THE DESERT WITHIN
112 min.,MEXICO, dir. Rodrigo Pla| Reviewer Ed Farolan
In the Q & A session, Director Pla was asked where he got the idea for this film. He answered saying that he was an ex-seminarian and while studying philosophy, he came across German philosophers like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. The title is derived from Nietzche's statement "The desert grows, and woe to him who conceals the desert within him." The storyline was inspired by Soren Kierkegaard who, in his diaries describes his fear of being condemned to a premature death by his father. Pla and his wife, Laura Santullo who co-wrote the screenplay, adapts this concept and places it within the historical context of the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s. The story is narrated through Aureliano who portrays the family saga in religious paintings, and Pla portrays these through animated film images depicting the irrationality and fanaticism of the Catholic religion.
I like this film. It reminds me of those old classical films when everything was in order: the sequences, the plot, and the whole Aristotelian concept of how to write a good play or screenplay. Unlike the new wave of filmmakers who try to get away with sloppy films in the name of le nouveau, Pla patiently develops his story until it comes to a fitting conclusion. He and his wife have won awards for this film in the Guadalajara and Karlo Vivary film festivals.
THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD
127 min.,SOUTH KOREA, dir. Kim Jee-Woon| Reviewer Ed Farolan
This is a hysterically funny film because of the main protagonist Song Kang-Ho. He got laughs from beginning to end for his role as Tae-Gu, "the weird". Kim Jee-Woon, from seeing this film, is an avid fanatic of Spaghetti Westerns, and here, we could even see a Clint Eastwood type, the bounty hunter Do-Weon ("the good") as he rides on top of a hill with his trench coat and cigarette in his mouth with the sunset in the background. Whether Jee-Woon is making a parody of Sergio Leone's films or paying him tribute to him , it's hard to tell, but there's a lot of black comedy in this film mixed with non-stop action. This film sold out fast and I think there were some who didn't mind coming in despite the fact that there were no more seats left and had to stand through the whole 127 minutes of fun and adventure.
118 min.,CANADA/BRAZIL/JAPAN, dir. Fernando Meirelles| Reviewer Ed Farolan
Brazilian director Meirelles who made a name for himself for City of God and The Constant Gardener comes up with another powerful film adapted by Canadian Don McKellar from Nobel prize-winner Jose Saramago's apocalyptic novel Ensayos de la ceguera. Although I was not impressed by the technical aspects of the film, I think the film owes its success to the principal actors Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga who all performed superbly. Many films tagged as horror and science fiction most often portray a bleak view of the future. In this film, the entire population of a city is afflected by blindness and as a precaution, the health organization quarantines them in an old jail. A group of men who takes charge of feeding them begin to take advantage of the situation, by sexually exploiting the women in exchange for food.
Despite the grimness and the metaphors imaging the breakdown of the human condition, there is redemption at the end because despite the fragility of mankind, when persons of moral fibre are put together, there is salvation. And Meirelles delivers cinematically, at the conclusion of the film, Saramago's message about hope in a seemingly hopeless world.
WEN QUE (SPARROW)
87 min.,HONG KONG, dir. Johnnie To| Reviewer Ed Farolan
A delightful comedy about four Hong Kong pickpockets who help a female counterpart get out of the clutches of a rich old crook who made money pickpocketing in the old days. Johnnie To has a certain directorial style that gets an audience enthused and laughing. His musical background is sophisticated, somewhat reflecting the "upscale" style that these Hong Kong pickpockets do their job. The sparrow comes in as a symbolic thing. But I don't want to go into symbolism because Johnnie would probably won't understand my ruminations about the "metaphorical sparrow." All I can say is that this is an entertaining film worth watching, a film that received a warm applause from the opening day audience.
POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND
95 min., FRANCE, dir. Michel Houllebecq| Reviewer Ed Farolan
When a novel is reduced to film, there are gaps left to the imagination of an audience. And if an audience has no imagination, we end up with a film full of question marks. I'm probably a person with no imagination and that's why I was scratching my head (mind you, others in the audience too) because the movie left us wondering if there was going to be a sequel to it. Some kind of unfinished symphony at the end of the film. The storyline is interesting in that the sci-fi writer attempts to merge science and religion. At the end, are we again seeing, after the cataclysm, an archetypal Adam and Eve in the 25th generation of neohuman clones? There are more questions left unanswered in this film leaving enigmatic looks at the faces of the audience as they walked out of the theatre.
CELIA THE QUEEN
86 min., USA, dirs. Jose Cardona, Mario de Varona| Reviewer Ed Farolan
A fitting tribute to the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz (1924-2003). The film shows footage from her first gigs with Sonora Matancera where she met her husband, Pedro Knight, the second trumpet player of the group. The film shows interviews with her peers and fans, as well as archival footage of her concerts in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Paris, Africa, etc. except Cuba which she longed for, hoping to return but never could because she was blacklistged by the Castro government.
What impressed me most in this film were two interviews. The first was an interview with Celia who, before she died, expressed her raison d'etre. She didn't want to cause pain and problems to other people; in fact, she said that her singing was to make people happy and making them enjoy through her songs the zest for living. The second thing that struck me was her personality. One of the talk-show hosts said that she was so different from the other superstars who were mostly megalomaniacs, avoiding crowds and the paparazzi, whilst Celia would go to the crowds and if they wanted to touch her to prove that she was real, she would let them do it. And that's precisely what she did after her concerts--go to the crowds and mix with them. That was why she was so well-loved not only by her fans but also by her peers and people close to her.
© 2008 Ed Farolan
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