Monday, May 18

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

Brillante Mendoza
continues to polarize critics with Kinatay to no surprise.

"Filipino director Brillante Mendoza emerged as an intriguing talent at last year's Cannes with Serbis, a portrait of a fading porn cinema in Manila. Kinatay, screening in Competition, is infinitely darker but an equally strong depiction of modern-day life in the former American colony that some are comparing to Gasper Noe's Irreversible," says Sukhdev Sandhu in his review over at Telegraph UK. He sums it up as a "a fiercely moral and horribly unforgettable denunciation of societal corruption."

Screen Daily's Mike Goodridge praises the movie's visceral style, "Mendoza’s deliberate pace which feels leisurely in the first 20 minutes of normality becomes tortuously effective as Peping makes the descent into horror and is faced with the terrifying dilemma of what to do. The audience, should it be willing to do so, makes the same descent and Mendoza asks his viewers to consider what they themselves would do in the same situation." Overall, Kinatay is "well-made by Mendoza and more coherent than last year’s Serbis, it will nevertheless be hard for even the most adventurous arthouse audiences to stomach."

In contrast, Roger Ebert's blog shreds it to pieces: "Here is a film that forces me to apologize to Vincent Gallo for calling "The Brown Bunny" the worst film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival." And to the critics who (will) champion Kinatay's vision, Ebert has this to say: "There will be critics who fancy themselves theoreticians, who will defend this unbearable experience, and lecture those plebeians like me who missed the whole Idea. I will remain serene while my ignorance is excoriated. I am a human being with relatively reasonable tastes. And in that role, not in the role of film critic, I declare that there may not be ten people in the world who will buy a ticket to this movie and feel the money was well spent." Read the entire review for the full context.

Variety's Jay Weissberg criticizes Mendoza's approach to the graphic violence saying "the graphic nature of the presentation is so coldly matter-of-fact and overtly in-your-face that auds are unlikely to feel anything other than anger at being subjected to such unnecessary scenes. It's not that the helmer takes any glee in the sadism, but the nightmarish quality he captures is merely vile, without a deeper sense of the scene's horror." But Weissberg does praise the technical improvement over Serbis, "On a purely technical level "Kinatay" impresses, especially in the first quarter. D.p. Odyssey Flores shoots each scene from a variety of angles, as if the camera itself had an urgent need to understand where characters are in space and in relation to their surroundings."

Video of the the movie's Press conference, photocall, and more here.

Now, I really want to see Kinatay. I liked Masahista, Kaleldo and Tirador. I have yet to watch Serbis uncut (will this ever be locally released on DVD?). I wonder when this will be shown here or if its threatical showing will be as kinatay as Serbis.

UPDATE 5/19: Wise Kwai has links to more reviews on Kinatay, including updates on other Asian movies competing in the event. Also check out Kong Rithdee's page (of Bangkok Post) who is blogging from Cannes. Via TFJ

UPDATE 5/22: the auteurs' notebook seems to like Kinatay (didactic shots aside): "But, as with Mendoza’s previous film Serbis, the rest of the movie is given as a handheld dedication to space—there, a porno theater, here, a sinister, anonymous police van traveling great distances at night for the purpose of terrible things, and later a torture house. But it is a space of obscurity, of uncertainty in a morally certain situation, and so the space, covered and run over again and again by the roving camera, takes on an abstraction nearly outside the story itself. A palette of sleek grays makes a death grip on this film that started—again, didactically—in daylight with a marriage, and Kinatay’s immersion into nightfall stands strong, splendidly, as independent force."


dodo dayao said...

Ebert is a bit of a dork anyway so i wouldn't listen to him.

I've only seen one Brillante myself - - Tirador - - - but I'm terirbly excited about Kinatay. Although a lot of people swear by Manoro as his best work.

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

I've only seen "Foster Child", a far cry from his dark films. But I loved it to bits. I believe Mendoza is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of director. As the article says: he will continue to polarize critics.

the spy in the sandwich said...

ebert a dork?

are you serious?

have you even read any of his books? this man is capable of such great cinematic insight that he remains the only film critic who has won the pulitzer.

dodo dayao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dodo dayao said...

I like how he writes, I'll give him that.

And yes, I've read A LOT of his work, both early (which I like) and recent(most of which, if not all, I find as cinematically insightful as a press release and yeah,sometimes he can be a bit of a dork)- - - I'm not in the habit ofthrowing out comments like that without knowing what I'm talking about and sort of hope that I deserve a little more than to be presumed otherwise.

Good for him on the Pulitzer but criticism is prose and one man's trash is another man's treasure and sadly a prize isn't changing my mind (as it shouldn't) on which writers I should like, "great cinematic insight" notwithstanding. I get a lot of that anyway from Jonathan Rosenbaum and Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris and Manny Farber and David Edelstein and Anthony Lane and Grady Hendrix and Noel Vera and Michael Atkinson. Them I'm a fan of. Ebert I'm not. Simple as that, Pulitzer be damned.

Thor Bee said...

Even reviews of Mendoza's work polarize people.

@Fidel: Sayang, I missed Foster Child but I do only hear good things about it.

@Dodo: Masahista and Kaleldo are available on DVD, got Tirador on VCD. I hope the rest of his films, and Raya's too (and Lav's though boxed-set na ito), get commercially released on home video.

dodo dayao said...

Yeah me too. Good luck on Raya's and Lav's work coming to light on legitimate DVD soon. Will keep you abreast of any screenings, though, should they happen.

Meanwhile, I'm going to look for Brillante DVDs. Him and Jeffrey(Jeturian) are the only two major local filmamkers left whose work I haven't caught up on. (Only seen Kubrador and Tuhog but Jeffrey's early stuff is apparently brilliant).

Charlie Koon said...

@dodo, you just hate ebert (more) because he bashed kinatay. his dislike to the film and his protest for the award given to brillante is synonymous to your denial of his pulitzer award. you can't hate a reviewer for stating one's opinions. you're even part of a film industry who seeks justice for censorship, for freedom of expression, and yet if someone opposes your view, you make an effort to discredit the person, placing yourself to the other side of the throne as well...

i'm also looking forward to see Brillante's new work. and i could not even regard him as a love him/hate him kind of a director. he's just uhm, he's a bit incoherent with his film outputs.. that's it.

@ thor, i added you in my blog list. i like reading your filipino film reviews

Thor Bee said...

@Charlie, will do likewise. It's great to see a review blog dedicated to Pinoy films.

Charlie Koon said...

we're just few... :(

dodo dayao said...

@Charlie Koon: Oh please, sir,and with all due respect, but where in my statement did I say I hate Ebert? And where did I deny his Pulitzer? Or protest it? Or comment on Ebert protesting about it - - which,of course,he would? And where did I say I formed this opinion of his work because of his Kinatay bashing? And where did I even begin to discredit the guy?

I just said he could be a bit of a dork and can not be trusted. Have you read his infamous Brown Bunny review, by any chance? Brown Bunny is, of course, the film that was the worst in Cannes history before Kinatay?

Good for him on the Pulitzer.
That doesn't matter to me. And a year from now, when Brillante has made his nxt film, neither will his Cannes award. Or Raymond's Palme D'Or,specially now that he's finished Himpapawid. These things aren't important in the long run- - not when one is still doing work. And ultimately, these things - - -awards - - -aren't really important, AT ALL. Really. There's more to life than a Pulitzer Prize. Than movies, even. Do you like Sound of Music by any chance? A lot of people hate it. And not even its Oscar Best Picture will change their minds.

I've been reading Ebert's work for a looooong time - - -I'm not a young guy. And liked his writing. Somewhere along the way, he lost whatever it was that made him interesting for me. Is that a crime? I used to kiss the ground Woody Allen walked on but his films aren't as good as they used to be. He can be a dork sometimes, Woody. So can Ebert.I still think he writes better than say . . Jonathan Rosenbaum but when Jonathan Rosenbaum says I should go watch a film, I do. When Ebert does, I don't. I don't trust him. (But hell, he makes good reading and sometimes that's the only thing that matters) If Rosenbaum says Kinatay is shit, I would probably think twice. I might even agree if i do see it, that the film is shit. But that won't make me less proud of Brillante. Nor less excited about his work.

The way of the world, sir. Some writers we like, some we don't. Ebert I don't. No malice, no conspiracy, no nothing. Simple as that.

Sorry for the longish comment. Cheers.

dodo dayao said...

@Thor: Offtopic at tinatamad na ko to scroll down . . hehe . . but I saw Ded Na Si Lolo. Sloppily made in parts pero hilarious at dala ng artista - -Dick Israel (idol!), Perla Bautista, Gina Alajar, Manily, Oro, Pekto(!) at syempre si Roderick! Sana lang mas played up yung entrance ni Roderick - - -pero walang kontrol ang halkhak ko dun sa part na ngningitiian niya yung mga boys at yung nagpapaka-macho siya, kahit hindi ko ma-gets kung bakit. And admittedly parts of it were . . .tearjerky. Yung "confession" ni Oro, specially. Bumigay ako dun. Hahaha. Coming too soon from back to back funerals must've left me a little vulnerable.

Sana may budget pa for polishing some(most) of the scenes. Hate to admit it, but Soxy is no Wenn Deramas or Joyce Bernal.

Good friends whose tatse i trust have warned me away fromAgaton and Mindy,though. But I'll still go see and support. Peque pa rin naman 'to. bad acting from the leads daw. Oh well.

Thor Bee said...

@Dodo: Come to think of it, Ded na si Lolo had a very 80s feel (the technical sloppiness admittedly contributed to it, and so did Roderick's gay character) and maybe that's why I liked it so much.

Will still see Agaton and Mindy. Curious if it's an updated version of Gallaga's Deliryo, though obviously more sex lite.