header image


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

Interested in What I Create?


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 66

[66th of 100]. Cinema has several experimenters of time. Maya Deren, for example, who uses time and space to warp everyday objects into new cinematic realities. Or Christopher Nolan, who makes time a narrative trick. Or Andrei Tarkovsky, who prolongs time in scenes of slow long-takes for the sake of meditative immersion. Then there's Lav Diaz, who takes his cue from Tarkovsky, but then stretches the time experiment further by giving us stories that unfold on hours on end, prompting some critics to dub him a "maximalist in terms of time." You can call his films "endurance cinema," but that's reducing his work into a competition with the limits of our bodies, which takes away from the integrity of his cinema. I think he keeps this kind of length for his films, because his stories simply demand that kind of unfolding. His longest so far is Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino [2004] at almost 11 hours, followed by Heremias [2006] at 9 hours, and then Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis [2016] at 8 hours. My first experience with any of his films was the six-hour Siglo ng Pagluluwal [2011], in Dumaguete, in a screening I'd arranged with Diaz himself introducing the film sometime in 2012: we started in the late afternoon with about fifty people in attendance, and wrapped up near midnight, with 23 people left. We considered it a success, and had the requisite photo-op to commemorate the finish! Of course it got me thinking about the pure creative decision he has made in keeping long running-times, a quality of his films that are not without naysayers. But he is completely unbothered by it, once noting this: "What bothers me [instead] is the utter lack of openness or understanding that cinema is a great art and that they mustn’t confine or limit it to the imposed traditions. It bothers me more when some film scholars and critics offer limited understanding of the medium. My films are free. I’ve emancipated my cinema from the conventions. People must realize that the so-called average length that they’ve been accustomed to seeing is just market-imposed and that art is free. There is no cardinal rule." True. [Don't we readily binge Netflix shows?] The second time I watched a Lav Diaz film was this 2013 contemporary classic -- the idea of which actually germinated over beer with producer Moira Lang in Dumaguete the year before: truth to tell, I arranged the screening on the sly, by strict invitation only, because it wasn't out yet in local cinemas although it was beginning to reap awards internationally. What we saw that evening in Oriental Hall left our mouths gaping -- because the film was a powerful reworking of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishing that was as relentless as it was beautiful, we didn't feel the four hours and eleven minutes that demanded our full attention. I was so moved by it that I resolved to screen it for real for the rest of Dumaguete. With the help of Paul Benzi Florendo, we scheduled a one-night only screening at Robinsons Place's Movieworld. And we sold out all the tickets -- even if we warned everyone who bought that this was going to be a four-hour film! Best of all, everyone stayed until the film's crushing, despairing end. I still have no idea how we made that screening happen, but I've ascribed it all to the power of the film itself, which is the best gateway drug to the demanding but satisfying pleasures of Lav Diaz's cinema. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

Labels: ,

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich