Scud at the Movies: Cinemanila 2008

Quick review of the films I watched in this year’s Cinemanila.

The Best:
Melancholia. Lav Diaz’s 8-hour opus. The film’s narrative is hard to describe so I’m just going to write about what I liked about it. The dialogue are great even if these are few and far between. Very intelligent, interesting, and real conversations. I was more impressed with the 15-min to 30-min non-dialogue scenes where there is not much happening on the screen. These are almost static scenes but images are very powerful. I appreciated this film even more a day after watching it. Overall a great film, one of the best I’ve seen this year, but is definitely not for everyone.

Love of Siam. A funny and bittersweet Thai film about the blossoming “friendship” between two teenage boys, about a boy confused of his sexuality, and about a family coming to terms with the loss of a child. One of the more memorable Asian films I’ve seen about teenage love. This could be mistaken as a Star Cinema production without the identical acting excesses. The other one was Mukhsin which I saw in last year’s Cinemanila.

A Band’s Visit. This is a funny and poignant film about a group of Egyptian musicians lost in Israel and the night they spend on a sleepy town. All of the characters in this film have sadness in them – Tawfiq who is consumed by guilt, Dina who beneath her icy demeanor is a woman yearning for love, an unhappy husband who is in between jobs, a guy who waits for his gilfriend’s phone call from a phone booth. The characters may carry excess baggages but the film does not wallow in their sadness. The musical score is also a major plus.

The Mediocre:
Vanished Empire. A Russian film about three college students who fall in and out of love with each other. There is nothing great about this movie, except maybe for a few scenes like the main character Stepan sobbing on his grandfather’s arm or the epilogue scene where we realize that the two best friends have become estranged and struggle through a conversation in a Russian airport, which would justify the P151 I paid to watch this movie.

Noise. An Australian film about a shooting massacre on an Australian subway, another murder victim on a remote Australian town, and a cop stricken with tinnitus tasked to work on the case. This is a slow-paced film although I could not call it boring. It is mesmerizing at times especially the slam-bang finale.

The Worst.
Sparrow. Johnny To’s film that opened this year’s Cinemanila. A truly disappointing film about a mysterious beautiful woman and a group of pickpockets. Yes, some of the scenes are wonderfully choreographed and shot (ex. the scene where the main character chanced upon the mysterious woman while taking photographs and the final pickpocket scenes) but that’s the only good thing about this film. Too much style and no substance.

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