QCinema fields career-boosting portrayals
There are as many career-boosting portrayals as there are cinematic head-scratchers in this year’s QCinema film festival, onview at Robinsons Galleria, Gateway and TriNoma until today, Oct. 31. The entries to watch, in no particular order, are Lem Lorca’s “Water Lemon,” Mihk Vergara’s “Patintero: Ang Alamat Ni Meng Patalo” and Chuck Gutierrez’s “Iisa,” followed by Jun Lana’s cleverly realized but overly chatty “Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan,” which isn’t an entry in the competition’s main Circle category.
A number of times, we felt gypped by teeth-grating films that came out of great ideas that their directors couldn’t execute as a comprehensible whole—or those that use abstractions to conceal their filmmakers’ inability to tell a coherent story.
Moreover, many of this year’s entries are weighed down by an alienating slowness that leaves too much room for dramatic tension or nuance that isn’t even there—which is a problem, because not everybody has Lav Diaz’s idiosyncratic ability to come up with protracted but compellingly told tales.
We loved Jet Leyco’s “Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na”—but, “MatangTubig,” his latest mind-bender, about the mysterious disappearance of two girls and the “supernatural” secrets their small town keeps, goes downhill quickly after its gorgeously framed establishing shots. It squanders too much time chasing red herrings and dead-ends, rather than focusing on what it truly wants to say.
Pepe Diokno’s overreaching “Kapatiran,” about the senselessness of hazing and the morally inept society that perpetuates its practice, has focus issues—it aims to say so much with meandering narrative snippets that don’t go anywhere.
It is moving when it isn’t filling its screen time with too many “visual” distractions that confound more than they clarify. But, the movie features a short but indelible performance from Menggie Cobarrubias, as a terrifying, insult-spewing law professor.
Despite Benjamin Alves’ commanding presence, Cesar Hernando’s “Gayuma” sags under the weight of its ambition, as it follows the tragic repercussions that transpire when art student, Mike Buenavista (Alves), falls for Stella (Phoebe Walker), a vengeful ghost from his grandfather’s sketchy past.
The film initially intrigues but quickly loses steam. Then, it drags—and drags some more.
Mario Cornejo’s “Apocalypse Child” fields an intriguing premise—about Ford (Sid Lucero), a surfer who’s as “disconnected” from the woman who adores him (best supporting actress Annicka Dolonius, in a heartbreaking turn) as he is from the possibility that he could be—Francis Ford Coppola’s love child!
Unfortunately, we found it hard to empathize with characters that felt detached from the rest of the hoi polloi. However, RK Bagatsing comes off well in a finely limned characterization as Ford’s emotionally fragile bosom buddy.
Framed by the neverending conflict in war-ravaged Mindanao, Chuck Gutierrez’s “Iisa” examines the fractured relationships between underground amazon, Ross (Angeli Bayani, moving as always), and the people who accuse her of stealing from the Party she swore to serve well in the aftermath of a typhoon that has claimed the lives of her comrades—including her husband, Rufo/Lance (Jess Mendoza). Is she as guilty as she looks?
Glaiza de Castro and QCinema best actor Dominic Roco benefit from the easy chemistry they share in Prime Cruz’s offbeat rom-com, “Sleepless,” about call-center agents, Gem and Barry, both insomniacs, who find comfort in each other’s company as they muse about their humdrum existence.
Boosted by Lee Meily’s stunning camerawork and a persuasive script (by Lilit Reyes) that brims with warmth, “Water Lemon” tells the story of Asperger’s syndrome-stricken Filemon (Junjun Quintana, in the role of a lifetime), his doting mother (the spot-on Tessie Tomas, who won best actress) and the quirky residents (best supporting actor Lou Veloso, Alessandra de Rossi, Meryll Soriano, Menggie Cobarrubias) of the quaint town of Mauban in Quezon. It is director Lem Lorca’s best film to date—and QCinema’s pièce de résistance.
The pint-sized ensemble of Mihk Vergara’s metaphor-rich, coming-of-age tale, “Patintero”—our other favorite bet—is just as exceptional.
Incorporating live action with a dash of animation, the astutely imagined film champions the cause of young “losers” who come together to try their luck at patintero.
They’re often outskilled and outnumbered, but they do their best to score, anyway—even if everybody expects them to lose!
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