Tuesday, October 25, 2016

165. Apocalypse Child

I once had a dinner with a film merchant who was responsible for bringing the world the old film, "The Last Emperor." And he told us, if you're making a film, you have to  answer the question, "What are you really selling?" And after watching the film, "Apocalypse Child", I can't help but second guess what the film makers might answer. 

There are three love scenes here: one as the film opens, another as the film hits a turning point, and the third, close to the end. But this is not porn. These love scenes would take you to the whole spectrum of emotions from excitement to moral indignation to outright disgust -- at least that's where they took me. The love scenes are not going to cater to  "prurient interest" as the American legalese for porn would put it, but they are going to badger people's  mind for answers for the rest of their lives-- (SPOILER ALERT) Can you get away with sleeping with your best friend's fiancee? Can you get away with  sleeping with your best friend's mom? Maybe we should turn the questions around. Can you get away with sleeping with your fiance's best friend? Can you get away with sleeping with your child's best friend? 

These things happen  -- and I'm still deciding whether I'd be lucky or cursed if it happened to me.  Ford is  a hot male who teaches surfing in sunny Baler, Aurora. He has this sexy girlfriend, smitten, conquered, and happy to be his playmate. But his boyhood friend comes home, now a congressman about to be married to this beautiful lady, who confesses that she had a child at fourteen like Ford's mom who had him at the same age. The beautiful lady knows Ford's story about being the rumored child of Francis Ford Coppola, who stayed for a long time in Baler shooting Apocalypse Now,  and she says she wants to learn to surf. That's fine, Ford says, he won't charge. And she tells Ford that her fiance  has predicted that she and Ford will end up sleeping together. Ford deflects it with a joke -- That's fine too, Ford won't charge. But already the bar is set, how does Ford  teach surfing to this beautiful lady without ending up in bed with her? What a fine mess these kids are going to make. 

This film has the sensibility of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The narrative is smooth, some funny lines here and there, almost plotless, the conflict happening in the characters' inner lives, and it leaves you wounded for the rest of your life. Not everyone would be ready for this; but surely, at some point in their lives, people should watch this film. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Maximum Volume No. 2: #5 Woman of Sta. Barbara

Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell would have loved this tale, which is a variation of the Oedipus story. Held together by finely woven lyrical sentences, it races quickly right from the first paragraph, and it holds the reader until it goes back to where it starts. (Spoiler alert.) What happens when you find out your dead mom has a betamax X-rated film? This premise in the hands of an amateur is going to come out like a cartoon, but you have to hand it to the author for carefully navigating us through the story. We find out about the sad life of the sex starlet, who never quite made it, her affair with a married man, her child out of wedlock, unsupportive parents, and ever loyal accountant sister, whose apartment is the setting of this story. These are the side stories to the main Oedipus variation that carries the story through. Good work. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

164. Notes on Celeste Lecaroz's Portraits: #4 Communication of an Emotion

It was Leo Tolstoy who theorized that art is about the communication of an emotion. If the artist is able to convey the emotion that the artist felt when creating the artwork and the observer feels the same feeling upon viewing it, then the artwork is a success. Before Celeste painted the portrait of Fr. Jose Cruz, S. J., I told her of my one experience with the man.  It was my first day in Ateneo Law School, and the first part of the afternoon was a mass by Fr. Joe. My classmates and I came from various colleges, and we all had reasons why we wanted to become lawyers. Of course, most of us wanted the prestige and power of being a lawyer, especially an Ateneo-schooled lawyer who had a heyday in the post-Marcos legal landscape. We were going to be bar topnotchers, high profile corporate and litigation lawyers who would run the country in due time. We were going to be big shots. Fr. Joe gave us a general absolution before we started so all of us could receive communion. And then, when he gave the homily, he sounded differently. He began questioning our motivations to become lawyers,  berating us for our selfish goals, and asking us, "Is there a single drop of blood in your vein which is not motivated by an appetite?" I have never heard anyone ask that question before. He said it in this diction and voice characteristic of Ateneans of his era a la Raul Manglapuz. With this background, Celeste started her work on the portrait and when it was completed, I decided Tolstoy was right -- the success of an artwork is in the conveyance of the emotion. I see Celeste's Fr. Joe Cruz, S.J. and I reminded of what he asked that afternoon in Ateneo Law School, a question so profound yet so practical that it torments me everytime I think about it. It is a unique feeling. The man is looking at you, his eyes are piercing, he doesn't seem to be pleased nor pleasing, he's asking something, and you know he won't like your answer.  "Hey you,... big shot...is there. ..?"and I utter to myself, "I sure hope there is Father. I sure hope there is."

Celeste's Fr. Joe Cruz, S. J. and other iconic Ateneo teachers will be on exhibit at the Ateneo Alumni Art Fair from November 13-19, 2016. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Maximum Volume 2: #4 Totems by Catherine Torres

“Totems” by Catherine Torres had me rollicking in laughter and amazement at the middle-eighth, so to speak. And for anyone wanting to read this story, you have to stop now. A “totem” is a token that reminds one of his ancestry, and in this one, it is the “bolitas” – accidentally viewed by JR, the narrator, from a hidden tape of his late dad’s nocturnal adventures as a seafarer. JR turns his boring graduation film project about the parallel lives of OFW’s and Jose Rizal into a winning film called, “Bolitas: The Hidden Life of Filipino Seafarers.” Growing up as a teenager in the side streets of Project Two Quezon City, I’ve heard about bolitas, but I’ve never seen one and have always believed that the sexual powers that it provides are the stuff of myths and lies of the Filipino casanovas. This story had my long buried teen-age dreams and interest of bolitas rekindled, and it makes me wish that the prize-winning documentary that the story talks about is a Google search away. This is a well-crafted story. It grabbed me right at the first page, albeit there seems to be something missing in between pages 57-58 -- perhaps an editorial miscue, but nonetheless, there is enough to keep the story together splendidly