this is in a universe of their own; a homage-littered and film-recalling one at that.

As Remington slowly turns into a full-fledged, not so subtle 'bading', I can't help but compare Ogie Diaz's polar opposite transformation into a sultry Via Veloso in "Hiling". The setting of Lucban, Quezon (The great ‘Buddy's’, slightly seen in the plaza scenes) reminds me in some ways of Flavio's Sto. Sepulcro, while the zombies and the campy feel seems like a depleted, musical sequence-less combination of "The Happiness of the Katakuris" and a subliminal manifestation of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

So, maybe that's what lacks in "Zombadings" that could have really perfected its self-mocking tone: A musical sequence. Granted, there's a colorful dance sequence for Remington (I love how ‘Remington’ sounds like a classically macho rifle yet suggests the contextually otherwise), but this film really begs for a dance ensemble. Like the one in the masterful yet obscure B-movie "Dead & Breakfast", "Zombadings" is the kind of film that is tailor-made for such. If musical sequences served as a deconstructive ingredient for the satiric "Ang Babae sa Septic Tank", a musical scene or two could have really 'constructed' this film's true, green-blooded (staying with the homosexual tone) feel as an 'eklavu'-filled nonsensical ride, and truly proud of it.

"Zombadings" is pure guilty pleasure, and even though it's an indie film (some people think that watching more indie and less mainstream films is a bloody good investment for their intellectual self-image), it is a surprisingly hollow, shallow and an inch-deep offering from our local film industry's alternative realm. But what really caught me off-guard regarding this film is the fact that when it looked like it will be another one of those films where gays are once again reluctantly placed into a comic freak show heap to be randomly stoned with malicious, bordering dehumanizing jokes, it's a revelation that it has portrayed the homosexual community as a productive, hard-working bunch. A breath of fresh air in its ultimate message and, considering that it was advertised as an unrelentingly nauseating take on the concept of flesh-eating zombies and stereotyped image of cross-dressing gays, quite innocuous in its overall execution.

With the mainstream generating endless concepts, be it comedy, drama, romance or combination of all three, to pass as cinematic escapism, this is our indie industry's take on the idea: Not truly unforgettable, not that great, sometimes even fleeting in its own right. But at least, it's head over heels fresher than its comparably big-budgeted half-brothers (or half-'sistahs', perhaps?).


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oro, Plata, Mata (Peque Gallaga)


A second viewing.

"Oro, Plata, Mata" can easily be accused of being too explicit and overly indulgent on Peque Gallaga's part, but it can't be doubted that this film puts forth a visually harrowing perspective that does not merely settle on pacifist commentaries or wartime tears. Sometimes, just like how Gallaga has presented his allegorical "Scorpio Nights", films must not wait in some dark corner in hopes that someone may clumsily pick them up out of curiosity. They must be assertive with their audience regarding whatever they want to show, and "Oro, Plata, Mata" succeeded to do just that, with the occasional 'shock' factor on the side.

Just like "Batch '81", which suddenly begins with a musical score that mirrors the sounds of a circus fun fair, this film also opened with a music that seems out of place. A mixture of harmlessness and sardonic sarcasm, the music plays as if it's poking fun of its mannered bourgeoisie characters, Bunuel-style. The film's opening credits greet us with assortment of characters moving in 'slow-motion' as they fix their hairs and smoke tobaccos. Going along with these scenes is this sinister feel that wraps them that seem to suggest that "Oro, Plata, Mata" is about decadence as it is about the entrails of war, if not more.

And as the film furthers its linear yet episodic narrative descent into the grave unknowns of war, it unfolds an unsettling portrait of how even the most mannered of people may easily concede to the angst-ridden sexual temptations that root out from living in ennui. But Gallaga, who shows his mastery of visual composition and a hint of exploitation (I believe that the film still would have worked even with two to three sex/nude scenes less), backed by Jose Javier Reyes' screenplay, extends the fact that the film's characters' emotional and carnal transformations weren't human deconstructions, but a simple case of skeletons in the closet. It's right with them all along.

Joel Torre, his first screen role, is remarkably effective as the frail Miguel, whose psychological metamorphosis from a mama's boy to a hardened killer is every bit believable. While an array of portrayals by Sandy Andolong, Lisa Lorena and Maneul Ojeda balances the film with subtlety, the film is made literally alive amid the film's more dragging moments by commanding performances from Lorli Villanueva and especially Mitch Valdez (credited as Maya Valdes in the film) as the calculating 'doktora', whose sexual promiscuity inspires the innocent Trining (Cherie Gil) to pursue and quench the thirsts of the flesh with Hermes (the vastly underrated Ronnie Lazaro), a Guerrilla rendered mute by the war.

There's no question about "Oro, Plata, Mata's" distinct influence across Philippine cinema. Whether it's the scope, the family-centered narrative or the violence, this film attracted 'greatness' for itself but does not brag about it. Never did I feel, all throughout its more than 3 hours of running time, that the film relished in self-importance. Self-indulgent, yes, there were specific scenes which were more a showcase of great cinematography and production design than sharp needles to stitch the whole film together. But still, "Oro, Plata, Mata" is nonetheless a lasting Filipino film that tackled the horrors, the deep wounds and the indelible scars of the Second World War unlike any other of its kind.

In the long run (quite literally for its length), it's never an overly pacifist film. Although there's this ambiguous 'diwata' character played by Kuh Ledesma that may subjectively symbolize the tarnished state of our 'Inang Bayan' (Mother Land) during the onset of war, the film is more about the isolated effect of violence and sexual immorality upon two families than it is a cinematic anti-war essay. Hell, we only see one Japanese soldier in the entirety of the film.

"Oro, Plata, Mata" is never concerned about the sentiments against foreign oppression that comes from islands away. With its blood-drenched message, the film is a brutal depiction of how at chaotic times, barbarism and decay gush out from nowhere else but within one's own backyard.


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