Thursday, February 12, 2004

Man! Just the other week I was telling some friends that it was my busiest week yet, but this week has been really busy, as in I've been to work every damn day, and just finished a full schedule today. This is exacerbated by the fact that immediately after work I've been rushing to Megamall to catch what I could of a) The 1st Philippine [no longer International] Animation Festival, and b) Pelikula at Lipunan. Which is why I've been sleeping an average of 3-5 hours a night.

The Animation Festival suffered from no promotional support. Barely anyone knew about it. And it was free! Neva and I lined up really early (too early, really) for the French Shorts screening, and we were first in line. I asked the ticket girl if the line for the previous screenings were long (which I couldn't attend because I was still at work), and she said, while looking at a piece of paper "22, 51." I asked her if that's how many people lined up, and she said that's how many people watched. Sad. But it gets worse. There were two afternoons that were Nickelodeon blocks, and I assumed they'd be showing the Nickelodeon films. Neva and I went in to kill the time waiting for Zamboanga, and we discovered that they were just showing taped episodes on a projector, with horribly muted sound. And the fact that it's free attracted just the types I hate, sadly: for the French Shorts screening, there were a bunch of drivers to the left talking about FPJ non-stop, without even lowering their voices. At the Nick screening, two huge groups of teens were noisy and rowdy, cursing and making bad jokes. I felt bad for the few kids who were there to watch. They also suffered from the bane of most festivals: schedule changes/cancellations. In this case, no Corto Maltese (thank you, fucking MTRCB), and a repeat of the thankless Nick episodes marathon. I don't think they had a website either, where they could have updated the schedule changes more quickly.

But, we did get to watch the French Shorts, like I said, and another film I'll get into later. Going into the French shorts, I was excited to see Transatlantique again. It was the only film I was familiar with; never heard of the others. But to my surprise, the first film was this 1979 stop-motion animated short by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet! Sweet! It's called The Carousel, and it was the best of the bunch (for a reason to be revealed), really moody and atmospheric and, as expected, dark. It was a joy to see the types of faces and expressions Caro/Jeunet love realized with clay. The second film was a surreal one called Child of the High Seas about this ghostly girl trapped in a ghost town, the sole occupant, except the town seems to be floating in the middle of the ocean. It was really freaky, but the art style and music were lovely. Last was Transatlantique, and it WASN'T the one I knew and loved! It was an entirely different piece. Also surreal, but a little too long for my taste.

We also got to see Belleville Rendezvous, which was excellent! Almost dialogue-free, it didn't matter at all that there weren't any subtitles. The music was rapturous, the exaggerated features and odd camera angles were a remarkable breath of fresh air. The humor and plot were decidedly French, and the animation was terrific, a lovely mix of hand-drawn and computer-assisted. It had so much personality and wit about it, and it really felt like an auteur's film. Hats off to Sylvain Chomet, who lovingly dedicated the film to his parents. The design was magnificent (I especially loved the super-tall, super-thin ocean liners), and it reminded me that I really need to watch more international animation. Most of what we've all seen is American, if not Japanese in origin.

Pelikula at Lipunan still, unfortunately, falls victim to not planning their events properly, or not getting their guests to the venue on time. I know that premieres are always late, but I wish the ceremonial opening numbers for Zamboanga were announced because a LOT of people were waiting in line, for a film that was late by a WHOLE HOUR. So we were in line for an hour and a half, for a movie that's 65 minutes long. And a surprising lot of people there to watch the film were really old, and weren't used to waiting in line that long, and started grumbling and complaining loudly. People were even shouting at one point. Anyway, because of the delay none of us had time to eat dinner before the next film, which we already had tickets to. Once we got out of the theater we lined up. I wish they'd learned something from last year's horrendous The Crime of Padre Amaro screening, which was also the opening film, was also a full hour late, wasn't that good after all, and the fucking airconditioning shut off 30 minutes before the end, in a theater packed full of people. By the end we were all fanning ourselves and sweating, but not wanting to miss out on a hoped-for denouement that would somehow redeem the film (it didn't come).

Zamboanga was a lot of fun, actually. I was kinda sleepy but that was from being tired, not because the film was boring. Being from the mid-'30s, it was understandably dated (we're all referred to as "the natives") and at times politically incorrect, but still, as a document it was riveting. There were some breathtaking scenes like the underwater footage, the flotilla of boats going to and fro shore, the battle scenes. There was also a cool scene using dramatic juxtaposition: as the village's men were out diving for pearls a neighbouring tribe pillaged their home and raped their women. Also, a rousing fight with a shark, where they cut away at the last possible frame, giving the scene a very violent feel.

But last night we got to watch Big Fish, and it was great! Whew. I'm SO glad it's so much better than I thought it would be. The trailer was a little scary with its Robert Zemeckis-feel-good-treacle treatment, but it maintains director Tim Burton's sensibility and sense of humor. Perfectly cast, every character. Crudup was good, Albert Finney was excellent ("A MAMMOTH!"), Jessica Lange did so much with just her eyes, and Alison Lohman displayed a surprising range. Ewan was charming, Buscemi was his perfect self, and so was Bonham Carter. Danny Elfman's score is the only one I'll let Howard Shore lose to (but Shore should still win). And it's really rare that I cry at a film at the exact point that I know the film wants me to cry. But the ending has this graceful inevitability to it, you don't know how it'll be executed exactly, but when it unfolds it's like there's no other way it could've been done. Someone asked me after the movie if I liked it better than Edward Scissorhands, but I don't like thinking like that right after I've seen something good. I want to bask in the glow of a great story told splendidly, not immediately compare it to his previous works and then place it in the order of my favorites. But being asked the question, what I said was that it felt like the work of the same man who directed Scissorhands, at a different point of his life. Where Scissorhands was the work of a young man at odds with the world, Big Life was obviously the work of a new father (Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter recently became parents).

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