Dreaming in Celluloid

Dreaming in Celluloid

WRY BREAD - Philip Cu-Unjieng (The Philippine Star) - November 27, 2016 - 12:00am

For those of us who love cinema and crave for opportunities to watch the best the world has to offer, the Cinema One Originals Festival 2016 was a veritable godsend. For beyond the C1 Films in competition that had Documentaries, Narrative Features and Short Films, there was concurrently running a World Cinema Winners section that would turn any cinephile’s head.

My eldest son, Quintin, who works with the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Philippines) and is my sometime resident film guru, was so impressed by the line-up. He and his friends were at the Glorietta screenings practically every night of the nine-day festival. And to make these films accessible, ABS-CBN and C1 also had TriNoma, Gateway, Greenhills and FDCP’s Cinematheque as “homes” for their bevy of quality offerings. Films that would normally never get the chance to be exhibited on a commercial basis were there for the taking; and immediate kudos must be handed out to C1’s platform head Ronald Arguelles for sparing no expense in creating such a line-up!

My own favorites have to be the two recent Cannes films, the Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake (UK) directed by Ken Loach, and Paul Verhoeven’s Elle (France), which starred the luminous Isabelle Huppert. The Salesman (Iran), Swiss Army Man (US) — which stars Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano — Neruda (Spain), and The Untamed (Mexico) were other noteworthy inclusions. Quintin gave his two thumbs up to another French film, It’s Only the End of the World, and the Italian documentary, Fuocommare. And for horror buffs like my boys, they struck gold with Creepy from Japan, The Witch from the US (a hit at Sundance), Austria’s Goodnight Mommy and South Korea’s The Wailing. I so regret not having viewed De Palma, a documentary directed by Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. In fact, that was more the problem for the likes of us who couldn’t just shut down during the week, and pitch tent at the nearest theater!

Not forgetting the “raison d’etre” of the Festival, to create original content and promote young and deserving filmmakers, the narrative features, which took home the top prizes of Best Film and Audience Choice, were the youth drama 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten and the gender-bending Baka Bukas respectively. Baka Bukas was directed by Samantha Lee; while 2 Cool had Petersen Vargas at the helm. Hopefully, this kind of exposure will be the proverbial “one foot in the door” that talented but struggling young directors often find so elusive.

Truly, in more ways than one, Ronald has upped the ante for staging World Cinema Festivals by bringing together such an illustrious collection for this year’s C1 Originals Festival. While on one hand, it remains one of the steadfast champions of local cinema and the Philippine indie film scene, it has also become, on the other hand, a wonderful showcase of what World Cinema offers today. For cinema addicts such as myself, this was one great “fix.”

Mystery & adventure in caps

The three novels today are perfect when you just want to curl up with a book you can’t put down. From Bussi’s crime novel mixed with art, to Whitehead’s revisiting slavery in the US, and knowing that Glynn authored Limitless. These are engrossing reads.

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi (available on Amazon.com) Bussi is a recipient of 15 literary awards for his crime novels. I must admit this is the first Bussi novel I have read — and I am hooked! He expertly blends art, history, crime and passion in a story that teases, beguiles and successfully seduces. At the core, there is naturally a case of murder (or two) but the setting of the French village of Giverny, home to Monet for much of his artistic life, bestows a special dimension of atmosphere to this smartly written mystery. Like a puzzle box,  which constantly springs surprises on us, the story ranges in time from the mid-1930s to 2010; and you will be taken in by Bussi’s magical “cheats” on his temporal plotting and story exposition. I was literally rushing to the end line, eager to get to the bottom of the various narrative strands. Very special! And I loved the art world background, the lives of Impressionists.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (available at National Book Store) We may have watched TV shows like Roots, or films like 12 Years a Slave, but one is never quite prepared to read about the US slave experience and not get bothered by this dark blot of American history. From life being incarcerated and thrown on a slave ship, to being auctioned on the market, to working on the cotton field, the first part of this book provides searing detail on what transpired. The railroad comes into the plot as a play for freedom is made by our heroine. The bounty hunters who come after her and her companions, the illusion of safety in South Carolina, and the tragedy and desperation of flight and refuge are likewise chronicled. Strong reading material, where events come vividly to life, and remind us that inequality still lives today — with loads of research and historical detail thrown in.

Paradime by Alan Glynn (available on Amazon.com) From the author who gave us Limitless (which was turned into a film with Bradley Cooper, and now a TV series) comes his very latest, Paradime. Yes, it is about identity, ambition and playing for high stakes in the game of life. But this time, the premise is fueled by doppelgängers and corporate greed. You take a lowly military mess hall cook back from Iraq and have him now working at an upscale Manhattan eatery where he spies a diner that uncannily looks like him. Have that “twin” turn out to be a major partner of Paradime Capital, one of the biggies of investment banking — and then you let the ambition and unscrupulous natures of the two play out a deadly game of “Who’s In Charge.” Fast-paced and witty, we are given a wonderful exercise in suspension of disbelief.

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