...Sheron Dayoc's Halaw (2010), shot in digital medium, has the aesthetics of celluloid cinema. The film is a political document of the dangerous ordeal faced by illegal migrant workers as they cross the borders between the southern islands of Mindanao and the tip of Borneo. Territorial disputes with compounding problems among the characters drive the narrative. The film, together with other CINEMALAYA 2010 entries, is also symptomatic of the improvement of the digital medium in Philippine Cinema. Filipino films like Muli (2010), Kinatay (2009) and Senior Year (2010) have raised the level of digital aesthetics in contemporary Philippine Cinema that at some point, one can notice that a digital film looks almost like a 16-mm film. Both borrowed each others stratagems with the former more akin to experimentation and formal distortions. In Halaw, the compositional quality of the images reach a high mark as it blends digital cinema verite with traveling shots on difficult shooting conditions. One can observe the amount of work Dayoc has given to this film, a work that would align him to the new breed of social realist filmmakers: Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza and Pepe Diokno.
Visage (2009) is an art film of incredible candidness and one of Tsai's meditative experiments verging towards surreal filmmaking. The film is transgressive as it deplores usual causal relations in its narrative. Structured in a non-rigid form with excessive transmogrified filmic elements follows experiments of David Lynch and Andrei Tarkovsky. It belongs to the oneiric genre which continuously evolves with time. The genre comprises most of the surreal art films in film history. The film is great addition to the genre. It explores new routes of visual phantasmagoria and mise-en-scene innovations. Clearly, Tsai was not received warmly by critics for his efforts due to its perceptual difficulty as it demands infinite interpretations. In Visage, Tsai puts supreme attention the nature of cinema itself. He draws new associations, new functions and a new configurations of space through the use of mirrors, windows, lenghty shots and even a full musical segment which is integral to compositional and associational depths Tsai was trying to achieve. Visage, one of the most intriguing works of the decade, needs both the analysis of its unconventional structure and parametric form.
Black Swan (2010) is Darren Aronofsky's most rigid film about hallucination. It has a linear narrative with supreme focus on the ballerina, Nina, played by Natalie Portman. The film is shot in normal lens, a lens that would capture the film, ironically, in the most ordinary cinematography in contrast to his previous experiments on the lens in Requiem for a Dream (2000). Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky's entry to mainstream cinema as hinted by the less enthralling aesthetics of this film. The expressionistic themes he developed, however, in this film is visually compelling it reflects a diminutive style of Aronofsky's supposedly extremely expressionistic one he developed in Requiem for a Dream. I do understand that Aronofsky's efforts of exposing the inner world of the disturbed proceeds in such a way that he follows, with meditation, the physical and psychological atrocities of the ballerina world. However, this premise is not enough to bring out the Requiem aesthetics it would have had achieved. Black Swan a bit toned down compared to Requiem. And like what he did in The Wrestler (2009), he explores another life of an performing artist, as he calls Black Swan a companion piece to it. What strikes more than the trim-down aesthetics of the film was the central performance of Natalie Portman being a ballerina. Like Jamie Bell in Billy Eliot (2000), Natalie painstakingly trained for the role, and like Adrien Brody in The Pianist (2002), Natalie's performance is visceral, raw and fluid. Its a role of a lifetime for Natalie.
Film Socialisme (2010) is Jean-Luc Godard's definition of immaterial and convulsive cinema. The ever eternal artist Godard who offered one of the most unique cinematic expressions in film history: INTERTITLES pieced together a film of visual fugue its core is undefinable at all. Its perceptual difficulty, as was his other films, is as compact as his other works like Nouvelle Vague (1990) and Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998). The films imperceptible form is an example of associational filmmaking, however, what Godard did was to piece together a series of shots from different settings using different types of cameras. In a way, as I see it, Godard directs the question to the present nature of film itself - a capitalist form of art marketed towards furthering the divide between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. As compared to his 1990s experiments, which focuses on the nature of film itself, Godard's recent features were about the extinction of film itself as an eternal artform for it became too commercialized, too politically maimed and destroyed. Godard's use of mix media and intersubjectivity in the film made it a postmodern gem, a film that commands limitless interpretation and questioning.
The version of Muli (The Affair) (2010) that I've seen was the final cut of the film, roughly two hours shown in the NETPAC series at UPFI mid-August last year, 2010. This film was an hour short of what people saw in CINEMALAYA 2010, which both received differing views. Both have different narrative cohesions and possibly different narrative tracks. The NETPAC version, which I have only seen from the two, is a landmark in gay independent filmmaking in the Philippines, a claim most of my friends would disagree. The strength of Muli is its "periodized" aesthetics. Covering three to four decades of diegetic time, the film works in an epic scale. Interestingly, Alix structures the film in such a way that each decade segment has a camera work faithful to that period to add to its recreation of the period. Its meditative qualities is reminescent of Ozu's pillow shots, a clear result of Ozu's strong stylistic influence to Alix. Adolf Alix's pillow shots are integral to the mise-en-scene, which Alix composed with highly lush and neutrally toned colors accented with bright ones to add contrast. Apart from its vivid color choice, its contemplative pacing allows the images to rest in the viewers eyes and saturate it with warmth. Muli raised the bar of artistry for the gay independent films comparable to stylistic gems of Philippine Digital Gay Cinema, Francis Pasion's Jay (2008), Brillante Mendoza's Masahista (2005) and Auraeus Solito's Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005).