BigO Books

Critic After Dark
A Review Of Philippine Cinema

By Noel Vera

ISBN No. 981-05-3185-0
Published by BigO Books (2005)
330 pages; paperback
Price: S$22 (including postage)
For overseas readers, the price of the book is US$17 (and US$8 for airmail postage)

Sober, uniformed bank officer by day - crunching numbers and filling out forms and arguing with government employees over the phone - by night, film critic Noel Vera, sits in the darkest corner of the moviehouse, viewing (or enduring) the latest that Philippines cinema has to offer.

The articles collected in this book represent not quite half of what Noel Vera has written from the period 1994 to 2004, more than a decade of near-clandestine writings on cinema, Philippine and otherwise.

About the Author

Noel Vera graduated in Legal Management at Ateneo de Manila, has an MBA from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and was former officer of the Bank of the Philippine Islands.

In late 1994, he walked into the newsroom of The Manila Chronicle and turned in a piece on Forrest Gump, possibly the first and only negative article on the film ever written in the Philippines. He called two weeks later to ask when it might come out and learnt it was printed two days after submission. He has been a regular film critic since.

In 1997, he moved to The Manila Times only months before Chronicle was closed by strike. In 1998, he moved to Businessworld years before Manila Times was sold. This second move was prompted by editorial censorship of an unflattering (read: honest) article on a local filmmaker’s latest opus. He has denied responsibility for the closure of both papers.

He is the Philippine correspondent of Cinemaya Magazine, a film digest based in New Delhi, India; and occasional correspondent of Film International, a film magazine based in Tehran, Iran.

He has contributed articles to the Cambridge Book Review, the Hongkong International Film Festival, the Singapore International Film Festival, the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, and Cahiers du Cinema. He has helped to develop and write the screenplay of Tikoy Aguiluz’s Rizal sa Dapitan (Rizal In Dapitan, 1997), as a result sharing FAMAS Award for Best Story. He has translated into English the screenplays of Mario O’Hara’s Babae sa Bubungang Lata (Woman On A Tin Roof, 1998), Sisa (1998) and Pangarap ng Puso (Demons, 2000); Jeffrey Jeturian’s Pila Balde (Fetch A Pail Of Water, 1999); Chito Rono’s Laro sa Baga (Playing With Fire, 2000); Lav Diaz’s Burger Boys (1999) and Batang West Side (West Side Avenue, 2001) for international screenings.

He has been consultant and programmer to the Cinemanila Film Festival, the Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, and the Singapore International Film Festival.

"Unseen" Films About $ingapore

Tikoy Aguiluz's The Last Wish

Apart from classic Filipino movies such as Lino Brocka's Fight For Us and Manila In The Claws Of Neon; Mario O'Hara's Woman On A Tin Roof, Vera also looks at newer films such as Lav Diaz's Batang West Side (West Side Avenue), Gil Portes's Markova: Comfort Gay and two "unseen" movies about $ingapore such as Joel Lamangan's The Flor Contemplacion Story and Tikoy Aguiluz's The Last Wish, also about Contemplacion who was hanged in $ingapore.

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Review by Dr. Jose Y. Dalisay Jr.
(Butch Dalisay to readers of his "Penman" column in the Philippine STAR)

Over the past decade or so, no one has written more knowledgeably, more consistently, and more passionately about Philippine cinema than Noel Vera. I know some people who share his passion and perhaps even his learning, but they don't write, not nearly as well as he does. Noel doesn't just live and breathe movies; he teaches them, teaches us about them, and brings the full armament of his considerable knowledge and his keenly refined preferences to bear on even the seemingly most insipid or inconsequential movie to turn it into a learning experience.

Click here for the full write-up.

The article is titled "Bacharach In Bangkok" and the review is located in the middle of the piece.

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What Others Say

"You may not always agree with Noel Vera’s trenchant views on the art and craft of filmmaking - and I must confess that we don’t have the same pantheon of film heroes - but you have to grant that his reviews are always eminently readable. The insights are enlightening, the scholarship is reliable, and the humor is wry and dry."
- Pete Lacaba, screenwriter, film critic and journalist, Philippines

" To those who think there is no more such a thing as film criticism in the Philippines, just read Noel Vera’s reviews and articles, whether in Cinemaya or on the internet. You can feel he loves cinema for itself, and he knows it biblically. Even if he sometimes defends B-grade Filipino movies, he does it with his heart and mind, and he always stands for one of the few true Filipino directors of today: Mario O’Hara, an heir to Lino Brocka and the best Filipino cinema of the Golden Age. This in itself is the way to redemption!"
- Max Tessier, film critic, France

"My first thought after reading Noel Vera’s review on Segurista, was a desire to call up the film’s director, Tikoy Aguiluz, and then call up actress Michelle Aldana, and then watch the film again, and then go back and watch other titles he reviewed in the book, that I guiltily missed. I definitely need more phone numbers to call up later."
- U-Wei bin Haji Saari, filmmaker, Malaysia

Film Comment Review

There isn't exactly a surplus of literature on the output of Southeast Asia's most important national cinema, whether it be in English, Tagalog, or any of the 80-plus other languages of the Philippine archipelago. That this latest entry wasn't even published there but abroad in $ingapore is fitting for a writer whose sometimes wry and acidic comments have pissed off many a self-important hack with family connections to the powers that be. (Did I say Carlos Siguion-Reyna?)

'Critic After Dark' is a testament to Noel Vera's 1994-2004 run as a newspaper critic and his concurrent battles with a film culture he regards as dominated by bad taste, riddled with corruption and guilty of a general under-appreciation of director Mario O'Hara in particular. It all adds up to a pretty accurate overview of what was going on in Philippine feature filmmaking over the last decade. Interspersed are pieces dealing with more general subjects, ranging from skeptical musings over the true value of Carlos Vander Tolosa's repatriated not-quite-classic 'Giliw Ko' (My Love, '39) to reconsiderations of such masters as Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Mike de Leon, to comparative contemplations on sub-genre-wave phenomena such as Rizal or OCW (overseas contract worker) films.

Vera, like all of us, has his pantheon as well as a long and lovingly cultivated shit list--and he makes no secret of either. He'll do anything to find something good in a film by his hero O'Hara while it would take the third degree to make him say anything kind about Erik Matti (or the above-mentioned power-elite scion). And that's basically okay, not because he's right (who ever is?), but because it all amounts to a transparent theory of cinema and a critical practice that enables discerning readers--both aficionados and neophytes--to draw their own conclusions. - Olaf Moller, Film Comment, September-October 2005

Note: The book is also available at Datelines Bookstore Cubao; Cultural Center of the Philippines Bookstore, Manila; Fully Booked, Powerplant Mall, Makati; and Booktopia, Libis, QC.

Click here to order.

Overseas customers, please e-mail us for details.

Click here for Noel Vera's review of Segurista

Click here for Noel Vera's review of Sanda Wong

Copyright (c) 2005 BigO/Options Publications Pte Ltd. All Rights Reserved.