Notes and Scribbles on Cinema: Film Log Feb 2013

February is the month to be...

...just because Julie Delpy is the girl for ya! 
from Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax, 1986)

I don't know what I'm getting at, but right now, my other film log has gone awry. And I'm practically pissed off every time I write on it for a day and a half just because it has some invisible bug hiding inside its HTML code. I've tried several xHTML mark up validators online to fix the code but all I got was an error message: "An error occurred while trying to save or publish your post. Please try again." I cannot even save or preview the darn blog post. So shit. 

Good thing, the month is ending. I have been planning to cut the previous film log into smaller segments. Instead of having one log for one whole year, I will cut it to one log per month because the previous one has gotten pretty long, which is great anyway. I still have that itchy writing bug somewhere inside me to continue this masturbatory activity. I've also been planning to write a set of articles for submission to different journals (in print and online) for the rest of the quarter. So let us see where that will take us. I still don't have a decent job though so that pretty much limits me to do extra shit around the metro. I stay home most of the time and wait for plants to grow between my armpits and crutch. I've been reading a lot though. I just finished the first part of Rodowick's Reading the Figural last night so expect some notes here in the next few days.

For the meantime folks, let's stop the Cybercrime law from happening. You don't want bugs and viruses floating around when you open Google or Facebook or even this blog. So let's be vigilant, shall we?

Jan 27:

The Fluffer (Wash West and Richard Glatzer / U.S./ 2001) - 3/5 - Wash West's depiction of the gay identity in The Fluffer is fractured by commodified fetishistic elements. The visionary, the omnipresent character Sean, is the body closest to the human artifice. His body double, a complete inversion of him, is a girl named Babylon, achieves the human artifice model. They are both channels of human emotions.  The fetishistic body belongs to Johnny Rebel: the porn star, the hedonist, and the Antoine Dionel who will look into the camera at the end of the film. In a way, there is an observable dialectics between the commodified body and pure body in the film. We see it through Sean as he extends his affection to the object of his erotic desire, Johnny Rebel. But they are infusable bodies, impenetrable and unalike. Johnny's commodified body sits in an nonnegotiable narcissistic void which Sean and Babylon cannot enter. The visuality of this void is discursive somehow because it reflects the architecture of power in the porn industry and fractures the gay identity. The void, as the film would visualize, is mutually inclusive with capitalistic structure. Their only relationship is  to benefit from each other. Sean suffers from this mutuality and began to question the validity of his feelings for Johnny. Babylon also suffers from Johnny's ultimate descent into the void. In the film, she became the element of social tragedy making her the most socially embedded character embodying motherhood, life, and the hope for change. The movement of bodies in the film resembles a ménage à trois: three bodies intertwined and restricted by their own virtuality. Their only synthesis in film can be found in the last montage wherein the finality of their own virtual existence is arranged in an intercut of shots. The film ends this way: dispersive and ambiguous, with ties broken. 

Jan 29:

Near Death (Frederick Wiseman / U.S. / 1989) - 5/5 - Frederick Wiseman's heartbreaking documentary forces one to endure and mutate into the frames. It inhabits multitudes of reality and engages the audience in a dialectical exchange about ethics and physicality of death. Wiseman is so keen with human subjects that his film became an orchestra of human voices and figures in different emotional states. His camera is invisible, roaming through the complex interstices of Beth Israel Hospital, clothed from the frailties of its human inhabitants. The result is an astounding 6-hour plunge into the complexity of the human body on the verge of extinction. Like many of Wiseman's films, Near Death explores the body in relation to space. In Welfare (1975), Wiseman observes the architectural power design of a welfare institution in New York. In La Danse - Le Ballet de L'Opera de Paris (2009), Wiseman documents the perpetual cadence of the ballet dancer's mechanize body  in a dance institution. In Blind (1987), Wiseman presents to us the struggle of blind people in a school for the blind. In Near Death, Wiseman audaciously commands the camera to capture the human drama behind the walls of the Intensive Care Unit  (ICU) --- a hospital space that can only be accessed mostly by doctors and relatives of patients. Wiseman unveils the architecture of this intense space and shows us a slice of the human condition in that particular environment. This particular space gravitates towards the human body in its generic form.    This body holds the vessel of information that gives an ethnographic standpoint and aids the film to form nested causality about the human body as it reverberates within the principal notion of life and death. 

||||||| THE HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY: D.N. Rodowick summarizing Foucault's "postmodern" theory of power in a few sentences: 

"Architecture itself tells us more about the potentiality of the body, the forces it affects and that affect it, than any other enterprise. It is the design of spaces to live and work in, to travel across, and to communicate through, in ways that limit certain movements and enable others, and, as such, is an exemplary expression of power. Foucault’s definition of how power encounters the body makes the point succinctly: divide in space; order in time; compose in space-time. An ‘‘architectural’’ theory of power thus diagrams forms of collectivity—distinct in their spatial and temporal organization—and demonstrates how movements of bodies and flows of information are both enabled and constrained." (Reading the Figural 42)
Jan 30:

||||||| Three videos: A Triptych 



Jan 31:

Winnie The Pooh (Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall / U.S. / 2011) - 4/5 - Deep into the hand-drawn frames of Winnie The Pooh, a liminal space exist where linguistic and visual elements collide in a figural interstice.  In obvious instances, this "betweeness" becomes contingent to the storyline via audio narrator's perpetual manipulation of the visual and expressible elements of the film. The audio narrator takes the form of an omnipotent, omnipresent body visually "unseen" yet heard, an 'aural' godlike figure that deliberately tosses  the textual elements into its visual counterparts. This conscious effort to devise such a play of visual and linguistic elements is well beyond what current Hollywood films are doing. Surely, there is some pedagogical vibe emancipated from those play of words and figures: jumbled letters falling in the virtual field of the story, Pooh hopping in paragraphs and sentences, and the letter-ladder used by the characters to climb out of the hole. It has some likeness with Broken Down Film (1985) and many Polish animators in terms of its manipulative plasticity of the animation frame, a method subversive enough to make the audience rethink of language itself. In the film, the "Back Soon" monster and its imaginary contours prompts the failure of words for self-identity --- meaning, words and phrases are highly contingent to context-based reasoning. It is not simply misinterpretation per se, but the natural characteristic of words to fail to achieve an identity independent of 'context' ---- self-identity. The visual look of the "Back Soon" soon never metastasized  into a fully formed body. It remained a lingering by-product of delusion,  anxiety, worry that haunts the characters until the end. It's figuration is a ghost, a chimera but only without a form, a body: an object of reification.  The monster is magnified and feared in a collective sense --- an element of mass hysteria ordering and re-ordering narrative circumstances and displacing psychological states of the film. It only disappeared when Christopher Robin, the source of the ambiguous message,  clarified the context of "Back Soon".
Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax / France / 1986) - 4/5 - Mauvais Sang has a lot to say about the French New Wave and the French film aesthetics of the 1980s. Its sinewy, colorful images and audacious spirit in film making --- at one point, Carax has to shoot in high altitudes using a plane --- shows the genius of Carax. Its ambitiousness and inventiveness in aesthetics is unique given the milieu of French filmmaking in the 1980s. Most of the French arthouse filmmakers at time: Agnes Varda, Maurice Pialat, Andre Techine, the older Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer, Jean-Marie Straub  and Danielle Huillet  have focused on  banalities of French life. Some of them have engaged in minimalism and only a few, like Carax, had the balls to re-orient their aesthetics in new ways. Carax consciously attenuates his shots by putting them in different temporal modalities: fast-paced versus slow-pace, one-take versus multiple-angle takes. This made Mauvais Sang an intertextual film highly conscious of its temporal design. It provides layering and stiching of visual and expressible elements made possible by the improvement of the film technology in the 1980s. The camera has become more complex, more sensitive to time-rendered motion, and handy, which explains the freedom Carax in filming at high altitudes. A similar temporal modality has been explored in Jean-Luc Godard's Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1979). Carax has fully realized its function in Mauvais Sang. The architecture of space in Mauvais Sang is futuristic plagued with a pseudo-scientific anxiety: STBO epidemic --- a sexually transmitted disease among young people. Carax work around this main arch and inserted digressions with particular proximity to Nouvelle Vague especially Godard and his films A Bout de Souffle (1960), Bande A Part (1964), and Contempt (1963). Juliette Binoche and Michel Picoli are two obvious transgressive bodies cut-out from the Nouvelle Vague movement: the former resembling Anna Karina with the hair and the latter as 'Michel Picoli' himself in Contempt. The visuality of the film tells a lot also about Carax particularity in color homage. There were great and, at some point, overwhelming tinges of red, yellow, and blue splashed across the frames, similar to what Godard did in Pierrot La Fou (1965) and La Chinoise (1967). 

Feb 2:

Re-watch of three films for a sleepover with friends: Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki / Japan / 1997), Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell / U.S. / 2006) and Zombadings I: Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington (Jade Castro / Philippines / 2010).

Feb 4:

Pusong Bato (Pam Miras / Philippines / 2012) - 3/5 - Pusong Bato comes from the visual tradition of recent crop of Filipino experimental filmmakers: digitized hand-processed films. This kind of film processing signals the two events in the history of film: the death of the photographic roots film and the digitization of the medium. Hand-processed films like Pusong Bato, Anak Araw (Gym Lumbera, 2012), Class Picture (Timmy Harn and Gym Lumbera, 2012), Ars Colonia (Raya Martin, 2011) and digitized films shot in analog camera like Colossal (Whammy Alcazaren, 2012), Big Boy (Shireen Seno, 2011), and its early example A Short Film About Indio Nacional (Martin, 2005) have successfully attempted to emulate the photographic image --- the purest expression of cinema --- and brought the medium closest to the photographic truth. Their digitization as a post-production  practice sutured a new visuality in cinema, the figural (a topic I will elaborate here in a few days), and also revealed the impossibility of today's film making to do everything in analogical terms. Economic limitations in analog film making in the Philippines have rendered that particular film technology  obsolescent or as good as dead. Today's interface technology or the ones used to project films requires films in digital format complicating the return of the practice to its analogical temperament. Films like Pusong Bato commands the movement of the analog-sculpted images to the simulated and computer-aided virtual world of digital filmmaking. Its hybridized aesthetics dissolves the borders between the visual practices inherent in the analog practice and the digital manipulations applied during the post-production processing. Philippine's increasing output of hand-processed films for the past two to three years must be assessed as a unique and distinguishing visual trend --- probably the result of overriding influence of several key figures in local and international cinema: Ben Rivers and Raya Martin. Raya Martin's persistent exploration of the stylistics of the past open the doors for this tradition of shooting in 16mm, 8mm, and several other obsolescent formats. This aesthetic principle will continue to strengthen the identity of local experimental films in the years to come. Pam Miras's Pusong Bato is carved out from this tradition and the old tradition of Jean Epstein. Its images displays an uncanny silent film treatment with rhythmic editing with a romantic story arc overlay. Ethereal black-and-white images draws out an alternate world, far from the glossy aesthetics of other local independent films. Films like Pusong Bato reinforces the artistic sensibilities of the local independent films which eroded for the past few years. With the arrival of the hand-processed films from filmmakers (Lumbera, Miras, and Harn) and the analog-digital hybrids (Seno and Alcazaren) the separation of truly alternative films from independent films with commercial sensibilities has finally come. 

Pascalina (Pam Miras / Philippines / 2012) - 3.5/5 - Pascalina's dark and dissolving images, a product of  lo-fi digitization from a Harinezumi camera,  can be retraced back to Raya Martin's  digital pursuits in Now Showing (2008) and John Torres' Ang Ninanais (2010). However, the function of lo-fi digital register in Pam Miras' Pascalina has more sensorial, more visual-layering appeal than Martin's historical take on it and Torres' use for subversive political imagery. The resulting cinematographic effect is phenomenal, it unifies the incommensurable strangeness of its narrative. On top of this visual and narrative construction principles,  it is interesting to ask the nature of the figural at work. Pascalina is a completely digitize character, a product of several technological ramifications dictated by the   architectural space of the Harinezumi camera and other post-production computer programs. Unlike Pusong Bato, which is a hybrid between analog and digital, Pascalina is fully realized digital film that underwent numerous digital transformations before achieving its visuality. Hence, Pascalina's transfiguration into an aswang, a lower mythological creature in Philippine folklore, is mechanistic in all its contextual ambiguities. Pascalina is an object of reification, an incomplete image, with visual edges dissolving in the dark 'lo-finess' of its  frames.

Feb 5:


I've been exhausted lately because of many things. I did a lot of stuff last week and I'm expecting a large workload in the next few weeks. I'm not keeping up with my pace. I don't know if I'll be writing on this notes but I feel a bit sick for some reason. I might need to take up a few food supplements. 

Feb 15:

|||||||||||||||| Finished reading this:

Writers' Bodies. Writers' bodies are involved in their writing. Writing invites sexuality. Like kings and other people in power. As regards to men, it's as if they'd slept with our minds, penetrated our minds at the same time our bodies. There haven't been exception as far as I'm concerned. The same kind of fascination operated even with lovers who weren't intellectuals. As for a worker a woman who writes books ---- that's something he'll never had. It's like that all over the world, for all writers, men and women alike. They're sex objects par excellence. When I was still very young I was attracted to elderly men because they were writers. I've never been able to imagine sex without intelligence, or intelligence without a kind of absence from oneself. Lots of intellectuals are clumsy lovers - unadventurous, apprehensive, and absent-minded. It was all the same to me as long as when they weren't with me they were, as writers, just as absent from their own bodies. I've noticed that writers who are superb at making love are much more rarely great writers than those who are scared and not so good at it. Talent and genius evoke rape, just as they evoke death. Sham writers don't have these problems. They're sound and healthy and you can go with them quite safely. When both members of a couple are writers the wife says: 'My husband's a writer.' The husband says: 'My wife writes too.' The children says: 'My father writes books, and so does my mother, sometimes.' 

Feb 24:

||||||| Notes from an Ideological Insanity 


A few weeks ago, I finished reading an important chunk of D. N. Rodowick's Reading the Figural. It was astutely entitled Paradoxes of the Visual, or Philosophy after the New Media. I continued reading through Rodowick's book on Part II. Reading the Figural and got off before the section on The Figure and the Text. I realized that I am reading one of the most difficult books I have read in my entire life. I shut the door right then and there and started reading Rodowick's book, The Virtual Life of Film. I figure that, if I continue reading Rodowick's philosophical book Reading the Figural, i'll waste my time figuring its difficult philosophical reverberations. I wanted to focus more on film: its oddities, visualities, and historical determinants. It suddenly occurred to me that Rodowick has something great to say about film. He opens a lot of questions more than answers. Questions like: can film really be an artform? Why is film a very difficult medium? What happened when everyone turned digital? What is the future of film? Those questions have answers in the first few pages of Rodowick's The Virtual Life of Film. The first part of the book fleshes out a lot of important (and neglected) fundamental visualities/textualities of the film form.


But in just two weeks ago, I stopped reading film books. It's because I finally accepted a job offer I've been looking for more than a month now. It's a Chemical Engineering related job. A day job, from 9AM to 6PM with a lunchbreak between 1230ish to 130ish. All my office-mates and bosses are Chemical Engineering graduates, and some of them are licensed. I very much enjoy my job. I just sit and write reports, which is what I wanted. And the best thing about it actually is that we get to travel once a week to visit clients, have meetings, do seminars. The company is an environmental consultancy firm so it's very close to Chemical Engineering and maybe my springboard to an Environmental Engineering career in the future. I wish to go to Canada in the near future and continue my studies there. Hopefully, at U of T. 


I devised a new method on choosing my weekly line-up of movies. I have around 73 to-watch films (see list here) in my hard drive from KG and SMZ. I can't watch them all at once so I used to produce a random number from 1 to 73. The first 10 number will determine which film I will watch for the week.  I already watch the first one, a short film by Karpo Godina. Here is the rest of my list.

  1. DOC'S KINGDOM (Robert Kramer / Portugal / 1987) - 90 mins 
  2. HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (John Cameron Mitchell / U.S. / 2001) - 95 mins 
  3. THE UNSCRUPULOUS ONES (Ruy Guerra / Brazil / 1962) - 100 mins 
  4. JULY RAIN (Marlen Khutsiyev / USSR / 1966) - 107 Mins 
  5. OXHIDE (Liu Jiayin / China / 2005) - 110 mins 
  6. THE LAST BOLSHEVIK (Chris Marker / Finland-France / 1993) - 121  mins 
  7. BALLAD OF NARAYAMA (Shohei Imamura / Japan / 1983) - 130 mins 
  8. THE HUNTERS (Theo Angelopoulos / Greece / 1977) - 168 mins 
  9. PROFOUND DESIRES OF THE GODS (Shohei Imamura / Japan / 1968) - 172 mins 

Anyway, I have to sleep. I have work tomorrow.

Feb 27:

The Oscar Anti-Appreciation Post

Feb 28:

Backlog and Film logging

It's end of the month and I hate to say goodbye to February. Feb is a good month for me: new job and a  revived habit of reading --- thanks the to long traffic jam at Nepa QMart, Cubao and EDSA Santolan, I finished three books. Though I wish I have more time to write for each of the film I saw. Don't have time for a round-up write-up either, I have a deadline tomorrow. Here's a summary of ratings for the films I've watched at latter part of the month

  1. Watership Down (Martin Rosen / U.K. / 1978)  - 4/5
  2. The Way of the Dragon (Bruce Lee / H.K. / 1972) - 3/5
  3. Pieta (Kim Ki-Duk / South Korea / 2012) - 3/5
  4. Angel's Egg (Mamoru Oshii / Japan / 1985) - 4/5
  5. Landscape in the Mist (Theo Angelopoulos / Greece / 1988) - 5/5
  6. The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel / Mexico / 1962) - 5/5
  7. A Grin Without A Cat (Chris Marker / France / 1977) - 5/5
  8. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-Liang / Taiwan / 2005) - 4.5/5
  9. Illumination (Krzysztof Zanussi / Poland / 1973) - 5/5
  10. New York City Inferno (Jacque Scandelari / U.S. / 1978) - 3/5
  11. The Corridor (Sharunas Bartas / Lithuania / 1994) - 5/5 
  12. Healthy People For Pastime (Karpo Ačimović-Godina / Yugoslavia / 1971) - 4/5
  13. Doc's Kingdom (Robert Kramer / Portugal-France-U.S. / 1987) - 4/5 
  14. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell / U.S. / 2001) - 4/5

See you on March!

[more to come]