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."