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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, July 04, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 70

[70th of 100]. In the critical appraisal of the works of Eddie Romero, I'm sure Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon [1976] and Aguila [1980] -- undeniably his best prestige projects at the height of his reputation as filmmaker -- will top the list. And they're truly great films, ambitious in their period settings and commendable for its attempts at diagnosing the national condition: one is a picaresque adventure that tries to define what a "Filipino" is, and the other is a sprawling Dynasty-style melodrama that tries to divine the history of the nation. But I have the softest of spots for this 1968 black-and-white noir, because of three things: [1] its stupendously riveting, [2] it's set in Dumaguete, my hometown, and [3] it is the nexus of Romero's bifurcated sensibilities as filmmaker, and by saying that I mean his mid-career focus on making Philippine-produced B-movies for the American market, and his late career focus on socially relevant films of epic scope. This films seems to be more or less the bridge between these two stages. It starred the American actor and producer Michael Parsons as a businessman who runs a factory in a Visayan town [Dumaguete and Bais in composite], and who finds himself the center of labor unrest as well as a murder. Volora Noland plays his beleaguered wife whose infidelity incites the conflict, and the rest of the movie is populated with strong supporting turns by Vic Diaz's charming snake of a politician, Celia Rodriguez's femme fatale, Mario Montenegro's discomfited loverboy, Butch Aquino's crusading lawyer [yes, the senator and brother of Ninoy], and Jose Dagumboy's town idiot. I rarely see a Filipino filmmaker attempting film noir because the genre is so tied to the darkness of the American soul post-World War II, and so to see a Filipino attempt that actually triumphs is such a joy. The strong screenplay by Cesar Jalandoni Amigo, Ruben Canoy, and Romero -- all of them Silliman writers who were making waves in Philippine literature and cinema in the middle of the 20th century -- certainly helps: the lines of dialogue are crisp, the pacing sure, the tension volatile, the politics very dark. Alas, it exists right now only as third generation video copy [I've uploaded the entire film in my YouTube channel], and it would be a gift if someone comes along to restore it to its stark black-and-white glory. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.

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