Tuesday, May 19

Cannes Surfing: INDEPENDENCIA reviews round-up (Updated 5/22)

Sid Lucero and Alessandra De Rossi on the set of Independencia
via Concentrated Nonsense


Shot entirely in the studio, Independencia ambitiously aims to capture the cinematic style of the period it depicts. This is the second installment of director Raya Martin's visual speculation of life through different eras of revolutions in Philippine history.

I will be updating this post as soon as the reviews come in (or until I finish my copywriting work on cardiac arrhythmia; the deadline is giving me palpitations).

Howard Feinstein of Screen Daily doesn't seem to keen on the dramatics: "Generically, Independencia is as melodramatic as they come. Besides the family narrative and the acting style, the music, as lovely as it is, is continuous, insistent, and frequently mournful, with horns, guitar, flute, violin, and cello accompanying or anticipating every element of what little plot exists." Feinstein also singles out the slow pacing of the film, "On account of Martin’s political and formal strategies, most screen time is taken up by the routines of rural life and drastic changes in the weather. We are saved from boredom by the one character telling stories to the others, most of them based on mythology and superstition, and some fine sound effects, most notably the ongoing, high-volume sounds of insects and the river. True to the genre, nothing ends well."

UPDATE 5/20: Via Southeast Asian Film Studies Institute. GQ praises Independencia's texture and Martin's point of view: "The filmmaker in question, Raya Martin, is a new name to me, but if his earlier movies are anything like this one, Guy Maddin has a prize pupil to be proud of. The evocativeness of Independencia is all in Martin’s decision to shoot it in the style of a pre-Griffith silent movie, when nobody knew that film had any purpose except mimicking a theater’s proscenium arch. If that didn’t make it clear we’re watching a fable of the Phillipines’ past, the final image wouldn’t be nearly as wrenching—or as pointed. Beyond that, all I can say is that I’ll be at Martin’s next one with bells on."

Matt Bochenski of Little White Lies (one of the best movie websites out there, I'm a huge fan) wonderfully gets it: "Deliberately theatrical and old-fashioned, Independencia is a richly metaphorical, allusive collision of history, mythology and cultural memory. Full of long takes and stylized close ups, but sizzling beneath with raw-knuckled sexuality, it’s occasionally hard work but is hugely rewarding."

Variety also writes a lukewarm review of Raya Martin and Adolfo Alix Jr.'s Maynila.

UPDATE 5/22: From the auteurs' The Saga of a Guerilla in the Philippines: "Martin easily conjures an atmosphere of modest, supple dreaminess—not an ounce of pretension exists in the film despite its stylistic conceit—but in the face of the location work of someone like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Independencia's chill vibe is welcome but seems easy. More importance is placed on the surreal naturalism of the film's beautifully painted matte backgrounds than any sort of human or story presence, and while Martin's natural sense of space gives everything on camera its due, I wish there were more on camera than the splendor of a studio production."

6 comments:

dodo dayao said...

Local cinema still has a long way to go in getting the critical good side internationally , it seems, despite being the rage of programmers everywhere. The world is still stuck at Himala, it seems, great as that picture is.

Which sort of makes watching them
- - - whether it's Lav or Brillante or Raya or it's Khavn or Richard Somes or Gagamboy or Temptation Island- - - a purer experience, bereft of any pre-emptive opinion and bias, outside of . . .well, rooting for them to be good, which they almost always turn out to be. Interesting, at the very least.

Pinoy cinema is the new black. Frak Hollywood. :)

Thor Bee said...

I've been watching local films regularly, both independents and popular, and I've noticed that we do have a distinct voice and point of view.

Pinoy movies are rarely subtle and we do love grand gestures. There's also always (white) noise even when the movie is at a stand still. And our humor, well, is all over the place. Just saw Scaregivers, and it's just insane!

I think the international audience is just getting used to our visual language. Mendoza aims beyond gritty realism (as seen in Tirador), one can actually smell the stink and the sweat. Masyado lang atang burgis yung mga nanood sa Cannes, hahaha!

And when it comes to overseas competition, I will unashamedly adhere to Pinoy mafia mentality. Kahit Park Chan-Wook kalaban, sa Pinoy pa rin ako! Ika mo nga, WASAK!

Palabas Litsonero this week sa Galleria. Parang di gaano maganda pero papatulan ko pa rin.

dodo dayao said...

Mismo. Represent, ika nga. Hehe.

Can't help think that there's still a strain of racism, however faint,as far as Filipino movies are concerned. I also think they can't get over the fact that we can make movies for no money.

Re: Litsonero. Not a fan of Lore Reyes but in a way it's good that he and Peque - - -with the forthcoming Agaton and Mindy - - -are making movies. Maybe Celso Ad Castillo should go back. Too bad Joey Gosiengfiao has passed.

In a way, yung paglubog ng industriya is a blessing of sorts, dahil natibag na finally yung industry model ng lokal movies, which was patterned after the industry model of old Hollywood - - -auteurs rubbing up against rank and file hacks making movies like factories make cars. Wala na masyadong rank and filers. Most of them are either retired or working in TV - - -Mark Reyes,et.al. All we have now is the tireless but unexciting (sorry) Joel Lamangan and Wenn Deramas (who can pull off a good one more often than not,in fairness).

Time for a new model to spring up. Or maybe no model at all. Just filmmakers making films however the hell they damn please. Yun ang wasak.

Dick Dick said...

There's a blog who's averaging the ratings of thevarious films being shown in Cannes. So far, "Independencia" with an average of 8.55 is the best rated

NOTE: Promedio is Average in English


http://micropsia.blogspot.com/2009/05/independencia-de-raya-martin-promedio.html

Thor Bee said...

@Dick Dick: Thanks for the heads up! Will post it as an update. :)

Andy Briones said...

Here's hoping they screen Kinatay and Independencia at Cinemanila. :-)