Concentrated Nonsense (cinema edition)

On the year that was
February 28, 2008, 12:25 pm
Filed under: notes | Tags: , ,

In his year-end article In the Pit of 2007 for the December/January issue of local magazine Rogue, Tad Ermitaño begins by discussing major headlines in local news in the past twelve months (a Teri Hatcher remark on Desperate Housewives, censoring of the Neo-Angono Artists Collective mural, explosion in Glorietta mall, ZTE NBN deal, and the pardoning of ousted President Joseph Estrada after being convicted of plunder), before ending with this description of a familiar feeling, about trying to work in the field of arts in the Philippines today:

What the hell do I know. Why do I care about art, these gestures in the air, when every time I actually think about what’s in the paper I think all the fucking names in there ought to be lined up against a wall and shot? They’re the ones who really deserve the bullet in the last paragraph, but there’s no way to get Jonas and Mariannett to kill them all off without writing in a freak metaphysical accident that turns the two of them into agents of the Apocalypse. I am become Death, destroyer of worlds. The latest art thing I’ve done is a little machine in which a video image winds thread on a spool. Something virtual performing work in the real world. Cute, maybe even witty, maybe even a signal in the history of Philippine video art. When I’m not thinking about the stuff in the paper, I think I’m kind of on the ball, a pretty good artist, a pretty good writer. When I do think about the paper, I think it’s all stupid and I’m a fool to keep at it. Schizophrenia and frustration. An adolescent’s schizophrenia and frustration. A dilettante’s schizophrenia and frustration. I suspect that the poet-turned-guerrilla Eman Lacaba was in some extreme variant of this mood when he decided to fuck off from the Malate art scene and put himself in the service of the Revolution. The masses are Messiah. But I’m not going anywhere near a gun, nowhere near an army, and probably nowhere near a march. I distrust crowds and hate podiums and slogans and want nothing better than to screw around in my cave, with my computers and my cameras and circuits. The country careens towards the year’s end and no end in sight. Babylon gnaws its guts and I’m sorry for the mess. We will meet again, and I will be in a better temper. Nehru once called Bali “the morning of the world,” but I remember thinking the first time I heard that that every morning everywhere must be something like the first morning of the world and that it was probably just easier to remember it in that Bali then–in the middle of temples and rice paddies and gamelans and kretek cigarettes. We will meet again in 2008, and we will talk about what we like about the world, what we like about the country. We’ll talk about something small, but made with care and attention. A painting, a sidewalk, a program, a piece of fish, a box, a shirt, a lamp, a sentence: the details of continuity and faith


tad at home

(Tad at home)


Features and literary editor Erwin Romulo is doing some very nice things with Rogue. While I’ve written a handful of film-related articles for them–on Lav Diaz’s Heremias, Rox Lee’s The Great Smoke, the short films of Antoinette Jadaone and a brief Ingmar Bergman obituary–it’s their prose and fiction I’d like to plug at the moment. Currently on its seventh issue, the magazine has published interesting new fiction by the likes Luis Katigbak, Sarge Lacuesta and Tony Perez, new prose by Lourd De Veyra and Erwin Romulo himself, and been the latest outlet for one of my favourite local writers, quoted above.

Update: April 12, 2008
Some issues of Rogue can now be read online in high quality at Issuu:

Rogue Magazine Mar 08
Rogue Magazine Feb 08
Rogue Magazine Nov 07
Rogue Magazine Oct 07
Rogue Magazine Sep 07
Rogue Magazine Aug 07
Rogue Magazine July 07

Mathieu Ricordi/ Ekran/ 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

The Slovenian film magazine Ekran (Girish previously posted the English version of an interview with Adrian Martin that appeared in their pages), which I’ve had the privilege of contributing to previously, has a review of the film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days in its latest issue. Translated to Slovenian for print, the article was written by filmmaker, astute critic, and good friend since high school, Mathieu Ricordi. An active member of the notorious a_film_by mailing list, I believe Mathieu, when he does write, to be on equal level with some of the finest writers on cinema today.

While his article is essentially a critical review of 4 Months…, it also makes some intriguing arguments relevant to contemporary world cinema discourse (and dare I say, extremely relevant to Philippine cinema today).

For the privilege of those without access to Ekran — published in the Slovenian language, but with an extremely international contributor base that includes Olaf Möller and Christoph Huber and may soon have selected articles in English or their original language on their website — I post Mathieu’s review here. Your thoughts?

The review:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Framed between an opening image of two goldfishes in an aquarium and a closing image of its protagonists behind the glass window of a hotel restaurant, the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is primarily concerned with entrapment. Given that this feature is the most recent recipient of the Cannes Film festival’s top prize, the Palme D’Or , it is an especially entombed type of entrapment─ ensnaring its central premise, characters, and technique into a fixed political malaise, boxing out narrative dimensionality, artistic transcendence, and a complex worldview; all the while narrowing the possibilities of its purposely imposed tendencies towards realist cinema. In fact, one could spot the film’s dogmatic preoccupation with this particular sort of entrapment as another branch on the Cannes Palme D’Or family tree− whose new millennium roots have been particularly anchored in the enshrinement of cramped cause celebre pieces. Recent Cannes Laureates include Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 which saw the director assemble a rigid decoupage of news-clips and biased interviews to simply re-affirm an ever growing disenchantment with George Bush’s handling of America and foreign policy, Gus Van Sant’s Elephant which used a national tragedy of teenage school shootings as the basis for a withdrawn exercise in test-tubing civic destruction─ fleeing any sociological inquiring in the process─ and Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, a psychologically uncomplicated retort against British imperialism with implications on current situations in the Middle East. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days takes its place among these films in the tunnel of morbidity and crude anthropological display, cashing in on the politically correct viewpoint of finding grievance with totalitarian institutions/governments and the suffrage of the people living in these conditions.

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