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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

entry arrow3:03 AM | Film Log 1, 2, and 3: The Night Porter, Burnt, and Walang Forever


I must declare randomness for my choice of my first film of 2016, given its subject matter, but I am utterly satisfied that I would begin my personal film year with a controversial masterpiece (the film has received the Criterion treatment, after all) starring two ageless film stars: Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling. The film, of course, is Liliana Cavani's BDSM classic The Night Porter (1974), with Bogarde as a former SS officer now trying to keep a low profile as the titular figure in a Viennese hotel, and Charlotte Rampling as the concentration camp survivor he used to torture and to make love to. The Holocaust is the backdrop. This is the original Fifty Shades of Grey, but edgier than any contract signing. It shocks, of course, and is never titillating -- but it makes you wistful for the kind of brave cinema the 1970s used to churn out. 


Despite having read the overwhelming bad reviews that greeted its release, I came to quite like John Wells' Burnt (2015), the culinary romantic comedy starring Bradley Cooper as a talented but very hot-tempered chef in search for redemption, a second chance, and three Michelin stars. It's the necessary soufflé from Wells after helming the bitter drama of August Osage County (2014), a film which also underwhelmed many but still made Oscar conversations anyway. Burnt is not headed for the Oscars at all, but it made me very hungry. I appreciated that. Going into it with fast food expectations, I came away filled up with a relentless buffet of high cuisine and hijinks that tickled me. It made me look beyond the hammy acting and the all-too-neat resolutions that box the movie. But I've always had a weak spot for food films, so this one was baked just right to please me. 


The choice of my first film to see from the slate that makes up the debauchery that has been the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival springs from the knowledge that this romantic comedy came from Dan Villegas. His sure hand in directing the surprising and satisfying Mayohan (2010), English Only, Please (2014), and The Breakup Playlist (2015) made me think this new film, #Walang Forever (2015), is a continuation of an impossibly winning streak in local film directing that has, so far, mightily impressed. I was wrong. What a messy film this is, complete with unnecessary framing devices, unnecessary cast members, and unnecessary gimmicks that only belittled their obvious inspirations (from the iconic cinematic revelation of Cinema Paradiso to the iconic dying as Deux ex machina of Love Story). It's witty in parts, and weepy in others, and the two leads -- Jericho Rosales and Jennylyn Mercado -- strive very hard to anchor the movie. But it's a slippery fish of a film: the screenplay by Paul Sta. Ana is a mess, and Mr. Villegas, talented though he may be, is reduced here to a desperate cobbler of a story that doesn't really cohere. Someone once said, "You don't applaud a tenor for sneezing." It's true here. This is Mr. Villegas coasting -- but nonetheless, I know there will be better films ahead. 

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