Saturday, May 31, 2008

Moments of Love: Caller Waiting

Moments of Love: Caller Waiting
by Jason P. Jacobo

While the title of the film can only promise the most prosaic of romanticist longings, the premise does fulfill a formidable romantic requisite: the possibility of transcendent love in a limited instance of longing. In the case of the lovers in the film, it is time, real time, that distantiates. Divina is from 1957 (Iza Calzado), while Marco (Dingdong Dantes) is in 2006. But however rehearsed its star-crossed love theme is, Moments of Love manages to offer surprising alternatives beyond its purported intertexts—the classic Somewhere In Time (USA, 1980) and the vanguard Sky of Love (Hong Kong, 2003)—by using the telephone as the medium by which love’s call is transmitted, that is, relayed, heard, and hopefully, answered.

What can be more tragic than lovers being in separate times? Can an encounter be possible between the present and its past? This is where the telephone becomes a “time machine” that makes the two times simultaneous and coexistent, rewiring affairs which normally do not survive the “long-distance.” With this mediation, the romance goes beyond the historical, but chooses to stay histrionic. Love, indeed, is no longer found in the passage of grand signs of affection and commitment. Rather, it is in the details: the curious picking up of an otherwise uninteresting receiver, the shock of hearing a stranger’s voice “out there,” a conversation that leads nowhere but nevertheless lingers. In these little gestures, love is still momentous, however momentary. All because of an “error” in the technology—sound waves can be tense vibrations of messages gone effete, wires function as veins in the circulation of fluid fate.

How the film finally sends out its message is another matter, for it is here where the wires of love cause more electrocution than electricity. At the outset, the screenplay’s decision to make the lovers meet in the present offers prospects for a radical love, which when translated into the filmic imaginary necessitates an encounter between the aged Divina (Gloria Romero) and the youthful Marco. But the film also contrives for the possibility of Marco and another woman (Karylle), whom we discover is Divina’s nubile kin. The second option is of course the right one. And Divina even ministers a laughable turnover rite towards the end. Most problematic in this choice is the text’s fear of itself. This is also one reason why we are saying that Moments of Love is indeed a major romantic film. When its luminous vision finally unfolds, it is denied of a full view, and eventually eclipsed, because the filmmakers realize how terrifying the visuals can be. If Vilma Santos and Aga Muhlach could occupy the same screen in the nineties, or Nora Aunor and Yul Servo last year, why not Romero and Dantes recently?

In this broken promise of a film, Iza Calzado nonetheless fulfills more than what is asked from a beautiful face: a voice that utters its pleas not just across the line, but across the time, of the calling. Between and beyond her deliveries, Calzado achieves nuance: the sense to lend texture to an otherwise flimsy sentence by means of careful phrasing, and the sensing of infinite possibilities for the precise film soundtrack After Aunor, Calzado is the only Philippine actress who knows how to make use of a sparse silence. How? By turning to the solid Gaze. But if Aunor has her stare reciting a defiant madness, Calzado has hers singing of a love that, perched in sweet surrender, waits.

Blue Moon: Trawling Memory and Loss

Blue Moon: Trawling Memory and Loss

Eileen Legaspi-Ramirez

Quiet, unassuming films literally come once in a blue moon in this landscape teeming with shrill attempts at shabby humor and needlessly complicated drama. And so, given that, and Blue Moon's screenplay coming with a literary pedigree (2005 Palanca Awards Third Prize, Dulang Pampelikula), expectations were high this text would translate into at least above average filmic fare.

Allan Tijamo's story brings three parallel narratives of loss into play in a cross-generational telling of imperfect relations and equally flawed attempts at atonement. In what could easily be construed as a deathbed conversion, terminally-ill grandfather (Manuel Pineda played by Eddie Garcia) sets off to find one of two Corazons (allusion to split subjectivities obviously intended) he'd wooed in his youth. Son (Rod played by Christopher de Leon) and grandson (Kyle played by Dennis Trillo) come along for the ride through Baguio, Albay, Cebu only to end up back in Manila after Pineda's illness forces them to abandon chasing clues around the Philippines. These two initially hesitant but eventually gung-ho accomplices pack their own warped emotional baggage along for the compensatory journey—Rod's dimmed professional prospects and impending fall-out with his wife most definitely weighing down his sorry fatherly attempts at communicating with a son who has his fair share of commitment debacles.

At the onset, Blue Moon could easily be construed as a neatly laced-up saccharine bundle of a road movie (conflated with World War II reminisces) except that, despite its directorial lapses, it still manages to tug at major sympathetic chords—second chances, loves lost and rekindled, sins visiting several generations but forgiven nonetheless. Particularly so since it stands as one of the exceptional occasions when filmmakers (save for the upcoming I Wanna Be Happy) have considered the nuanced lives of elderly Filipinos worth the average two-hour film stretch, Blue Moon begs to be watched even as it is critiqued.

To begin with, since it is the long-suffering Corazon (played by Jennylyn Mercado who ages into Boots Anson Roa) and not the iconoclast Corazon (played by Pauleen Luna) who turns out to be the woman dying Manuel Pineda seeks, Blue Moon easily opens itself up to charges of further privileging and perpetuating the romantic myth of Filipina as martyr, ever demurring, and pliant to a fault. But then again this Corazon does her own journeying in this film, leaving as she does Pineda to tend to their son as she deals with her own personal grief compounded by post-partum depression and long drawn disappointment with a largely indifferent spouse.

YCC colleague Eli Guieb cites the film for “giving us a mature elaboration of the multi-layered and multi-scalar intricacies of what it means to nurture and recapture lost and fast-losing spaces of domestic accommodation under circumstances of emotional diaspora.” He adds: “Blue Moon delineates boundaries of domestic losses and probabilities of kin security without melodramatic pitfalls, albeit the film’s melodramatic genre. In it, family ties are given new dimensions and contemporary contexts of social ties are rendered as humane as the individual struggles of human links intricately tied to their search for wholeness. Travel served as an effective motif for the internal voyage of the film’s main characters.”

It is in response to this promised horizon of contending readings that the Young Critics Circle Film Desk, recognizes, for the first film quarter of 2006, Blue Moon’s screenplay, along with the performances of Eddie Garcia, Jennlyn Mercado and Dennis Trillo, noting how these thespians displayed restraint appropriate to the complexity and depth of characterization woven into this tale of emergence from past sins of self-indulgence (which at least in this particular filmic universe seemed to be the new be-all in the self-actualizing pyramid).