Watching someone watch someone sleep

Raya Martin’s Possible Lovers (2008) is a ninety five minute footage of  two men on a couch: one, in a top hat asleep and the other throwing an eternal gaze towards the sleeper. It is suggestive, personally speaking, of Andy Warhol‘s ‘anti-film’ Sleep (1963) (the only Warhol film I have seen, or–should I say–partially seen), a footage of poet John Giorno asleep for six hours and five minutes.

Faithful to the Warholian treatment of effecting boredom and challenging the endurance of the spectator’s gall bladder, Possible Lovers, much like Warhol’s Sleep, is a film I am yet to make sense of.

A random thought: Raya should have had, instead, casted Piolo and Sam sans clothing. Just saying.

♥♥♥

Listening to The Importance of Being Idle by Oasis ♫ ♪ ♫

August 2, 2010 at 1:38 am Leave a comment

Bipolar minds think alike

I write like
David Foster Wallace

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Okay. I am only trying to look for a confirmation of my worth as a writer.

July 28, 2010 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

Dibidi

I used to despise Quiapo. I despised its stink of poverty and flagrant corruption. Never mind the fact that the Basilica Minore de Nazareno sits in its turf like a massive, tangible representation of piety. Abortionists with their poison syrups tend their stalls by the church doors.

Art school friends would insist on an afternoon photography trip in Quiapo during the weekends, courting crooks with big-ticket Canon EOSes. I would decline each time with a feigned toothache. Quiapo just wouldn’t do it for me.

But for a film enthusiast aching for a Brocka piece, a Gosiengfiao oddity, Quiapo is salvation. From its black and dark alleys, one would find rare films those illuminated video stores will never put up their shelves because comely John Lloyd screams more moolah than a young Boyet De Leon in cream bell bottoms. Thirty five pesos a piece, thirty if you are hoarding.

Now I find myself constantly in Quiapo’s piss-smelling mouth, haggling with underground movie hawkers, slippered feet dirt-soiled. And smiling, smiling, smiling.

July 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm Leave a comment

You know I’d like to keep my cheeks dry today

If you are not willing to risk it all, you don’t want it bad enough.

This 15-word phrase is making more and more sense to me.

Four months ago, however, trapped in the disillusioned world of monetary success and a lucrative career which involved sitting before a desktop monstrosity from nine to five, this 15-word phrase was but a mere phrase; perhaps something “cute” to tack on the workplace cork board in the name of making an impression.

Funny how a mere phrase, mute on the brown surface of a book paper, spelled out in the typography of my own handwriting, can hold so much significance in my life as of late.

Like say when lugging my bag of photocopied film history articles to attend a discourse on Philippine Cinema, taking a 10 minute walk to the film institute because I can no longer afford a simple jeepney ride. Eight compensated hours in exchange for a 60 minute dialogue on a Kidlat Tahimik piece. And I chew on my own fingernails because sometimes the same 15-word phrase is no longer loud enough to silence my own hunger.

Or say, every time I insist on showing up at every godforsaken art space film screening because a Godard piece is a rarity in the cinema world dominated by mainstream escapist films. Then later, I find myself in tears because I am agonizingly broke after I had given up my sole income-generating job for the fucking love of Art and Cinema. The painful truth of my poverty has finally sinked in. And it is not pretty.

I had a wee-of-the-morning conversation with Havo, my boyfriend, and illustrated my “I-risked-giving-up-my-job-for-my-one-passion” sentiments through a Blind Melon music video.

The music video in question, for the band’s single No Rain, showed a plump pre-teen geek in a bumble bee costume attempting to win over acceptance and belongingness through a tap dance number.

However, to her dismay, her audience dismissed her as an oddball worthy of disregard.

The bumble bee geek, however, discovered an iron gate leading to a garden peopled by other bumble bee geeks.

Thrilled, she joined the jovial crowd of her own odd kind and lived happily ever after.

The Blind Melon music video is a perfect metaphor for my impassioned romance with Cinema and Art.

Moreover, sentimentalism aside, I told Havo: It feels awesome to, finally, be home.

PS I can still use a good side job to pay for my bills. If not in the field of Cinema and Art, flipping burgers is the most ideal. Anything at all but a corporate, left-brained occupation.

         ♥♥♥

Recommended Film:

Jaguar, Lino Brocka (1979)

June 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

Dear Alexis

I fail at attempts to search for a validation of my spot in the internship program founded after your name, after your ideals, after your devotion for cinema, and I am still failing at it.

I remember a feeling of overwhelming disbelief and self-doubt when I learned that my name was among the eleven others chosen that shall make up the first batch of the internship program. I still sometimes repeat the list of names in my head, recall how it was to see the faces behind these names for the first time and how we were all seated mute in our chairs at the UP Film Institute’s Videotheque, all anxious but visibly thrilled. Mostly, I remember wondering what the heck am I doing here, with a name tag around my neck and your name spelled out on the flicker of the projection screen.

I had given up on my love-hate affair with cinema long before I even finished multimedia arts school and in every emotional affair I resolve to sever (I believe a love affair with art is an emotional affair), I am never the one to turn back. No one understood why I had given up on film and chose to instead rot away behind the blue light of a computer, with the four o’clock office coffee break as my sole idea of a vacation. Each day, along with the rest of the corporate slaves trapped in painfully left-brained jobs, I  would clock out precisely at five, mentally burned.

If you care to listen, I’d like to tell you how my penchant for cinema began: I was first introduced to cinema in third grade, after I discovered a paperback of screenplays by Ricky Lee entitled Brutal/Salome (1981). The images of vulgarity were a shaming but curious experience for me, a child of nine (I am specifically referring to Salome (Gina Alajar) in a compromising position with her flame Jimmy (Dennis Roldan) in the former’s kitchen). Although the film stills were a far cry from my familiar picture books of fairy tale princesses in a bed of blooms, I was permanently drawn.

At age thirteen, when Spielberg’s Schindler’s List was screened in Manila, I recall that the least I could do was crouch outside the movie house screening the film and absorb the indiscernible dialogue of the actors reduced to thick vowels and to listen intently to the bass of the film score, signifying a plot tensity, a climax.  I finally saw the film a couple of years later, still three years too young to watch, after I succeeded in coercing the maid to have a copy delivered to our home by the neighborhood video rental shop.

In college, while queued at the enrollment line, I, without a hint of reluctance, dropped plans of taking up Consular Affairs as a preparation for a stint in law school. Instead, I happily signed up for the Multimedia Arts program because, and only because, it offered a couple of lessons on film making.  Film, at this point, was the sole thing that ever mattered.

I don’t know exactly what triggered it but one semester prior to college graduation, I severed my once-tight bond with cinema. Perhaps it was the sudden death of  Sid Hildawa, my screenplay mentor and film thesis adviser in college. Maybe, it was my introduction to the painful truth that there is no visible appreciation for cinematic legacy in the Philippines and how the mass populace have, instead, immersed themselves in formula movies in the call of escapism. Or maybe because I thought I knew everything there was to know about cinema only to realize that I was not even a thumb’s length ahead of a through and through cinephile.

Mostly, I suppose I had given up on film because it required too much of me and I just could not commit.

Forgive me but I didn’t know who you were, Alexis, nor have I heard of your impassioned advocacy for cinema until that  particular Tuesday evening in September of 2009. I remember standing before the flicker of the television screen with your one dimensional face staring back at my being and a block of letters underneath your image spelling out the word ‘Murdered’. I remember how you—because of the proximity of our age and a passion for films which you unwaveringly held within you until someone made the unkind and inhumane decision for you to cease living—reminded me, somehow, of my former self. I remember how the sad termination of your young life shocked me to reflect on my own and to reconcile with, what I believe, really mattered to me.

People tell me I am destined to breathe and die cinema. They say cinema is the only thing I can speak of with such articulation and love. Perhaps they are just being kind. I am no cinema Einstein. I can not critique, impromptu, on a Von Trier piece, nor can I assume scholarly notions on the films of Bernal. And these are the very reasons I am still searching for a clear validation of my worthiness of being called a film intern—your intern.

I hope my simple love for cinema is enough of a validation. My love for cinema is my only claim. And I can almost hear you say you very well think it is enough.

Your intern,

Louella

PS  Bayani Fernando is no longer MMDA Chair so we can finally see no more of the MMDA wall art (at least the spray-painted leftist sentiments it tried to conceal made better sense). I am not sure, however, if MMFF will ever come up with better selections. I think Enteng and his minions are hoping for an nth installment.

Read my friend and co-intern Patti Sunio‘s Love Letter to filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik.

June 7, 2010 at 12:15 am 6 comments

Idiot!

One thing the Alexis Tioseco [Film] Internship Program spelled out for me is the unkind truth that I am no cinema Einstein.

This realization dawned on me in the thick of daily recondite discourse on film (care of the mentors of the internship program) peppered with cinematic jargons, screening of and lessons on films I didn’t know existed. With over a hundred films I have collected and enshrined in an ample space in my tall shelves, I have not really watched any, after all.

My so-called affair with cinema began the day I discovered a copy of Ricky Lee‘sBrutal/Salome (1981), the first book of screenplays to be published in the Philippines. I was 9, a third grade jailbait, and the stills of Gina Alajar as Salome in a uncompromising position with lover Dennis Roldan moved me, with a shaming curiosity of a child’s first observation of sex. The film stills, a far cry from my childhood picture books of stout animals with cartoon-faces locked in eternal grin and blushing princesses in a bed of blooms, introduced me to the reality of a mad, rubbished world.

So from then on, I watched films whenever I can but only had a serious yearning for cinema at age 13. I remember being happy enough to crouch outside the moviehouse screening Steven Spielberg‘s Schindler’s List (1993), only being able to listen to the bass of the film score signfying a plot tensity, a climax, because I was too young for admission. I was coerced to leave the room when the knife-wielding Norman Bates in granny garb entered the frame and Romeo and Juliet (Romeo and Juliet, 1996 by Baz Luhrmann) tongue to tongue beneath the latter’s sheets was an automatic signal for me to bury my eyes in my hands, even at age 16. The neighboring video rental shop which employed a delivery service proved to be a last resort, with myself posing as an older member of the household over the phone.

A film curriculum in college meant more films for me to feast on. Thus my introduction to Kubrick and his delinquent Alex (A Clockwork Orange, 1971);Scorsese and his super anti-hero Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, 1976); Eisenstein‘sBattleship Potemkin (1925) which ‘The Odessa Steps’ scene is given homage by De Palma in his The Untouchables (1987); Brocka and his ill-fated characters framed in a backdrop of urban decay and so on and so forth.

Ten or more years of film appreciation, over a hundred titles acquired and treasured and I joined the internship still practically a cinema idiot.

But idiocy sure still beats the heck out of utter ignorance.

♥♥♥

Listening to Coin Operated Boy by The Dresden Dolls ♫ ♪ ♫

May 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm 2 comments

I wish I were into Dadaism with a toilet seat framed on my wall

The last, serious art gallery visit I had was at the National Museum in Malate at age fourteen. The visit, peppered with rude interruptions of a pimple itch or a not-so-bright boy from class spouting vulgar comments on the nakedness of the Bulul figure at the Anthropology division of the museum, was especially forgetful. The Spolarium did it for me though until I was whisked away by an angry curator for attempting to touch it.

I was a student of art but art galleries were never—strangely—a part of my school life. I would reason surrealism art sends me screaming mid-sleep in the wee hours of the morning and the perfect brush strokes would only make me want to hate on myself for not choosing to paint on canvas again (the linseed oil was such a bother to deal with and yada yada).

So this one particular Tuesday of May was significant: I was reunited again with breathing, screaming and living art mounted on otherwise mute walls.

The first stop was at the Finale Art File gallery where I, along with my co-interns (from the Alexis Tioseco Internship Program [ATIP]), was greeted by hushed workmen dismounting beautiful, huge-as-life paintings. I introduced myself and my peers to the gallery’s exhibition manager, Sylvia Gaston who informed us that a new exhibit is set to launch on Friday. We missed the YOUTubia exhibit which featured paintings, digital prints, video and—according to the art gallery website—even videoke by 12 artists.

However, we were fortunate to still visit Ranelle Dial’s behavioral and personality study-inspired Mind-Mapped exhibit which was staged at the gallery’s video room. It featured portraits of 7 writers—Erwin Romulo, Yason Banal, Yvette Tan, Butch Dalisay, Gou De Jesus, Raymond Lee and Lena Cobangbang with random words and thoughts scribbled on the crown of their bald heads. Personally speaking, the venue of the exhibit is perfect. The room, confined and intimate, can perhaps mimic the confines of a person’s mind. The walls of the video room, which may serve as a cushion from the external distractions, help an observer immerse himself more in the messages behind the words scribbled on the naked heads.

We then walked to Nova Gallery to find pre-occupied Charlie Cojuangco (the gallery director) unpacking massive artworks with a female assistant. In the gallery’s video room, we got treated to a private screening (with animal skin rug to lounge on) of ‘Drawing Zero Degree’, the 2-hour video documentation of Victor Balanon painting the Gen. McArthur’s Lingayen Gulf landing-inspired mural entitled ‘Manifesto Destino Vastardos III’. The installation was pretty interesting, for the lack of better term: the video documentation was projected on the mural mounted on the wall of the video room, creating a 2D impression of Balanon, in phantom-like materialization, daubing his 2D paint brush on the mural. The entire installation is being auctioned—which includes the wall to which the mural is painted on, the projector and the video documentation of the mural production in progress.

Manila Contemporary, located somewhere in the bends and twists of Pasong Tamo, is hosting the Anting-Anting group’s ‘Eternal Damn Nation’ exhibit. Coinciding with the 2010 Elections, ‘Eternal Damn Nation’ is divided into three part exhibition: freedom, land and the condemnation of unfulfilled promises (represented by earth, heaven and hell, respectively). The exhibition is very political with political figures metaphorically presented as creatures of hell and wickedness. Personally speaking, the enormity of the paintings towering over its observer is a figurative representation of the gravity of the country’s current political state in terms of corruption and seeming hopelessness.

Silverlens and Slab is housing Leslie De Chavez’ collection of socio-politically relevant artworks which are collectively entitled ‘Buntong Hininga’. Symbolism heavy, De Chavez’s artworks highlight issues concerning poverty, disorder, religion and politics. The show is entitled ‘Buntong Hininga’ after the Philippine Society’s response to the numerous crisis it is enduring: the collective sigh.

The entire art galleries experience was a breather. The artworks—with themes on issues familiar to us—still somehow shocked me to living. And that is how authentic art is supposed to influence its observer: to realize the many ugly truths of life and in the process, ponder on his existence.

[Thank you to our 2-week mentor, Yason Banal ♥]

♥♥♥

Listening to Pagan Poetry by Bjork ♫ ♪ ♫

May 9, 2010 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

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