Archive for April 27th, 2018

by Jared Dec

Evolution of a Filipino Family (Philippines 2004…Lav Diaz) 625m

Oh s**t, it’s just Lino Brocka again

p Lav Diaz, Eric Tanedo, Paul Tanedo  d Lav Diaz w Lav Diaz photo Paul Tanedo, Richard C. DeGuzman edit Lav Diaz

Elryan de Vera (Raynaldo), Angie Furro (Puring), Pen Medino (Kadyo), Marife Necesito (Hilda), Ronnie Lazaro (Fernando)

Cinema has always been filled with auteur outsiders who dare to break free from the conventions that most film-making remains bound to. However, no matter how unconventional a film is, whether in arthouse circles or made on opposite sides of the globe, all films tends to have some general similarities across all times and cultural barriers. For instance, most films have a runtime between 90 and 150 minutes. Most generally since the 1970’s have been made in color outside of the most impoverished areas of the world. However, today we are going to talk about perhaps the most truly unique auteur ever to show his face in the history of world cinema. A director who so completely defies essentially every pretense one has about how a narrative film is structured that one could pick his films out of a line-up in a second even with just a vague familiarity. I am talking of course, of none other than Lav Diaz. Lav Diaz is a filmmaker that usually only the most hardcore of film buffs embrace. His films have unimaginably long runtimes and the pace of his films is so incredibly slow at times, that to the uninitiated, are almost intolerable to sit through. I myself remember my first experience with his style vividly. Allan had mailed me a box of 15 or so movies while I was in high school and included was none other than Diaz’s Melancholia on no less than 4 DVD-R’s. I was excited when I began my first viewing, eager to embrace a director Allan had so highly praised. Imagine my shock at the soporific pace, and a narrative so deeply dense with layers that one could barely remain engaged even if one was not turned off by the 30-minute shots of conversations all in black-and-white. I was totally unprepared and quit about 3 hours in, feeling I had put a good effort in. A few weeks later, I tried again and began to understand the appeal. Slowly, I began to understand in my adolescent mind, that this was a truly unique film experience, one I could get nowhere else. I became a Diaz fanatic, tracking down his films to try and understand perhaps the most unique film-maker of my lifetime.

Emerging from the Philippines in the late 90’s with some films which, to put it politely, do not bear remembering, Diaz broke through with his 2001 film Batang West Side. A well-crafted mystery that lasted just over 5 hours and has some of the most unique dialogue yet encountered by myself (who can forget when a drug dealer equates selling meth to being a Maoist revolutionary), Diaz began to slowly develop a group of rabid fans. His films remained underground and until his breakthrough success with Norte, the End of History, not a single one of his films was available on DVD anywhere save for ridiculously expensive DVD-R’s that people tried to sell on dodgy websites. Diaz though was unfazed and began making more works of unusual lengths. Over the next few years, Diaz completed this film, to date his longest and most intense, using a mix of digital, film, and archival footage. The result is a passion project in the truest sense. Diaz entered the industry with the hope of making films that reflect the true state of the Filipino people. He was inarguably more successful in this attempt than in any of his previous or following films. Evolution of a Filipino Family is a cross-section of the history of the Filipino people and manages to capture the nuances of its native culture so completely that few works in any other time and place can compare.

Like many great films, Evolution is a film of almost foolhardy ambition for the inexperienced film-maker that Diaz was at this time. The film attempts to describe the history of the Marcos regime in the Philippines from the perspective of a small farming clan in the jungle. Like all Diaz films, it is a slow boil, one could create more bubbles by holding a cigarette lighter under an Olympic swimming pool. Our protagonist is mainly Raynaldo, a boy who is found abandoned in a trash heap and raised by the farming family. Like the Philippines itself, he is initially raised well by his adoptive family but then a few hours in, completely loses his innocence by witnessing horrific war crimes and even committing murder himself. Raynaldo grows up to be exploited by a mining company, only to escape and run away with his family searching for him for the remainder of the film, in a sense becoming an elusive Godot-esque figure. All the while, we observe the Philippines’ transformation and simultaneous loss of innocence as people become addicted to radio dramas which serve as escapism from rural poverty and political instability. In the meantime, Marcos enacts martial law and murders his political rival, Benigno Aquino.

It is difficult to criticize Lav Diaz, because his films are filled with such unbridled ambition and inspiration. Even when his shoestring budgets and nonprofessional actors threaten to hold him back, Diaz makes such a valiant effort to have his voice heard that his shortcomings are all forgivable. In an industry where studios are afraid to step even one toe out of line for fear of losing money, it is refreshing to see a director who breaks all the rules of studio filmmaking so consistently and so thoroughly. Diaz is making art, and he is making it his way. Diaz is a true auteur and a true rebel, but also a philosopher whose ambition is only matched for his passion for his country and his efforts to express to the world at large the reality of life for his people. For all of the merits of his later, more mature works, this film to me represents his most impassioned moment. Everything since has been more restrained and focused on a smaller subject. Norte is arguably his most-accessible work to date which is likely why it has been more embraced and seen than any other. Evolution though is a film that tries do no less than be a definitive statement of a generation at over 11 hours (supposedly there is a print this long, the run time I list is the duration of my personal copy) with essentially no budget. Somehow it succeeds, though I can understand why Allan himself favored other Diaz films over this one. This one is less artsy, less obtuse. As a cerebral critic there is perhaps less here to figure out for oneself and it can be seen as less complex than Melancholia or Death in the Land of Encantos. Yet, the ending of this film alone remains burned in to my memory. Raynaldo’s fate is perhaps Diaz’s opinion of the fate of his country in the modern world, a fact that both haunts me and crosses my mind whenever I hear of disorder in the developing world in the news. Lav Diaz and this film in particular are a sort of motivation to not give up seeking great, unknown films. For all the ignored films that deserve to be forgotten, there are true titans of their time that I have yet to experience for myself. When films get overly formulaic for me and I grow jaded of cinema as an art form, I reflect on the unconventional and impassioned film-making of Diaz. One can argue he is overly pretentious. One can argue his films are as digestible as Ayers Rock. But none of that changes the fact after thousands of films seen, his films are truly one-of-a-kind and never forgettable in any sense of the word.


Writer’s note: Hey everyone, sorry I have been gone so long. Real life caught up with me, and even though I survived a pretty intense time, finals are in two weeks so I can’t get cocky yet. Perhaps weekly Obscuros on top of the podcast was a bit too much as far as a workload goes, but I want to keep producing content as much as I can. More reviews will come certainly as time allows. I have tons of material I really want to cover. However, Trevor and I are always in search of more material to cover for both the podcast and these Obscuro reviews. However, I mentioned in one of my reviews that I was seeking a very rare film that had been a holy grail for some time and lo and behold, someone contacted me and sent it. From now on, I will be listing five films we are seeking that you can drop a line to us if you have the film and want to share it. As I mentioned we have plenty of content but there are always obscurities that if we have access to earlier, mean we can cover that director earlier or can get mentioned in an Obscuro earlier. If you don’t have any of these five films and/or you have another film or director you think we should cover in some way, feel free to shoot me an email anyway and we can look into it and will watch movies if you send them via cloud transfer or whatever. Remember though, if we don’t have every film by a director we will usually hold off covering them. Regardless thank you all for your positive comments i speak for both Trevor and myself when I say we will really appreciate it.

The Five Most Wanted (watch the comments, I will comment if one of these gets sent in):

-Blood Is Dry (Yoshida ) one of two Yoshidas we are missing

-He Fengming (Wang)

-Hometown (Mizoguchi)

-Kisapmata (DeLeon)

-A Promise (Yoshida) the other one

If you have and want to share, send an email to: ikiruugetsu@gmail.com

Thanks again for reading and/or listening! More content is coming, we promise.


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