Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cinemanila Day 4

The Rocket
directed by Kim Mordaunt
A young boy whose twin brother died at birth is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him. He decides to try and break the curse and win a rocket making contest. The film is quite formulaic and somewhat predictable despite being in an otherwise unfamiliar milieu of a rural village in Laos. It hits all the familiar story beats. But this Australian-Thai-Laotian co-production is very lovingly made and beautifully acted that you won't really care so much. It's a solid piece of work. (***)

How to Disappear Completely
directed by Raya Martin
I have to say that there isn't a director (Filipino or otherwise) out there QUITE LIKE Raya Martin. From the films of his I've seen, this is probably the most conventional but only Raya Martin standards. This is billed as a "deconstruction" of a supernatural horror thriller. An androgynous teenage girl (I wonder if that was a deliberate, conscious casting decision) who lives with her religious mother and drunkard father is haunted by something. That's basically the main plot, if you call it that because then goes off into a series of surreal visions which has the appearance of a narrative film while breaking the rules of narrative film through imagery and sound. Filmmakers can come off as *gulp* pretentious when attempting something like this but Martin comes off as a wild imaginative child just playing with the medium of film. I recommend this film for the cinematically adventurous. (***)

Harmony Lessons
directed by Emir Baigazin

A quiet, nerdy teenage boy from a small Kazakhstani village is bullied by an older boy and his gang who has criminal connections. He deliberately plans an elaborate revenge. Now, there have been a lot of films about school bullying. I think this would end up ranking as one of the very best. Deliberately paced but never boring. Beautifully photographed too and features very natural, first-time actors. The film gets darker and darker and troubling. The ending is particularly haunting though it may piss off a few people. I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for this one.(***1/2)


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