Movie reviews: 2019 Cinema One Originals films, Part 2
Lucid review: More than its artifice
As a romance that explores the bottomless possibilities of love, Victor Villanueva’s Lucid is strangely morose. Its main conceit pits the frustrating routine of reality and what supposedly is the infinite beauty of dreams. Its most glaring problem is that its portrayal of what dreams look like is sloppy and unsightly, more a product of digitally filtered footage than something creatively designed. Its vision of reality is gorgeously structured, perhaps with the intention of enunciating the supposed mundaneness of work-a-day living. With a visually underwhelming fantasy being shown side by side with an elegantly depicted reality, Lucid, as a romance, feels misdirected, with its arguably clumsily conceived aesthetic betraying its ambition of favoring sweet escape over humdrum life.
There is more to Lucid than what its low-rent kitsch suggests. Villanueva’s film isn’t just a romance. It is a poignant character study that cleverly exploits the explicit delights culled from love stories and their unrealistic happy endings. The film is solemnly steered towards a more profound destination by the restrained performance of Alessandra de Rossi who inhabits the character of an office worker whose emotional struggles are more vast than what her everyday normalcy telegraphs. As a humanizing portrait of unbearable sadness, the film’s offbeat visuals makes sense, in a way that a woman who is unable to control her reality would opt for the smudged colors of a fantasy where she is the captain.
Villanueva’s film is emotionally mature despite its seemingly juvenile artifice. It ends up surprisingly compelling and beautifully heartfelt.
O review: Premature discharge
The blatant hints of the truly unhinged masterpiece that fully reveals the fetishistic creativity of its director is what makes Kevin Dayrit’s O such a woeful missed opportunity. It is many things at once. It is messy and it knows it, more a patchwork of its multiple ambitions than an elegant ode to a singular thing. It is scattered and if anything, there is awe and beauty in the way its repulsive ejaculations end up creating an explicable artwork whose formlessness is its very own genius. Sure, its being malformed is a product of some parts of its script being unfinished perhaps out of a lack of time and resources, as what Dayrit has confessed, but there is an unintentional courage in the way Dayrit has arrived with something that can stand on its own despite its warts and all with what little he has been provided. In fact, the film can also be regarded as some sort of rebellion to the very system that has created a culture of churning out half-baked could-be showpieces all for the sake of festival deadlines.
Still, if one doesn’t have the time or patience to rationalize the film’s patent imperfections, it is what it is, which is a nearly incomprehensible montage of scenes featuring modern-day Breaking Bad-style lesbian vampires straight out of Harajuku. What stitches together the disparate moments of sudden violence or absurdist sexual innuendos is Dayrit’s own gorgeous score, which blends in with his haphazardly pretty or lovingly ugly aesthetics with its aspirations of being a riff of classical music if interpreted by a lonely anarchist. There are traces of camp here and there, making O something akin to the bastard premature child of Nobohiko Obayashi’s Hausu (1977) and Joey Gosiengfiao’s Temptation Island (1980), but that campy vibe is also left unsustained, evolving into an amalgamation of art, mystery and psycho-sexual self-expression. O is an unabashed failure, but it’s vastly more intriguing for what it, what it could be, and what it can be about than a lot of the glossy successes that have been churned out in droves.
Metamorphosis review: Coming of age and sex
J. E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis has been cocooned in production limbo for so many years. It has been peddles in various film festivals, finally being short-listed in one, only to be discontinued because of producers suddenly backing out. The film is finally made, and thank god, the final product’s a glorious butterfly and not a forgettable moth.
The film is both a coming of age and a coming to terms of Adam (Gold Aceron) of his being intersex. The theme is ripe for exploitation but Tiglao smartly aims for restraint, focusing not on the fact of Adam being different but of his sameness with the rest of the world amidst his precarious situation. It isn’t as if the film is totally oblivious to the consequences of the character’s being intersex but what it does is not dwell on it to the point of abuse and misdirection. The film shines because it refuses to categorize. Instead, it embraces, and without exceptions.
The film isn’t perfect. It feels like Metamorphosis wants to exhaust all the possible conflicts that can arise out of a sudden uncertainty in the identity of a burgeoning teen. There are times the film indulges in didactics, bellowing out definitions and medical theories while digressing from the emotional heft of Adam’s unique dilemma. The film has some sort of messianic complex, a self-appointed mission to be the quintessential film on intersex issues, imbibing familial dynamics, religious guilt, gender identities and other social ills in a tight and taut narrative that falls squarely on the shoulders of a troubled youth. The miracle of Tiglao’s film is that it not just succeeds in all its endeavors, it does so with hardly a whiff of self-importance. The film is lyrical and not loud. It is graceful and not grandiose. It is sensitive and not sensational.
Yours Truly, Shirley review: Slight and unsound
There really isn’t much to say about Nigel Santos’ Yours Truly, Shirley except that it is not just slight, but it is also unsound.
The gimmick’s ripe for a truly wondrous comedy of errors, except that Santos prioritizes celebrity over promise. He relies solely on the charms of singer-turned-actress Regine Velasquez-Alcasid to portray Shirley, an aging widow who becomes a teen pop star's fan, thinking that the pop star is the reincarnation of her deceased husband. Velasquez-Alcasid, while fully capable of committing to the familiar humor of a drab and boring elderly woman trying her best to fit in a loud and proud generation, is middling here. She is the wrong person for the job and limits the extent of absurdism of the somewhat clever conceit.
What’s left of Yours Truly, Shirley is an unexceptional comedy of tentative delights. It is visually flat and could have been better off as something that is seen in screens as small as that of a smartphone. Not all the jokes work and the gags run on to the point of utter exhaustion. The film is also drowning in dialogues and conversations and ends up being duller than deliriously fun. The film overindulges in its ineffective levity that when it decides to reveal the heart underneath all the gags, it just doesn’t work. Yours Truly, Shirley isn’t necessarily a bad film. It’s just nothing to talk about. It is an unmemorable distraction. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.