ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
If you want
an example of character ambiguity, take a look at this significant
Metro Manila Film Festival entry, Bulaklak ng Maynila (Flower
Of Manila), from a story by Doming Landicho, directed by Joel Lamangan.
I cant say that Bulaklak is a particularly accomplished
film - its edited in a poorly executed jump-cut style, like
Wong Kar-Wai with a bad case of hiccups, and (despite using actual
locations in and around Quiapo) fails to evoke the stench of street-level
poverty, the way Lino Brockas films effortlessly do.
never could act (and on the evidence of this film, never will),
and Angelu De Leon in the title role is an unsexy, unappealing,
totally unexciting actress (ironic, considering that her character
becomes a nightclub stripper). But Elizabeth Oropesa is very good
(and, incidentally, extremely sexy) as the girls mother, and
Christopher De Leon gives a powerhouse performance as Oropesas
lover and Angelus adoptive father.
even begin to suggest how good Christopher is in this film; he seems
to have abandoned most of the mannerisms and acting tics hes
acquired over the years and developed an unsettlingly edgy, bleary-eyed
presence - as if he had a perpetual hangover, with sociopath temper
to match. As baranggay captain, De Leon has a finger in every
pie - he collects bribes from all the businesses, all the way down
to the street vendors, at the same time hes the local judge
and summary executioner.
Taking a page out of Insiang, Brockas masterpiece, he makes
love to Oropesa, then casts a hungry eye towards Oropesas
daughter. Yet De Leon is not a total monster: he cares for his father
(Tony Mabesa), and his initial offer that Oropesa live with him
seems motivated as much by concern for her as by lust for her. Bulaklaks
characters are ultimately reduced to shrieking caricatures and its
climax is borrowed from yet another Brocka work, Maynila Sa Mga
Kuko Ng Liwanag (Manila In The Eyes Of Neon) - but the first
three-fourths of the picture makes for compelling drama, at least,
and is alive with living, breathing people.
a kind of arrogance in spending 40 million pesos on a film like
Muro-ami - the same kind that puts 120 million pesos on a
Rizal film. I actually like their arrogance; its what we need
to break out of the tailspin our local film industry is in - what
we need to make a truly great Filipino film. The only thing wrong
is that their arrogance is yoked to strictly conventional, by-the-numbers
filmmaking and not to a true vision.
Contrary to popular opinion, there are such things as great producers
- Robert Evans (who was never known for his humility) was responsible
for films like Chinatown and The Godfather 1 & 2; he just needed
filmmakers like Roman Polanski and Francis Coppola to help do them.
Having made millions off of Jose Rizal and Muro-ami, the
producers of said pictures should (in the spirit of said arrogance)
take a real risk, and put their money where the art is.
January 7, 2000. The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic
After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
Click here to order.
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