Friday, June 27, 2008


Joey Baquiran

Puwede bang ma-inlove ang matrona sa binata?Puwedeng-puwede naman pero tiyak na makatitikim ngmaanghang na mga pasaring ang di-karaniwang relasyon.Ganito ang nangyari kina Judge Dorinda vda. deRoces (Ms. Nora Aunor) at Noah Garcia (Yul Servo) saNaglalayag (Silent Passage) ng Angora Films. Sang-ayonsa pelikula, “paglalakbay sa dagat” at “dahan-dahangpagtigil ng regla” ang “naglalayag.” Sa unang eksena,tinagusan si Dorinda; nakita ang mantsa ng dugo nanghubarin niya ang togang simbolo ng kapangyarihan.

Hindi na bagong dugo si Ms. Aunor ngunit inaasahang marami pa siyang dugong puwedeng ibuhoskung pag-arte ang pag-uusapan. Bagay sa kaniya angpapel na ginagampanan dahil kaedad niya ang tauhan.Pero batayang kahingian na ito sa casting.

Pagod na raw si Ms. Aunor sa sining ng pag-arte natatlong dekada na niyang binubuno. Para sa ilan pa,nakakapagod na ang panonood sa kaniya. Pero nagdedeliber pa rin si Ms. Aunor ng inaasahang dapatideliber ng isang ikono ng pelikulang Filipino na katuladniya.

Sa Naglalayag, may ningning pa rin ang mata ni Ms.Aunor; nagpapahayag ng masasalimuot na damdamin ngbabaeng may gulang, may hawak na kapangyarihan, at iginagalang pero unti-unting bumigay sa alon ng bagongpag-ibig. Nakakaalibadbad, nakakaasiwa, nakakadiri panga para sa iba ang isiping ma-inlove ang gurang sabata.

Ang mahigpit na paghahatakan ng pag-ibig at reputasyonsa lipunan ay magiting na isinakatawan ni Ms. Aunor sabawat eksena. Ang mga lambingan nila ni Yul Servo aykomiko pero nagpapabigat din sa pagbabadya ng daratingna batikos sa kanilang relasyon. Sa mga eksenangtrahiko, ang pagtirik ng mata ni Ms. Aunor (nangibalita sa kaniyang napatay ng mga holdaper si YulServo) ay lumalagom na sa pagbagsak ng buong daigdigng huwes (na nagdadalantao pa mandin).

Isang matingkad na pagganap ang inihain ni Ms. Aunorsa Naglalayag. Gayunman, hindi nito ganap na mahahangoang naratibo sa mga kakulangang sosyolohiko atartistiko. Naghihintay pa ng higit na karapat-dapat namateryal ang di-nauubos na talento ni Ms. Aunor.Patuloy ang paglalayag. Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr.

Cinema as Caterwaul

Cinema as Caterwaul

by Patrick D. Flores


A tarpaulin poster accosts you as you enter the movie house where Pusang Gala is screened. Printed on it are ecstatic endorsements of the film from mainstream scribes, broadsheet and tabloid regulars who are long on their praises but short on their scrutiny. The hype of this recent release is typical, inflated by all sorts of claims: that it was shot digitally then transferred onto film, that it dares speak the sub rosa voices of dissident sexualities, and that it is an independent film from filmmakers who have other things to say besides platitudes. There is an implicit heroism in this posture, a stance against the common and the known.

This ploy, which heavily trades on the prestige of the much-abused term alternative, psyches up uninitiated viewers and earnest cineastes to be impressed, maybe even inspired by the sheer flair and temerity. They will also be inclined to like and cherish the film, read some profound insight into it, walk away from it feeling good about their part in the heady movement of new cinema in the Philippines.

In this situation, film is sort of wrought to become an instrument of national development and global competition. Here, an industry is saved by reforms within the system so that it could function properly in the trade and contribute positively to the general economy. Such is the premise of government investment in a national cinema, aside from its interest in its effective channels for ideological engineering. Cinema thus ceases to be an artistic defense against prevailing untruths and degenerates into a tool of the survival of an order under the banner of the “alternative.” This is what the vogue of independent cinema in these parts is all about: an alibi of the business to make itself over, to take on another guise, to trick viewers into believing they are witnessing new visions whenever they behold reformatted apparitions.

This is why films that do not secure the blessings of the gatekeepers of the State and the market, who conspicuously promote independent cinema in easy mantras, are more interesting. For instance, Yam Laranas’ Sigaw and Brillante Mendoza’s Masahista, which were scrupulously appraised in Los Angeles and Locarno respectively, were largely unheralded, almost weaned away from the publicity machinery of cultural and media brokers who trumpet the advent of independent cinema in very arriviste ways. They might prove to be the more textured specimens of a different breed of films, their spirit more genuine, if only because they have been able to resist the stage management of the hired hands of the establishment who continually sit in juries, get quoted as arbiters of taste, and even teach courses in filmmaking at the height of self-importance and self-perpetuation.

This is, of course, for the most part fantasy, which is a fitting complement to the seriocomic Pusang Gala, helmed by Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil. It conveniently blurs the borders between “reality” and “fiction,” the better to mask its inability to cross the gaps between these poles, granting they exist, and to come to grips with the complications of a dense social context. The film makes it appear that its agenda is complicated; actually, it is simple-minded. The scenario: Two friends and neighbors, a gay man and a single woman advertising executive, go through the travails of love and lust. He houses a lover of the working class, who finds him predatory and thus treats him as fair game for reciprocal predation. She keeps an affair with a lothario who takes her for granted, lies to her face, but makes her deliriously blissful in bed. Both coveted lovers, swines among pearls, betray them; proletariat sodomist rips off romance-writer benefactor, who incidentally takes under his wings a stowaway, and vain stud tells his pregnant damsel, after not seeing her for three months, he could not marry her. All this leads to loss: Boy toy kills street kid and lady-in-waiting tries to kill herself. They endure by indulging their affectations: roses in the garden, gayspeak gossip, whining and dining, and even a lapse of sexual liaison.

Whether in fantasy or waking life, the hapless victims of failed aspirations become murderous, their drama and laughter ultimately overcome by trite grief, their decisions shaped by questionable psychosis to which the film caters with tiresome solicitude. Like the fictions in their minds that do not sell because the public allegedly subsists on more exciting tales, the pair sells out but nevertheless wallows in the conceit of correctness and the righteous indignation against discrimination, which is alluded to polemically and not thought through with care. The eccentricity that the film tries hard to simulate – complete with hectic cinematography, self-conscious inter-cutting, and tiresome parallel editing – could have yielded gains had it been presented as a foil to the rationality of heterosexist habits; its edge could have been sharpened had it been engaged with more friction and tangential resistance from wayward creatures, as well as with the realization that while gays and working women who stay away from their families give full play to romance and sentiment, this reckless, unruly, and potentially radical energy also needs to be tempered by reflection and a keen sensitivity to excess and malice.

That the cast responds to the film’s cavalier demands with alacrity does not help. Ricky Davao’s depiction of gayness is stock-in-trade and Irma Adlawan, unloading her full thespian weight, is eternally existential, as if her character did not emerge from a social condition. The rest of the ensemble are textbook fixtures. This overall failure stems from the haphazard direction of an irresponsible script, based on a play by the co-writer of one of Philippine filmography’s debacles, Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal.

If this flick of no charm is the face of independent cinema that embodies the much-needed transformation in Philippine filmmaking and if digital technology is chiefly used to refurbish an obviously worn out commercial furniture, then it is safe to declare that the box-office raid of D’Anothers is richly deserved. My friend quips that Pusang Gala is a stray film about stray cats, to which I retort that this tedious exercise is a long drawn caterwaul. Or is it merely a whimper – and the putative Philippine independent cinema a sorry purr?

Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941

Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941
Nonoy L.Lauzon

Gay presence in Philippine cinema has always been problematic. More often than not, the homosexual is depicted as a marginalized and disempowered entity, a cardboard character, a caricature that is an object of disdain or ridicule if not a source of comic relief or simply a fixture in aid of slapstick.

It is not the concern of Joel Lamangan’s Aishite Imasu, Mahal Kita—1941 (Regal; Basfilm) to depart from such tradition of portraying gays. In developing for the screen its central figure, there is no clear effort to picture the homosexual being beyond its projection as some exotic grotesquerie fit for the carnival. It doesn’t help that the main protagonist dies towards the end of the film as the filmmakers’ probable notion of gay lib is fixated on professing a testament to one gay’s martyrdom for the sake of an occupied motherland.

Needless to say, such standpoint advances no good cause and in fact is inimical to the very interest of the marginalized gay sector whose contribution to the society at large that represses it must always be properly highlighted whenever an occasion comes around if only to serve the purposes of empowerment. Thus, the fundamental flaw of films like Aishite Imasu lies on the very opportunities it wantonly wasted precisely to make a difference in throwing positive light on the gay plight in general.

Fortunately not everything is bleak for Aishite Imasu in terms of critical merits. Its salvation is carried out with the brave performance turned in by lead actor Dennis Trillo. The fact that his is a debut all the more magnifies the most distinguished achievement especially in the context of a domestic industry made barren by rampant corruption, marked breakdown of intelligence and sheer shortage of talent.

Handicapped by the film’s poor writing, Trillo is left to his own devices to nevertheless allow his breakthrough performance to soar. He has to practically struggle against the veiled attempt governing the making of the film to downgrade his role and strip it of its efficacy in order not to take the limelight away from the more favored members of the cast. The ill design tremendously fails and it is Trillo who ends up outshining everyone and outsmarting the very film rendered puerile by its filmmakers’ inability to pursue to the fullest the bold premise of their material.

By way of Trillo’s method, the quintessential Pinoy gay hero gets to rise not merely to assert presence but more so to protest the aberrations of history. There is poetic justice in all this. For all of human history as gays are despised and denied their basic rights, it turns out that there are far worse than gay sexuality that the world must dread and guard against such as exactly the evil that men do to their fellow men in the form of wars, the slaughter of entire races, the subjugation of whole nations. It is ironic that the point is brought home as embodied no less by a most unlikely tragic figure—an accidental querida of war who happens to be a cross-dressing gay but not completely of war’s making. #

Filipinas: Vigil for a Lost Nation

Filipinas: Vigil for a Lost Nation
Patrick D. Flores

In the more instructive instances of Philippine melodrama, the family serves as the microcosm or analogue of the nation and initiates the allegory of its history. In an allegory like Francisco Baltazar's Florante at Laura, the realism of the plot does not make sense if severed from the moral agenda of an alternate or alternative reality, so that the characters, for instance, in Filipinas become social types that enact the narratives of a nation in pieces.
The film's tendency to broaden the dimensions of this material needs to be encouraged, if only because it harnesses the potential of the practice of moviegoing as a collective act of “reviewing” society. In Filipinas, the crest of a middle-class family is also the name of the country -- the nation is wracked by crisis and is ultimately rendered comatose – as materialized in a diseased matriarch fighting for dear life. The gesture of the family awaiting her (and the nation's) awakening is a moment that effectively synthesizes realism and allegory in a prefiguration of salvation in a milieu on the verge of a total breakdown. This is a vigil that may inaugurate a renewed moment of nation in the hands of subjects divesting themselves of identities that have become inutile because of the malfunctioning and ultimately failed nation-state and its nationalism.
What is of substantial interest in Filipinas is its task, and this need not be a thoroughly fruitful or even a satisfying one, to work out an allegory in cinematic terms and within the domain of melodrama. In this modality, the film is able to address the desires of melodrama, which usually redound to a search for authenticity of claim, as coextensive with the suffering of a nation besieged by social discrepancies. Here, the family and the nation become co-sufferers and share in intimate relations that dispose them to oblige each other to reciprocate acts of kinship: succor, sustenance, sympathy.
It is within this perspective that the characters in Filipinas are not only dramatis personae, but also discursive subjects who inscribe in human action the political economy of a particular condition. We, therefore, identify various levels of what is called the “social thickness” in the film: the level of the plot, the level of the allegory, and the foregrounding of a third level of possible transcendence that is an augury of a revivified lifeworld in the throes of death but also in the bloody hour of conception. This is an achievement in Philippine cinema that merits critical appraisal for its temerity to confront the aporetic impossibility of nation: of Filipinas.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Last Films Standing (2004)

Last Films Standing

by Patrick D. Flores

Of the few but not precious 55 films released by the local industry in 2004, only a paltry number merits a closer look, and of these leavings only one stands a chance at serious scrutiny. This opinion, of course, sharply contrasts with the rosy projections of apologists who have taken pains to declare that the trade is not dying; they have even doled out tax incentives to films they have found excellent. Subjecting these sanctified titles to keener analysis, we will realize, however, that the public has been misled and that the system of supposedly revitalizing the industry is not only not working, it basically rests on a mistake. Subsidy given to off-the-shelf productions made by people whom granters cherish as friends and associates is entirely wrong, though it is only half of the story. The other half is this: subsidy that does not guide the development of a project, from the selection of the material, its research and refinement, and on to its actual filming is useless and wasteful endowment.
We have been on this road before and there are those who do not tire in treading it because the routine rerun is not without its gains. Take the exemplary case of Laurice Guillen’s Santa Santita, which was conferred an A rating by the Cinema Evaluation Board, an office well within the realm of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the Chair of which is the director of the film. Before the film could be released commercially, a well-known reviewer of a mainstream daily, a member of the said Board by the way, praised it lavishly, short of naming it the most beautiful film on the face of this earth, and this is just based on the trailer. Further inquiry reveals critical connections among director, producer, reviewer, and other abiding relations that lead all the way to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Surely, these links do not make a straight line of conspiracy or corruption, but they hint at the system of intricate relationships that tend to compromise, either in perception or in actual deed, the independence of the very task of “evaluation.” The Spanish have a term for it, and it is not sin verguenza.
To be fair to Santa Santita, it builds its premise around an argument, a rare element in many local films, which insists on the possibility of miracle. To a certain extent, it offers itself as a foil to the discourse of Himala, the master narrative of the critique of the miracle yarn, and purveys the notion that, in fact, miracles can transpire and that they work through “flawed humanity.” The film seems to tell us that not because the institutional church is corrupt, its faithful could not achieve the grace of conversion, which is the basis of the miracle work performed by what Guillen would regard as a “modern Magdalene.” The allusion to Mary Magdalene is problematic, if only because the persona is actually a composite of so many rounded women figures in the Bible and was flattened by popular consciousness as a prostitute. Angelica Panganiban’s Malen is not a prostitute, but a young woman of typical mischief who is tormented by the guilt that she had caused the death of her mother, a prayer peddler in Quiapo church. A cult forms around her after several believers had testified to her fraudulent power to intercede, a turn of events that threatens the church and forces it to banish her from its hallowed ground. To dramatize this mystified conversion, Malen, now conscious of sin and the surveillance of the gods, confronts a priest in distress and her lover, a diabolical lumpen hustler who is duped by a matron and who tempts the heroine to revive his dead child. In crucial encounters with them, Malen comes out with a beatific smile, as if to mark epiphany. All told, the film sends vague signals of an emerging theology, initiated in the more tenable Guillen outing, Tanging Yaman. It seeks to lodge faith firmly in the individual, release it from the collective, and paradoxically, create casts of mind hospitable to the seductions of charismatic rabble-rousers.
Another A-film inflated without justification is the sorry Panaghoy sa Suba of Cesar Montano, which exploits the locale of Bohol and its language to prop up a pan-Visayan local history against the texts of national destiny. But the lofty fantasy fails to craft a credible story to support the scheme. The technique is unmotivated, the characters nearly cardboard, and the outlook is for all intents and purposes faux pastoral, complete with tarsiers and fluvial funerals.
Jeffrey Jeturian’s Minsan Pa, another tribute to those dear Cebuanos who had installed a beleaguered President, is another sad accident. Perhaps on the level of literature, it makes the cut, considering that it is able to achieve the height of abstraction and metaphor and the weight of character. A tourist guide, who refers his Japanese clients to sex workers, falling in love with a woman who sacrifices everything for the love of a blind, unfaithful lover occasions complications, with which a director of timid imagination could not cope; he merely resorts to devices that signal spurious subtlety and even more spurious silence. Spurious because all the tensions evoked are settled without negotiation: couples get married, families are reunited, and love is ensconced as if nothing else mattered. In the end, we feel that the symbolic universe (through the memory of photography pretentiously submerged in the depths of the ocean) demanded by the script is forced on the film, and vice versa, and what this ambition with no vision leaves behind, after hours of calculated dramaturgy, is the belabored paean to the age-old illusion that love cannot see.
In this heap of letdowns, it is Sigaw of Yam Laranas that attains a degree of difficulty and, therefore, solicits significant artistic interest. It is interesting because it is sensitive to dimensions. A story of a haunted decrepit apartment that shocks a young man and his girlfriend out of their wits is only one dimension. For around this plot is the real history that is repressed by a seemingly comfortable order; it is the tale of a demented military man who batters his wife, terrorizes his daughter, and kills them. The only witness to this sordid affair is a witless handyman in stupor, drowning himself in liquor to forget the violence and admonishing trespassers not to interfere. It is this sediment of life that is embedded in the Kafkaesque architecture, which is represented not in realistic terms but in terms that prompt us to construe it as a nightmare, a hell into which the innocent is lured, an irrational and impossible place which could only be made contingent on fiction to render it necessarily real. It is this “real” that differs from the reality of the lives of the middle-class, represented luminously by the poreless and virtually vacant face of Richard Gutierrez and the cluelessness of Angel Locsin. This sort of reality is vexed until the protagonist decides to make himself complicit by opening the door, which the previous tenant had refused to unlock for fear of his life; his room is now inhabited by the unnerved hero who is faced with the horror of making a decision to amend a crime of another time and to disabuse the suspicion that he is doing the same to his beloved. That the specter of history, through the restless mother, persists to haunt the apoplectic couple even in the movie house, a futile refuge of the indifferent, where a comic film is playing deepens the dimension of Sigaw. And that at its resolution, an alternative narrative is permitted to play out – with the woman shooting her husband and the daughter being able to hide – invests this kind of cinema with the chance to intervene in the production of the “real” as opposed to the idealizations of an actually harrowing society; needless to say, it also guarantees it a germ for a sequel.
In a year of natural and political disasters and of imperial powers ever more entrenched in their thrones, the motion pictures could have been inspired to do more than fill up the production slates of an incorrigible industry, which in recent years has yielded only diminishing returns. From the looks of it, Philippine cinema was a casualty of the catastrophe of its own creation. It is terrifying that no one seems to be scared.

Feng Shui: Slick Discourse on Destiny and Avarice

Feng Shui: Slick Discourse on Destiny and Avarice

Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez

No apologies are forthcoming for the palpably haphazard fusing of exoticized Chinese iconography and streetfolk superstition that frames Chito Roño’s ghoulish sub-urban tale, Feng Shui. In this filmic take on fate and greed set against the spectra of the mystic and the banal, Roño presumably resorts to hybridization to underscore the fact that no one paradigm governs how agency and subjectification come to tentative resolutions.

The screenplay by Roño and Mano Po writer Roy Iglesias places the bag-ua or bagwa squarely in the center of a series of givings and takings to drive home the notion that both crises and windfalls are mere realignments of power and resource. By employing this literally reflective device alongside Chinese lunar calendar icons to propel its storyline, Feng Shui’s creators pointedly implicate the voyeuristic gaze in the working out of personal plight. One looks and one accounts for looking. And since there is the matter of imposing chronology to the requisite morbidity this genre serves up, that is where filmic character birthdates come into play.

Feng Shui’s bagwa showers material and non-material come-uppance on its owner much like a genie-in-a-bottle affords three wishes to its clichéd master-finder. In this case, the battle-worn bagwa comes with its own caveats and this expectedly involves its owner’s belated but requisite taking stock of accompanying cataclysms. As text, the film’s premise interestingly brings forth nagging questions: of why the bagwa only kills reflected entities, thus effectively sparing the oblivious or passive who are implicitly rendered innocent; of how possession hedges against adversity; and how staking territorial limits paradoxically courts intrusion.

In the film, a young couple (Kris Aquino and Jay Manalo) begin living the Filipino middle-class dream--of moving into their own (usually sacrificially mortgaged) single-detached (ergo non-row) house in a gated, metropolitan suburb away from the panoptic sphere of overbearing in-laws and uber-congested city sensibilities. It is to this heavy-handedly production-designed suburbian paradise that Joy Ramirez (Aquino) comes home to after finding a bagwa tucked between the seats of a passenger bus. With this passing on of fortunes from one unwitting sojourner to another, Feng Shui sets up its narrative, hinting at how fate takes a meandering course across thought-to-be guarded, private biographies and imagined personalized space.

Like other tomes imbibed with the push and pull of power fetishes (Lord of the Rings, Spiderman, and a whole slew of animated productions based on personally tormented hero-centric stories), Feng Shui plays up the idea that acquisition comes twin-billed with corruption, a gnawing away of one’s soul and insensitivity toward reality outside the self; where personal gain comes with the loss of others; where economies are intricately woven through by relationships; and wealth is reallocated through dramatized flourishes and liquidations.

In the case of Feng Shui, the film unequivocally rides upon the fusion of two currently en vogue cinematic trends: that is, technically polished macabre serials perfunctorily given an Asian/orientalist-metaphysical spin. And while it is this filmic dalliance with chinoiserie punctuated by episodic accounts of self-inflicted tragedy that immediately invites charges of creative plundering of box-office wonders Ringu and The Sixth Sense, among others, we submit that other pertinent issues warrant discourse.

Briefly, we point to Feng Shui’s take on the dynamics of fate independent of knowledge. Perhaps inadvertently but decidedly nonetheless, the film posits an unproblematized, patently reactionary strain upholding the idea of personal redemption devoid of struggle. For even as Feng Shui attempts to locate the familial quest for an easier life within the real--pinched dual-income households, multilevel marketing schemes feeding-off quiet acts of desperation, the palatability of cure-alls and palliatives--the film still much too readily slips into escapist, fatalistic accountings of success. In the end, Feng Shui still comes across as a woven narrative of quick fixes, where flippant references to ”asenso” and “malas” are lightly tossed around and where the great Filipino dream remains a caricaturized Batangas resthouse or a mansion in Alabang—all considerations for macro socio-economic real politik and collective reckoning nothwithstanding.

Despite Feng Shui’s unarguable technical accomplishments (pulled off by Albert Idioma for sound engineering, Vito Cajili for editing and Neil Daza for photography), the film delivers backhanded jokes to its audiences: over and above the predictably comically morose performances delivered by its leads, Feng Shui’s noontime-gameshow rhetoric plays up chance and happenstance as the only viable avenues for financial and emotional respite. To the weary, overworked, stereotypically victimized Filipino, this film continues to serve up such continually perpetuated myths: that on this side of cinema paradiso the cards are always fairly dealt, and the divine always trumps the trite.

The Restive Condition (Sigaw)

The Restive Condition

by Patrick D. Flores

The horror in the film Sigaw, conceived and nearly entirely executed by Yam Laranas, is the trauma that it presents at the outset as a dreadful effect. It is the trauma that disrupts the uneventful lives of the characters and initiates the audience into the causes of the distress, if not the abjection. The latter intimates itself in the tragic helplessness of a young mother who seeks succor from a neighbor in a rather decrepit apartment; she is trying to shield her daughter from the violence inflicted on her by her brutal husband, a military man who batters her thoroughly. The neighbor, a man willing to lend a hand but constrained by his own fear for his life, intervenes only to a certain extent, and refuses to go out on a limb to fully realize what could well be a fatal heroism. And so, it comes to pass: the man kills the woman and the child and then himself.

This is the sort of haunting that bedevils the innocent who trespass the threshold of the living and the dead and mingle with those who yearn to speak their graven hearts. And it is the specter of the past haunting the present that serves as our access to the “real,” which is repressed by the symbolic domain that purports to be the reality we must accept as customary and inevitable, if only because we cannot help it. Well, the spirits of this abode resist this disarticulation, and strive to perform the theater of their history across time, affording us a retroactive narrative of the trauma and pleading not only for a reenactment but a rehearsal of a different outcome, which in its course renders the entire tale poignant and melancholic as it traces the cause of the effect.

Such trauma is well-coordinated by highly accomplished and creative filmmaking, from its intriguing screenplay to its robust sound. But it is largely through cinematography and visual design that this is fleshed out with conviction. The scheme of horror is ingeniously embedded in the architecture, which is depicted without ethnographic detail inasmuch as it is conveyed as a nightmare, the house of the real that intrudes on a reality domesticated by such norms as the family, class ascendancy, and indifference. The camera of the film controls the chromatic climate, which shimmers through the spectrum of dark green, and takes us to ceilings stained by faces, elevators of menacing banality, and rooms cramped with vexing memory. There are also repetitive flashes of prey running the lengths of storied corridors.

Sigaw, therefore, plays around the vital element of horror: the uncanny return of the aggrieved and how it complicates the lives of those who have not committed. There is a scene in this film that is emblematic of its psychoanalysis: Gripped in terror, the couple battling the demons of their imagination find refuge in a movie house where a comic attraction unreels and where the audience laugh their wits out. But the two just sit there, as if apoplectic, whereupon the wandering woman torments them with another apparition. That the cinema is revisited creates another dimension within the scenario, as it finally implicates the institution of spectatorship as party to the conspiracy of representation, of making a particular language of the real utterable at the expense of its impossibility (not yet possible), which as we learn here can never be abandoned.

In the end, we become witnesses to the crime, to the spectacle of the irrational. And the film compels us to become complicit. This is why the hero had to open the door to terminate the horror. Such horror does not only stem from the havoc wrought by restless souls, but also from the need to acquit himself: her girlfriend’s parents have already suspected him of beating their daughter after she is badly whipped by the malevolent phantom, a reference to the dastardly deed of the police, which incidentally is an acute index of the excesses of military power, that now seemed to have rubbed off on the catatonic knight. This is the “real” that no liquor could drown, the recourse of the handyman who is the only person who could testify to the horror yet has chosen to deter himself and others from attesting to the truth. Sigaw, however, does not relent. It lures itself into a more inclement realm: the challenge to propose a symbolic resolution as the door of engagement is flung: not to repeat reality, but to change it, so that it is the woman who slays her tormentor and it is the child who eludes perdition.

The theorist Slavoz Zizek has told us that: “The real which returns has the status of a(nother) semblance: precisely because it is real, that is on account of its traumatic/excessive character, we are unable to integrate it into (what we experience as) our reality, and are therefore compelled to experience it as a nightmarish apparition.”

This is what Sigaw does: to compel a decision of confronting the trauma – of opening the door -- through the decisive device of a screaming cinema. It is hoped that it has our ear.