Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Movies’

Norte is extended for 1 week at Glorietta and Trinoma cinemas. Thank You!

September 16, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 13 Comments →

In this scene Eliza (Angeli Bayani), whose husband Joaquin has been wrongfully imprisoned for murder, confers with the lawyer who advised him to plead guilty.

By popular demand Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan has been extended for one week at Glorietta in Ayala Center, Makati and at Trinoma in Quezon City.

Schedule of daily screenings from September 17 to 23:
Trinoma 12.10
Glorietta 12:30

Thank you for spreading the word. A four-hour indie loosely based on Dostoevsky and directed by one of the leading lights of “slow cinema” (We dislike the term avidly) was always going to be a hard sell, and without your support it might’ve been a first day-last day theatrical run. That the filmmakers were able to make this movie the exactly the way they wanted to was amazing; that it opened in commercial cinemas was amazing; that enough people have come to see it so it gets a second week is amazing.

Essay question: Which character is the most miserable—Fabian, Joaquin, or Eliza?

Art plus money is a spectator sport

September 16, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Monsters, Movies No Comments →

We had gone to the auction last Saturday expecting something out of North by Northwest.

Given recent news of fraud in the art market—a Luna being sold for Php55 million appears to be in a French auction catalogue for much, much less, only it’s by someone else—we were hoping for someone to yell “Fake!” and start bidding downwards. (Not that we’re suggesting that anything at that auction was less than real. The contested Luna was not part of it.)

Instead, the auction looked like a cockfight, with people in T-shirts and jeans raising numbers on sticks. The paintings were crammed onto the walls, and every plastic chair was taken. “Stay for the Magsaysay-Ho, I bet it goes for Php20M,” said my collector friend, who might as well have been at a basketball championship. (There’s probably a bookie with odds on what the hammer prices will be.)

A small piece listed at Php800,000 went for Php6.9M. It’s enough to make dead artists come back to life and paint some more. In fact they do, except that the actual painting is done by someone else. In a market like this, the genuine-ness of a piece is directly proportional to the price it might fetch: to raise questions of authenticity seems almost rude. You’re killing everyone’s buzz.

We didn’t stay long because the place was packed and we have a horror of crowds. Our friend reports that the Magsaysay-Ho listed at Php2.2M went for Php21M, but the biggest seller that day was the Ronald Ventura painting that went for Php22M.

Watch Vincent and Theo by Robert Altman, which opens with a painting by Van Gogh fetching jillions at an auction in the 1980s, then goes back to Van Gogh’s lifetime when he didn’t sell squat (and his brother Theo was a well-known art dealer).

Every movie we see #97: Luis Buñuel’s Wuthering Heights and the advantages of the shut-in life

September 15, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 6 Comments →

How does a shut-in consumptive English spinster get to write Wuthering Heights? It is the most intense love story ever written, and Cathy and Heathcliff the craziest lovers in literature. Their relationship goes beyond possession, desire or wanting to live happily ever after: what they call “love” is the stuff of psychotherapy. It’s not just obsessive love—they can’t even be jealous of other people because as Cathy says, “I AM Heathcliff”.

This situation does not make for happy endings, nor do they expect one. Cathy makes an effort at a healthy, “normal” life, marrying a decent man and playing the devoted wife and mother-to-be. Of course it doesn’t work. She basically starves herself to death, but even death will not end her pain. Heathcliff meets her weeping housekeeper and asks if Cathy is dead. The housekeeper says she sleeps with the angels or something, and Heathcliff cries, “May she wake in torment!” Then he bangs his head on a tree, leaving bloodstains. He curses her for leaving him, and then he calls on her to haunt him. He asks her to give him no peace. And the amazing thing about Emily Bronte’s novel is that you believe this extreme emotion could exist.

Writing teachers always advise their students to “write what they know”—what about Wuthering Heights? It is a triumph of the imagination, fueled by powerful feelings that had no other outlet but the written page.

In Abismos de Pasion, Luis Buñuel’s film adaptation from the 1950s, the tale is set in Mexico. This does away with one of the things we love about the Emily Bronte: the atmosphere. Misty moors, howling winds, ghostly faces in the window—it’s not called Wuthering Heights for nothing. (Note that her sister’s novel is called Jane Eyre and not Thornfield Hall, though the sisters both created dark, mysterious, Byronic, unpleasant leading men. We’ve never read their youngest sister Anne—will look up The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.)

The Buñuel also dispenses with the “ghost story” and the love story involving the second generation terrorized by Heathcliff, who really is not a nice man. Though if we were to go by national stereotypes, the “passionate” Latin-American nature is a closer match to Bronte’s characters than the “polite, repressed” Brits. Instead of squelching around in the mud and contracting tuberculosis, you’ve got people in arid, dusty farms and blazing sunshine. But the emotion is the same: the passion that drags the lovers to hell.

Writers are already shut-ins by definition, maybe there is something to the reclusive life.

* In Career Girls by Mike Leigh, two friends divine the future by asking a question and opening a copy of Wuthering Heights to a random page.

* * We’re going to read Virginia Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own.

Every movie we see: The Catch-up edition

September 14, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 2 Comments →

85 – 88. Mariquina, Sundalong Kanin, K’na the Dreamweaver and #Y, reviewed during Cinemalaya week.


89. Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer. Wonderfully weird and unsettling; Scarlett Johansson cements her iconhood as an alien sent to earth to seduce men. Who’s meat now?

90. The Search for Weng-Weng by Andrew Leavold. The best documentary on the Philippine film industry we’ve ever seen, by an Australian video store owner who’s gone on to become the expert on Pinoy pop cinema. This will be reviewed in full.

91. The Normal Heart by Ryan Murphy. Mark Ruffalo is ferocious as an early AIDS activist. When the pandemic was first detected in the early 80s, no one wanted to address it, not even the people at risk, because they thought it would curtail the rights they had fought so hard to obtain. Should be required viewing now that HIV infection is on the rise. Maybe people need to be scared all over again.

92. Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas. Yes, the movie funded via Kickstarter. Closure for the audience left hanging when the TV series was cancelled. A long time ago, we used to be a fan but we haven’t thought of it lately at all. Starring Kristen Bell as Veronica and that guy remembered mostly as Logan, with Krysten Ritter who was Jesse’s girlfriend who OD’d on Breaking Bad. Lots of people with small roles on the TV show went on to big careers—Amanda Seyfried, Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain among others.

93. The History Boys. We saw this seven, eight years ago at a last full show in Glorietta, and when the lights came on, 60 percent of the audience was made of people from our high school.

94. Coriolanus


95. The Gifted by Chris Martinez. Hilarious! That’s what to do the next time you are welcomed to a Japanese restaurant by waiters shouting Irrashiamase! in your face. Starring Anne Curtis in a fatsuit and Christine Reyes with prosthetics, The Gifted dishes out all the tropes and cliches of romantic movies, only to suddenly turn them on their head. It’s subversive. Yes, why are women made to fight each other when they should be working together? Why are women judged by their looks as if life were a perpetual beauty contest with an oogly board of judges? Anne Curtis is very funny as the overprivileged bitch, and it was a stroke of genius to give Sam Milby Manny Pacquiao’s accent.

96. Le Plaisir by Max Ophuls.

The film is based on three stories by Guy de Maupassant. In the first, an old man tries to recapture his vanished youth by going to a ball in a mask and dancing as if he were 20. In the second, the madam of the town brothel goes to the country to attend her niece’s first communion, taking her employees with her. In the third, a painter’s model shows herself to be a master of manipulation. Gorgeous.

In which life is a Russian novel, only funny

September 11, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies 3 Comments →

It occurred to us after our sixth viewing of Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan (for a total of one day and one hour spent watching the movie) that our life had begun to resemble a remake of Annie Hall, in which we were Alvy Singer (Woody Allen).

In Annie Hall, Alvy and Annie meet at the cinema where he plans to see The Sorrow and the Pity for the nth time. The guy behind them in the queue starts holding forth about cinema and literature, and when he brings up Marshall McLuhan, Alvy produces McLuhan himself to correct him.

The Sorrow and The Pity, Marcel Ophuls’s documentary on French collaboration with the Nazis in WWII, has about the same running time as Norte, but even fewer laughs. It leaves you with the impression of having spent several years in Vichy. Norte gives you the impression of having spent several years in Ilocos Norte.

In our real-life remake, we’re waiting to see Norte for the nth time when the guy behind us starts holding forth about cinema and literature, and when he brings up Lav Diaz we produce Lav Diaz himself to say, “You know nothing of my work.”

Then we point out that Lav was named after Lavrentiy Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police, and we all crack up.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it could.

By the way, Woody Allen’s Love and Death is a spoof of Russian literature. Our involvement in Norte is a direct consequence of our fixation on Russian novels. We heard that our friends were adapting Dostoevsky and we said, “Game!”

Tina saw Norte today and she says there should be another Dostoevsky adaptation centered on the character of Hoda Viduya (Angelina Kanapi), Fabian’s sister: The Idiot. She can be Myshkina.

CEOs on Norte: “A master’s vision, a magnificent work of art that hits you in the gut.”

September 09, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 4 Comments →


Seeing a Lav Diaz film on the big screen is a transporting and fairly rare experience. Starting tomorrow, September 10, Filipino moviegoers can experience a Lav Diaz film for themselves as Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan opens in five Metro Manila theatres.

Norte has gotten rave reviews from critics and film students the world over, but what about the other sectors of the moviegoing public? Last week, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala hosted a screening of Norte for friends. Here are some of their reactions.

“Those who have the fortitude to sit through Norte will be gifted with a master’s uncompromising vision of love versus hate; alienation versus closeness; inaction versus action; cause and effect; crime and retribution; the inherent injustice of the universe; and perhaps, but only perhaps, salvation.” – Roberto Cuenca

“I was literally stunned by Norte. Certain images are still haunting me now. I never imagined I would survive the 4-hour running time, but at the end I did not believe it was over.” – Girlie Rodis

“Norte is an engrossing, challenging and ultimately enriching cinematic experience. An unparalleled study of individual, nation and family in the Philippine context that remained in my consciousness long after leaving the theatre. Norte deserves all the acclaim it has received and the support of audiences in the Philippines and the world over.” – Teddy Manotoc

“Norte drew me into its pace and cadence. The lighting and cinematography were excellent, particularly at night, and the juxtapositions of Laoag settings with those of Manila were good. The themes were many and prescient—the duality of wealth but absent overseas worker parents versus the humble, values-driven closer-knit family, the lack of fair justice, the penitentiary system, the usurious lending structure for those that cannot access other means, the quiet resignation of those with no recourse in life and of course, the beauty of the dignity many have in the middle of much suffering.

“Much of the impact in our viewing probably came from the fact that it all cuts so close to home in the lives we see around us. One cannot watch this movie and be unaffected. It is one thing to view a film with themes that resonate with less than one percent of the population. It is another is to see themes that are played out daily with the vast majority of those around us. That hits you in the gut.” – Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala

“Magnificent. I saw and continue to see so many metaphors of our society at large. I imagine a second watching would reveal even more. My viewing of Filipino films directed by Lino Brocka, Mike de Leon, Ishmael Bernal and Marilou Diaz-Abaya (perhaps the last golden age of our movies in the 80s) still remains my touchstone for Philippine cinema, but Lav Diaz has clearly created an incredible work of art.”
– Bobby Macasaet

Norte, Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan stars Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, and Archie Alemania. The screenplay is by Rody Vera and Lav Diaz; cinematography by Larry Manda. All screenings with English subtitles.

Screening times: Glorietta 4 – 1pm and 6pm daily. Robinson’s Galleria – 7pm daily. Greenhills Theatre Mall – 2:30pm and 7:30pm daily. Robinson’s Metro East – 7pm daily. Trinoma – 12:10pm and 5pm daily.