Matangtubig (Town in a Lake) (2015). The film starts with a heinous crime: two girls were abducted, one raped and murdered, the other ran off and went missing. A local fisherman (Amante Pulido), one of the witnesses, saw the two girls being offered a ride home on the night of the crime. He promptly called the police to report what he saw, but the police chief seemed to dismiss the allegation. Until one of the girls’ dead body was found the morning after. Revelations after revelations, we get to know more of the characters and the town. The journalists who came to town, the inherent fakery in their news stories, the town mayor who’s more concerned with the town’s image in the media, and the police chief who’s seemingly confused about who he should serve and protect. Most of them take action for their own ends—not out of genuine concern or compassion for the victims or the people. On the other hand, the townspeople find it hard to make sense of it, how could such a crime happen in a small town and how come no witness has surfaced to pin the criminals. As the search for the missing girl and the suspects drags on, most of the people just wanted to move on, like the town mayor and her aide and the townspeople preparing for the coming celebration of the town fiesta. This is probably the least accessible among TBA and CinemaOne movies one can watch during the lock down. While hooked on the premise of a crime, this doesn’t play out like the typical crime drama. It isn’t really about finding who the real perpetrators are than it is about what happens to the town after the crime and what would happen next. Matangtubig mixes sociopolitical themes with some bits of weirdness on its outer edges. With mostly static shots (some would say beautiful cinematography, some would find it boring) and lack of traditional score, this may feel a lot longer than it is. It’s not an easy watch but it’s compelling enough if you have just a little more patience. [Link]
Your Name (Kimi no Na wa) (2016). Good feel-good movie. Can’t say it didn’t work. BUT. I thought the movie could have explored the body-switching bit a little further instead of giving us something that’s already been done in a certain Korean movie that’s been also remade in Hollywood featuring a love team from a some blockbuster movie from the ’90s. That feeling of longing for someone—which I’m sure a lot of young people could relate to—the movie could have still explored that even without resorting to some disaster and ancient ritual mumbo-jumbo in the third act. Even though longing for someone you only see in your dreams, someone you didn’t know, someone you haven’t met before seems not just little bit contrived—as opposed to the reverse of it. And probably just as far-fetched as being infatuated with someone whom you have switched body with. I mean, if I’m in some girl’s body, wouldn’t it be more plausible to have a crush on one of her girl friends than on her, since, I’m basically her? Or was it because of the things she wrote on his diary? Or was it something else… did he spent hours looking in the mirror while he was her? And in the shower? The movie couldn’t show something like that. But looking down on her blouse and mashing her breasts every morning? Come on!
Alimuom (2018). There are films that tend to be esoteric, films that ask difficult questions and give no easy answers. Alimuom is not that kind of movie. Alimuom is a science fiction film that has a lot more in common with Blade Runner 2049 or Mad Max: Fury Road than with Claire Denis’ High Life. It’s supposed to be entertaining. While the film managed to say a lot about the current state of agriculture and the systemic brain drain in the country and was also able to translate a lot of our present problems in a futuristic setting, it isn’t quite as engaging as it’s supposed to be. I liked that it had a hopeful ending. Even though the movie badly needed a proper third act.
The Whistlers (La Gomera) (2019). A police officer who plays both sides of the law, his seemingly incorruptible boss, a femme fatale, a crime boss, multiple double crosses, a shootout in an abandoned movie set—this sure looks like a Romanian Guy Ritchie movie. Like that one popular crime movie from the ’90s, there are a few film references in it (Psycho, The Searchers) and it’s divided into chapters. It’s quite clever too. Unlike most American movies, The Whistlers is more subdued. And one probably needs to be more patient—like if one has to learn Silbo Gomero, the whistling language—to wait and see if it all pays off in the end.
The Gentlemen (2019). Now this, is a Guy Ritchie movie—with all his signature moves: playful narrations, flashbacks, flash-forwards, gangsters, drugs, funny gory deaths, rock n’ roll. Maybe not as memorable as Snatch or Two Smoking Barrels but this is good. With great all around performances from the cast especially Colin Farrel and Hugh Grant.