Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Dear Film Development Council of the Philippines
August 29, 2009, 6:58 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema

You have the mandate to start the National Film Archive. I have heard that your first priority project in relation to archiving is the digitization of some 70 works into high quality digital copies. While this may be useful, perhaps inquiring into the state of and assisting the various archives in the country (UP Film Center, Mowelfund et al) whose current holdings (which include rare prints if not master negatives of some titles, let alone the entire history of alternative/experimental cinema in the country) are being stored in deplorable conditions, may be even more important. Have you thought about this? Saving the master negatives or prints and storing and caring for them properly will ensure their survival far longer than digital copies (of which we are still uncertain), and in their original state too. Steps need to be made NOW to ensure that we don’t lose more of these films.

I know you would like high quality digital copies of films to be available for public screenings, and its embarrassing when you’re asked for titles, even recent ones, and don’t know where to get them, but to push for this at the expense of the archiving itself, when the situation is clearly a SOS one for many films/archives is a serious mismanagement of priorities.

I saw this poster recently in the National Film Archive of Thailand, an institution that has done so much with so little and continues to do more (I believe you can learn much from them), and thought it would be useful to share it with you:


101st Anniversary Issue of Philippines Free Press
August 20, 2009, 3:18 am
Filed under: magazines

On newsstands this Monday…

Plug, via Erwin Romulo:
A special tribute to Cory Aquino featuring new writing by Teodoro Locsin Jr., Fr. Catalino Arevalo, Oliver X.A. Reyes.

As it is our
101 Year Anniversary, this special collectors issue also has articles from the Free Press archives (edited and curated by Ricky S. Torre). Featuring articles by Gregorio Brillantes, Wilfrido Nolledo, Kerima Polotan, Jose Quirino, Jose Lacaba and Quijano de Manila.

Continue reading

Singapore, Circa 1995 (?)
August 17, 2009, 2:46 pm
Filed under: stills











Taken from the film…

Continue reading

A Postcard from Oberhausen
July 27, 2009, 9:47 pm
Filed under: postcards

May 4, 2009

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook




Continue reading

June 15, 2009, 7:58 pm
Filed under: philippine cinema

The World War II film Intramuros aka Walls of Hell (1964), boasts a shared director credit by two Filipino National Artists, Gerardo De Leon and Eddie Romero, but of greater interest to me was another aspect of it: the early, iconic performance in it by Philippine action star Fernando Poe Jr (aka FPJ).

Poe, appearing to deliver his own lines (I’ve not verified this), speaks English with a thick – but by no means awkward – accent, and his character exudes an aura of invincibility, even when in a vulnerable position (as in the first shots above, when surrounded as he exits a manhole). Watching him in Walls of Hell reminded me of Robert Duvall’s Captain Kilgore in Apocalypse Now: while Poe’s character is a realist and Duvall’s an eccentric, they share a similar level of superhuman confidence, one almost attaining physical property; intimating that the circumstances in which they existed (– war) served them no threat.

A.H. Weiler, a critic at the NY TIMES reviewing the film in 1965, described Poe as “laconic, serious and muscular”, and his character as “the handsome Filipino who insists that the captives be freed before the walls are breached.” The name of Poe’s character: Sgt. Leonardo Maglaya.

My father’s name is Leonardo, and he was a huge fan of FPJ. If it wasn’t for this fact I might not have been so enraptured by Poe’s performance in the film, nor been as interested in him and his other important performances (including this one, as a schoolteacher turned rebel, in Celso Ad Castillo’s Asedillo). What kind of Poe fan was my father? Not crazy enough to have voted for the action star when he ran for President, but serious enough to have attempted, despite recovering from surgery and with Doctor’s orders to avoid public spaces, to pay his respects to the fallen actor at his wake (one among throngs in the thousands, he didn’t get anywhere near the coffin where Poe’s body lied). He enjoyed target shooting, my father, was a champion when he was young, and never failed to light up with a smile, laughing as he explained Poe’s style of gun-slinging in films, knowing as he did how improbable it was in real life.

Like Poe’s Leonardo, my father often exuded, at least to me and my siblings, a similar sheen of invincibility: a stature and confidence that made you believe he could survive anything. Though thinking about it now, his was perhaps an emotional strength much more than a physical one, which lead us to take for granted, even when he was hospitalized regularly and enduring a siege of problems and responsibilities, that these too would be but passing threats…

He passed away three years to this day. However inadequate a remembrance, this post is dedicated to his memory.

Fully Booked Film Screenings
June 14, 2009, 12:45 am
Filed under: Updates

A blog for the series of screenings held in the book shop Fully Booked, in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig:

Have a look and if you are or will be in Manila, please come. Screenings updates will be posted there, as well as notes on past screenings (introduction by the filmmakers, or links to relevant info).

Tag Gallagher on Gertrud
April 13, 2009, 3:11 am
Filed under: quotes

From Chain of Dreams by Tag Gallagher:

What interested him most about making movies, said Carl Th. Dreyer a few years before his death, was to “reproduce the feelings of the characters in my films […], to seize […] the thoughts that are behind the words […], the secrets that lie in the depths of their soul”.

“Gertrud [1964] is a film I made with my heart”, he added. With the heart. About the heart. “What interests me before all, it’s this, and not the technique of cinema.”

Technique, nonetheless, is the tool the heart must use. Accordingly, Dreyer mobilizes all cinema for the hunt. “I need a big screen”, he said. “I need the communal feeling of a theater. Something made to move has to move a crowd.” He wanted to do Gertrud in colour. Maybe 70mm, too, like Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962). Isn’t Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) on a camel in a desert like Gertrud (Nina Pens Rode) on a seat in a parlour? Dreyer wanted mass catharsis, the way Greek theatre did, or maybe the way college basketball does, with thousands of pulses synched to that ball’s movements. With the result that Gertrud is more like a basketball game than Lawrence, has more action, excitement, spills, chills and thrills, and has some of the “coolest” scenes in movies, piled on top of each other.

Curious it is, then, that some people complain Dreyer is slow and intellectual, talkie and dull, Gertrud particularly. They never spot the ball. As a result, it is unlikely in my lifetime that I shall share Gertrud on a big screen with two thousand pulses synched to her every movement. Like most people, I shall see Gertrud at home alone, on my television, and even with a large screen and Criterion’s excellent DVD, I shall have to press my player’s zoom button in order to see into her eyes. She and her men sit in full-length compositions like figures in gigantic tapestries. “I don’t like television”, Dreyer said.

Gallagher is a fantastic critic that deserves much more credit. More of his writing is available on his website, including (quite generously) downloadable pdf files of his 884 page tome on Rossellini (“The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini”) and his tome on John Ford (“John Ford: The Man and his Films”, revised in 2007 and with frame enlargements).