Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

Fine Writing
September 17, 2007, 2:22 am
Filed under: philippine cinema

Dear humble readers (all few of you),

The more film criticism I read, the more I wonder about the history of film criticism in the Philippines. While several attempts at producing serious cinema publications have been made, none have lasted very long. It is safe to say that ours is not a culture that encourages polemics (click here for evidence).

That said, I’m curious as to what fine writing on cinema does exist in the Philippines, and for this, I solicit your assistance to answer the following question:

What are some fine individual examples of Filipino film criticism?
Are there any particularly memorable pieces of criticism from, say, Hammy Sotto, Constantino Tejero, Gino Dormiendo, or Lito Zulueta, Nick Deocampo, Noel Vera?

It can be written in English or Filipino, be recent or old (old might even be preferred), but it must be a single article written by a Filipino about a Filipino film. Post your answer(s) and explain your choice(s) in the comments section of this blog. Feel free to post or link said piece of criticism should you be able to.

8 Comments so far
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hi alexis,

i don’t know if you consider this as fine writing but way back in college, i used to frequent the general reference section in the UP library to read their copies of Urian anthology (70-79, 80-89, they are not allowed to be taken out of course) and there are a lot of great, great pieces of writing there especially from Nicanor Tiongson, Agustin Sotto, and previous members of Urian. I remember spending my whole Friday there, reading, reading, and reading. By the way, great intention, man. i am looking forward to it and hope i can help in any possible way.


Comment by lilokpelikula

Hi Chard,
Thanks for your comment. I’ve had a look at the Urian Anthology through a friend; I really wish copies were still available for purchase or that it could undergo a second printing. I’m certain there is some very good writing in there.
Do you recall any particularly outstanding individual pieces?

Comment by Alexis

Had Urian members stopped from writing? I haven’t seen the Anthology for the 90s, I’m not sure if there’s even a book that came out. There are a lot of superbly-written, fireball articles from there so I am sure you’ll understand that I cannot remember the most of it :) But one article that stood out, I don’t know why, was Dean Tiongson’s “review” of The Boatman, Scorpio Nights, and Hubad (I’m not really sure if it’s Hubad). Sorry, i forgot the title. Bomba films were selling like pancakes that time and he provided arguments on how some of them could be considered “pornographic,” “for the sake of art,” or “a masterpiece.” Although I disagree with some of his points (I still believe Scorpio Nights is a tour-de-force epitome of political rest/unrest filmed with utmost sensitivity), it is one of the best “library sessions” I ever had.

Comment by lilokpelikula

From what I know, Tuviera (who owns TAPE Productions that produces Eat Bulaga etc), is publisher of both URIAN Anthology and you can order directly from them (office along Xavierville I believe). I’m more interested in the first one and it seemed like a treasure trove of writings on some of the local “canons” when I read them. Then of course it might be because there are no other writings more accessible than these.

Comment by Raya

Richard: Thanks for the specific suggestion. I shall be sure to seek out that text.

Raya: I can see where that last line is coming from. This is the same tendency I believe that persists with regard to Philippine cinema: to elevate our esteem of what exists in the absence of anything better.

That said, are there any particularly memorable pieces of writing outside of the Urian Anthologies that you would recommend? Aside from the essays of Anne De Guzman that you shared previously.

Comment by Alexis

Hi Alex, just to weigh in on my picks: Constantino Tejeros, Lito Zulueta (finally, I keep forgetting his name), your piece on Batang West Side, Olaf Moller’s guerilla campaigns on behalf of Philippine cinema, the occasional piece from Dave Kehr. Whoops, not Filipino, but definitely on Filipino films.

Scorpio’s a fine example of end-of-regime filmmaking; to that I’d throw in O’Hara’s Bagong Hari. Two what we might call terminal films, what Gallaga expressed through sex, O’Hara expressed through violence.

Comment by Noel Vera

Hi Noel, Thanks for your comment and compliment.

Any particular pieces from Tejeros and Zulueta?

To expand the scope of the question a little bit, is there any fine writing on film (though not necessarily a particular film) by non-film critics that you might recommend. An example might be, say, the profiles written by Nick Joaquin.

Or any individual interviews that you thought were interesting? (with special attention to ones done pre-90’s)

Comment by Alexis

There’s a crucial interview of Mario O’Hara done in the INquirer that focused on his early radio and stage career; that’s worth digging up. I think it was in the ’90s.

I hear Torre’s pieces way back when are pretty good. Pio de Castro’s too. Offhand, I can’t think of a piece by a non-critic, not from before the 90s. Conrado de Quiros does some good things, I thought. I need to think about that.

Comment by Noel Vera

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