Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fragments: On Animation, Humans, and Garri Bardin

 Konflikt (1983)

[Note: This was a draft I made back in 2012 about Garri Bardin. I was not sure anymore why I haven't finished or published this, but, the write up seems "good" as it is, lmao, so posting it here, fuck, the way I write never change, I still suck.]

There was this one time when we were tasked to have a report on Modern Art forms in our Humanities class, our group leader asked me to report on Animation, by that time I really like to report on cinema, but she gave that to our co-member whom I've yet to know and has no courage to ask to so I ended up doing that Animation report.

It was always a hobby for me to consult Wikipedia, since it almost have most of the basic things to cover, I never really got serious on it at first. But as I've explored more on the subject, I've gotten deeply interested in it to the point of wanting to do it as well.

Of all the forms, I've been always interested of things that are made by hand: Hand-drawn 2D and stop-motion animation. Unlike computer-generated animation, hand-made animation made seems much closer to it's creator's vision: all those hand prints on clay and unequal lines on drawings made me feel it's humanity. Just like what I search always on movies, even on extremely fictional beings portrayed, I still wanted to feel the human. Most of the time, it's beauty comes from it's imperfections and how the animator utilize them.

And so, I've searched for a lot more animators, especially on stop-motion. Unlike live-actions, animation is a safe place for artist to express their views without endangering actors' image. So the artist could go all out with them. I've seen animation used for propaganda, for advocacy, and as love letters. There are also those personal and highly subjective ones, which usually interest me most.

I've only learned recently of Garri Bardin, who have just released a DVD of his first feature, The Ugly Duckling. I've decided to see some of his earlier works before seeing this one. Bardin is an animator from Russia whose works start from the latter years of the USSR.

In Konflikt (Conflict, 1983), Bardin used matchsticks to depict conflicts and insecurities among humans and nations. How big every nation would act on little things that could be just fixed manually and not necessarily through war. War was never a solution. It critiques war and it's effect: that winning a battle is not really something to celebrate.

Bardin adapted Puss in Boots in 1995, I always thought that there was no moral lesson from the fairy tale, Bardin filled that gap. Here, Bardin updated the fairy tale to the 20th century: commercialism, pseudo-philantrophy, and wide range poverty. A plane dropped donations to a poor community, and our drunk protagonist gained nothing but a cat inside an American Flag bag. The cat was more or less the America and it's promise of a better life to everyone in the world. The drunkard is the gullible poor man who in the end become a victim of his greed.

[nothing follows]

Paradise Lost

Some notes on Shinji Higuchi’s Attack on Titan

Shinji Higuchi's Attack on Titan is an easy target for the fans of the source material to hate. Like most problems on literary to cinematic translations, a lot may have been altered, removed from, and added to the source material for it to fit either to the ease of creation or the runtime limitation of commercial screenings. But that may not be the case for Attack on Titan.

"When you make a picture, you must not respect the novel," says Alejandro Jodorowsky on adapting a literary material to a film. He added that the process of adaptation must be how a married couple conceives a child through rape. "I was raping Frank Herbert... But with love." For Jodorowsky, it’s all about conceiving the adaptation as your own.

Higuchi probably did the same thing: raping Hajime Ishiyama with love. Higuchi’s Attack on Titan made its film more appealing than the source by severely altering the setting: from a retrogressive Middle Age town to a post-war community of ruins, complete with dysfunctional machines as artifacts of the present time, giving it a futuristic-dystopian feel. The setting was appropriated and made it closer to mankind and its history, specifically, closer to Japan’s people and history.

In the opening scene, Armin (Kanata Hongo) is running thru a chaotic landscape of concrete ruins with Mikasa (Kiko Mizuhara) looking for their friend, Eren (Haruma Miura), only to find him standing on top of a missile half buried in the soil. Upon their examination while they dust off the missile, it revealed them a drawing of a blonde girl in bikini beside the beach. This scene bears similarity with Takashi Yamazaki’s Always – Sunset on Third Street (2005)’s opening scene – Post-war Japan recovering from ruins, people working with their hopes up, and the missile echoes what they have gone through.

The setting tells the fable of their origins, it initiated their explorations - the question of whether either the Titans or the oceans are real, their relationship to the space they’re in and to the walls that divides them internally and from the truth of outside. These spaces drove the discourse throughout the film – just like how it was in the original material, but seeing concrete modern ruins instead of castles made it hit closer to home. Contributing greatly to this are the riddles of Captain Shikishima (Hiroki Hasegawa).

The conditions gave by the setting are the pathways for the characters to move. These conditions serve as the spaces for its narrative; after all, the material is really a story about places and territories.

As for the other highlight of the movie: Higuchi gave the Titans here no grace nor beauty, as it always have been with the material; one would expect this film to have them on CGI, but Higuchi adapted an older film technique used for Kaiju and Tokusatsu works: to have humans in costumes and let the old “Movie Magic” do the trick, with relatively lesser aid from CGI. In effect, it gave a more “human” touch to the Titans: a bit clumsy and awkward unlike how they were depicted on the animated version. One would remember Higuchi using the same method on the Studio Ghibli Commissioned short film, Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo(2012).

The setting and other artistic choices were the filmmakers’ attempt to bring the material closer to its audience’s reality, and not to fall back to the source’s Tolkien-esque Middle Age regression. Higuchi tried to make sense of the story while reflecting on his peoples’ history, something that Ishiyama might have missed on his material. A failure it might have been as an adaptation, Higuchi’s Attack on Titan is a success as a film.


Edit: Sorry for the mess, reader.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mainit: masarap maligo, mahirap magsulat.

GM (Group Message) ata yung nareceive ko, mula kay Princess Kinoc.

Gagawa daw siya ng website para sa 500 Films challenge, inimbita niya ko magsulat. Um-oo naman ako. Without actually figuring out what am I going to do with it, what am I going to write about (or if I could actually write, lol, which is the very first question since I've started this whole blog).

Pero, naka-oo na. At gusto ko din naman.

Gusto ko magsulat. Matagal ko na gusto bumalik sa pagsusulat. Di naman big comeback as fuck lol. As if may nageexpect nun.

Besides, sa paraang nagsusulat ako ngayon in Taglish, walang maayos na lalabas sa mga maipopost, pero gusto ko pa rin.

Gusto ko maayos ulit yung moda ko dito.

Tanginang corporate life, nakaka-drain ng creative juice (implying na meron).

Ayun, sa mga iilang magbabasa nito, salamat at pasensya sa abala.

Suntok sa dingding.

Suntok sa sahig.

Suntok sa monitor.

Suntok sa bumbunan.

Pitik sa bayag.


Gusto ko magsulat ulit.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Brief Encounters: my 2014 on Cinema (Part 1 of ?)

2014 was not an easy year for me, at least, for my cinephilia. I saw it coming. First, my decision to be in the academia again has mostly decided what kinds of films I need to see as a requirement, either self-initiated or class-based viewing. Second are the recent events that pushed me to look into the other side of adulthood, to handle things and get involved with things in life I think are far more important than cinema, hence the allocation of what supposed to be money for film-viewing to those more important things.

No regrets. This pacing left me to be more in control of films that I see whenever I get the chance to (yes, I'm in that phase now that I no longer binge-watch, rather make do of very little free time I have). I'm back with the former habit: watching films on little screen. I never really see that much difference on experience, only that I'm free to pause and rewind at home. I'll leave all the other cinematic details which I may have missed for the future, if I get the chance to see the films I saw at home on big screen.

I still have attended festivals, though, I must say that I was not as excited as I was 2 years ago. Very little of what were shown have piqued my interest. I may have missed films that I might have liked, but then again, I'll bet on the future.

I'll try to make a list, but for now, I'll just jot-down encounters I had from last year. Encounters of films and cinema-experience which I think are interesting. I'm mostly depending on my Letterboxd account which I made as a journal of films I saw within the year. (Disclaimer: If you're not a fan of spoilers, you may stop reading here, since I can't help to put a lot on here)


The year started a little slow. The first entry I had on my Letterboxd was Nik Amir Mustapha's KIL, a drama thriller set in the Malaysian metropolitan about a man who hired a firm of assassins to kill himself. The film is very straight-forward on its treatment. I think of Coehlo's Veronika Decides to Die as I watch it, but this moved me much better than the said book. Not really much of a fan of what they call inspirational films, but I won't mind them being this cool.

Gangs of Wasseypur 

Early this year too that I've decided to see Gangs of Wasseypur, a boastful and powerful gangster thriller from India. The film is as direct as its title: chronicles of gangster wars on one of India's most dangerous region during the 60's. This has been the first Indian film I saw after quite sometime, the last one would've been either Krrish or 3 Idiots (both are formulaic Bollywood with sing and dance numbers). As much as I miss the old Bollywood, its refreshing to see films like this taking a step ahead and try other methods of making films. This was a very different recent Indian work in many ways.


The year's earliest film distribution achievement was Viva Films' accumulation of the Director's Cut of Bong Joon-ho's Snowpiercer, which saved us Filipino audience from Harry Scissorhands' version (which was butchered as reports say, but, on another note, was something I am genuinely interested to see just to compare). Snowpiercer made too many scars on me as it jump from one hopeless train car to another. Bong made this whole train-ride claustrophobic and violent for all of us only to let our hopes in the hands of two substance addicts, how's that for a setup? Bong never seize to amaze me with all his dark playfulness.

Ang Misis ni Meyor

I was finally able to catch up with Archie Del Mundo's Ang Misis ni Meyor, only to realize that he's still not allowed play the cut he preferred. What was presented was a film with obvious jumps and imbalance in narrative, but with placed with cautiousness which went well for most time. But when the last sequences open, I thought that there really is a need to see it whole. Fragments and bits just won't do, its as if it never brought justice to its own material either, something that can't be blamed for the director in this instance. I still hope to see this in the future how it's intended to see.

A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness

For the year's first Cinemalibre screening, I chose to screen Ben Russell's and Ben Rivers' A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, very fitting for a kick-off as a cleansing ritual. The film flows as a ritual with a pagan inclination as represented by the communes, the solitary journeys, the forest burning and Black Metal music. As chaotic as the senses might feel at first, the film ended with a feeling of lightness and relief, as the title had promised.

(to be continued, promise.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Para kay Chris [Part 1 of ?]

Napanood mo ba 'to? (Two Lane Blacktop)


Alas dos na. May lakad pa ko mamaya kila Wendy. Di mo siguro alam, pero Wendy and Queen are both expecting new lives to come to their arms. We're so fond of you, Wendy and I. But Queen (and Princess) probably misses you a lot and would've wanted to have you seen the baby first when he arrives before any of us in the group.

The group, hehe, yung isang binuo natin. CINEPHILES!, mag-a-apat na taon na sa Sabado (sabi ni Adrian Nov 5 daw, di ko maalala talaga, mahina ako sa petsa lalo kung hindi September o December), di ko alam kung tatanungin mo kung kamusta na yung grupo. (Happy Birthday Pala.)

"Personally speaking I can't wait to watch life tear you apart." Stoker. Ito kaya ang huli mong napanuod? Ito kasi yung huli mong post. Nung nakita ko to, akala ko galit ka, o kung ano man. Buti nagcomment si Princess.

Alam mo naman siguro, na sumusulat ang tao ng liham di dahil tungkol sa iyo, kundi tungkol sa lumiham. May mga gusto lang akong alamin at sabihin.

(pasensya na nga pala kung medyo sabog yung sulat)

Alam mo na rin naman siguro, na bago ka umalis, malaki na ang pinagbago ng CINEPHILES! Hindi na siya tayo-tayo lang labing-lima. In a sense, hindi na siya sa atin. May iba nang sumaklaw sa kanya. Hindi na to yung palaruan natin dati, kung saan pwede ko i-bahagi kahit anong kamangmangan ko at itatama o isasaayos ninyo ng maayos. Hindi na ko pwedeng pumunta doon nang hindi sumasakit ang mata. Hindi na ako pwedeng pumunta doon at lalabas ng masaya at may bagong alam at excited manuod ng bago at makipagusap sa inyo. Hindi na siya atin, wala na rin siyang buhay (madalas, pero minsan ok), pero gumagana pa rin. May panaka-nakang isyu lang, pero reaksyonaryo, walang dulot na karagdagang diskurso.

Ganun pa rin siya kung paano mo huling iniwan. Walang pinagbago. Naaalatan pa rin ako. Andun pa rin ata yung mga kinaiinisan mo.

Iniisip ko kung paano siya talaga dapat, hindi natin na-project yung future niya nung ginawa natin. Well, masaya tayo nun. Dagdag lang ng dagdag. 

Future. Pinag-usapan namin yan ni Adrian kanina, matapos panuorin ang cringe-worthy trailer ng Letters to the Future. Ikaw, sa tingin mo, ano na kaya ang mundo 20-30 years from now? Or even 10 years? Di mo na nga pala problema yun. Pasensya na.

Binabagabag ako ng hinaharap. Wala akong makita. Parang magiging ganyan lang din ang grupong binuo natin pagdating ng hinaharap. Stagnant, walang pagbabago. Dadami ang tao, mawawalan ng silbi. Sa katunayan nga, kaya lang di namin mabitawan ang Cinephiles, dahil sa pag-asang dinudulot ng Cinemalibre. Itong nakaraang apat na taon, maraming akong pinag-bago nang dahil sa grupong to. Optimistic ako dati, pagdating sa paggawa ng pelikula, pagnood at pagkritik. 2010, bata pa ko. Bata pa tayong lahat. Pero yung mabilis na paglago ng grupo, at ang resulta nito, ikina-hinaan ko ng loob. Nagkaroon tuloy ng mga tanong, mainly, kung para saan pa? Gameball pa rin talaga ng naghaharing uri ang Cinema. Babalik ulit sa lumang diskurso, kelan mapapalaya? Bakit ganon tong mga matatandang cinephiles? Bakit dapat nasa-edge lagi? Bakit dapat galit? Bakit dapat maliitin ang arthouse? Bakit dapat maliitin ang mainstream? (ito yung mga tanong ng bata pa ko, tanong pa rin hanggang ngayon, kung sasagutin ng dapat magandang pelikula lang, ano ang magandang pelikula? Taste taste lang ba? Kung ganon, bakit kailangan magtirahan ng personalidad? Di ba talaga pwedeng healthy discourse?). Tumingin ulit ako sa page, mukha na lang siyang update page ng cinema events.

Nasa-akin pa yung mga DVD na ikinulit ko na hiramin sa iyo. Ironic yung dahilan ng paghiram ko sa iyo nun, the mere fact na di talaga ako mahilig sa European films at yun ang mga pinaghihiram ko sa iyo, sinusubukan kong i-educate pa rin ang sarili ko sa tanda kong to. Sinusubukan kong maging open at unawain kung bakit gustong gusto mo ang European films. Pero siguro uunahin ko sa Bias ko muna: panuorin ko muna yung Little Otik mula sa mga pinahiram mo (dahil sa bias ko to kay Svankmajer), saka na si Truffaut at Rohmer.

As much as I would like to critique it, ako rin pala, nostalgic din, tulad ng karamihan. Ramblings lang pala to ng nostalgia ko. Siguro, miss ko lang kayong labing-lima, kung papaano tayo dati na may bukas na pagtanggap sa isa't isa.

Medyo random, medyo parang bata, di ko rin talaga alam ang sasabihin ko kung magkita ulit tayo. Di ko rin alam kung matutuwa ka, o kahit sino, sa ganitong liham. Pasensya ka na. Siguro hihinto muna ako dito. Sulatan kita ulit sa susunod. Siguro sa susunod may topic na kong buo.

Pasensya ka na talaga.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Other Planet


On Aleksei German's Hard To Be A God (2013)

German's adaptation of Strugatskys' Hard To Be a God creates not just a new world, but a whole new planet. While supposedly set in the authors' own Noon Universe, the film seems to defy its precondition and struggles to have himself born. It is not just a world with different set of culture (but similar to Earth's), but rather a very different body itself where "earthling common sense" would never apply. Alien might be the correct term for this.

It starts with a narrator, like most classic sci-fi films, trying to draft a background for you or like reading the back synopsis of a paperback novel: the film happens in a planet far from Earth but 800 years behind ours in the development of its civilization. A world "trapped" in the "Middle Ages". A team of scientists and historians from Earth were sent to this planet to help develop its civilization, until its citizens started to kill those "wise men". Once Don Ramata is introduced, nothing of the introduction gave much to explain what really is happening here. As much as the comfort of similarities are there: the Middle Age setting and all, it still resists to give you the comfort of sameness and would rather have you integrate in it.

The film sucks you into its world and provides a space for you to be a part of it. Images are clear but has an attitude of a "home movie" : people moving around blocking the camera, people looking into the camera, people talking into the camera - talking to you - and everyone acts like you are not different. You are now a participant and not just an audience: an accomplice, if you may, of the crimes that are going to happen.

Being the quiet accomplice that we are, we witness days in life of a Don Rumata the God (or technically a "Demi-God" since he's only half god as the narration and Rumata's introduction of himself say), his daily exploits on murder and other peculiar activities (is that shit they're wiping on their faces?). The frame follows Rumata wherever, smoothly and comfortably gliding. The trips takes us to spectacles of punishment: from scaffolds, to machineries of punishment and hanging bodies on noose. Ramata exposes you to images of violence and anarchy, even German's choice of (absence of) color is violent as it blurs the identity of objects present on each frame: you'd never distinguish shit from mud or bile.

This kind of realization of a completely imagined world is the film's most notable accomplishment. German staged a world visually same but feels very different, very alien. Unlike most sci-fi who'd rather bring back to Earth the Other Planets, Hard to be a God distanced it self from the similarity.

It is only near the last scenes when it initiated an event very similar to Earth's: a war. Near the end, as the screen transits from a bloodstained frame, we witness a foggy, rainy morning with dead bodies piled up: the aftermath. I find it disturbing that it took the film to show me an image of such death just for me to reach some comfort of familiarity.