Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
ARTIST PLAYGROUND presents a series of 10-minute plays inspired by the songs of rapper Gloc-9 called the G9 SERIES running this weekend from November 18-19, 2017 at the ARTS ABOVE, 112 West Avenue Building Quezon City.
For the reasonable price of P150, you are able to catch 6 plays together with performance art (on Saturday night) in the DISTRICT GALLERY currently housing GROUND ZERO. This is an exhibit running from November 11- December 9 from artists: Racquel De Loyola, Celine Lee, Nasser Lubay, Jose Tong, Marc Gaba, Wipo and Kevin Nieves. DISTRICT GALLERY is just the next floor ARTS ABOVE.
The G9 SERIES is the second set of the RATED AP: ARTS & PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL, which aims to find new talent in the dramatic arts by allowing young people the experience of production work. ARTIST PLAYGROUND for this fest is cooperating with the PAMANTASANG LUNGSOD NG VALENZUELA. PLV’s Theater Majors have done their school proud by producing noteworthy plays.
IN ORDER of performance: 1) BAYAD by playwright Renalyn Alvaran directed by Alleah Hugo, 2) SCANDAL by playwright Mary Jean Moises directed by Beulah Saycon, 3) MAGDA by playwright Wenna Diaz Jarito directed by Roxy Hipolito, 4) HINAHANAP NG PUSO by playwright Kate Rose Urrutia directed by Jester Ramirez, 5) ITIM NA SAMPAGUITA by playwright EJ Malicdem directed by Emman Deliarte 6) FIRST LOVE by playwright Kimberly Claire Somoza directed by Alex Gallo.
The venue is near the EDSA side of West Ave. As a landmark look for the large signs of the B.I.R Bureau of Internal Revenue on the West Avenue Building. The government agency occupies several floors while ARTS ABOVE is at the penthouse, two top most floors, hence the name.
Written and photographed
By Jude Bautista
John Proctor (JV Ibesate): Anong kasalanan? Bakit yan si Parris? Bakit yan si Abigail di niyo pag hinalaan ha? Porke’t sila nagsampa ng kaso sila banal? Alam ko na nangyayari sa bayan na ito. Venganza! Pag hihigante! Hindi naman tayo ganito tayo dati ha? Pero ngayon pag hihigante na! Venganza nga ito. At hindi ko hahayaan maging biktima ng venganza ang asawa ko! Elizabeth Proctor (Doray Dayao): John sasama na lang ako sa ka nila. Proctor: Hinde! Ezekiel Cheever (Erick Sindol): John hindi pwedeng hindi mo sakin siya ibigay. Trabaho lang ito. Sumusuonod lamang ako sa utos. Proctor: Ano? Ikaw wala kang gagawin? Rev John Hale (Joshua Tayco): Paniwalaan natin ang hustisya ng korte! Proctor: Hoy! Ponsyo Pilato! Kahit ang Diyos di papayag sa pag huhugas kamay mo!
There was a palpable fear and discomfort inside the Tanghalang Huseng Batute, (Studio Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines during the performance of ANG PAG-UUSIG (A translation of Arthur Miller’s THE CRUCIBLE) by Tanghalang Pilipino. The show is a must watch for all Filipinos and runs until October 22, 2017.
Although it was set in the 1690s, it was like looking into the lives and homes of modern day Filipinos who have been suspected as drug pushers or those who lost loved ones in Tokhang or the War On Drugs. The official number of lives lost is at least 3,400 (as of June 2017) but anyone who watches the news each day knows the real number is much higher. Pres. Duterte said recently, “Pumatay tayo (Let’s kill) another 32 everyday, maybe we can reduce what ails this country,” From Philstar.com: 20 killed in Manila overnight after bloody Bulacan raid
The definition of crucible is a severe test, which refers to the trials in Salem and the era which put to death innocent people mostly women wrongly accused of witchcraft. Filipino, like most Asian languages, is high context, with one word having several meanings. Pag-uusig is not a direct translation of crucible, according to google translate its prosecution. In an interview with director Dennis Marasigan (a screenwriter himself) he preferred the translation as persecution, which fits the story even better. It was Marasigan’s idea to use Pag-Uusig as the title, not taking anything away from the masterful translation of Jerry Respeto, whose work is quoted above.
Storied playwright Arthur Miller best explains his own work through COLLECTED ESSAYS published by Penguin books in 2016. Portions of the essay were quoted in the program of PAG-UUSIG along with valuable insights from the creative team. The official program (priced at P150) is an essential resource and companion to appreciate the play. More importantly it grants us a better understanding of what’s happening in our country today.
Miller writes about THE CRUCIBLE, “Is it a political play? It is I think, but in a particular sense. It is very often done in Latin America just before a dictatorship is about to take over—as a warning and just after one has been overthrown, as a reminder…Its underlying reference is political paranoia whichever side makes use of that source of power.”
Two weeks into the run of PAG-UUSIG (October 13) President Duterte threatened his ‘enemies’ by having them all arrested and establishing a revolutionary government, “Sige mag-demonstrate kayo, bring it to a point na talagang tatagilid ang gobyerno. Alam ng military isa sa mga active na mag-destabilize is the communist. Do you think police and military will sympathize with you? I was elected by the people. If I sense the country is about to go overboard, I will declare a revolutionary government. Hindi ko kayo tinatakot pero hulihin ko kayong lahat, and I will declare a full-scale war against the NPA (New People’s Army),”. From ABS CBN News: Duterte Threatens to Set Up Revolutionary Government.
In the same article he identifies plotters believing that the Central Intelligence Agency is in a conspiracy with the Communist Party of the Philippines / New People’s Army to overthrow his regime. This is ignoring the fact that the CPP/NPA has an anti-U.S. Imperialism dogma throughout its more than 50 year existence.
Duterte also believes that reputable news website Rappler.com is controlled by the CIA without offering any basis. Founder Maria Ressa is a well-respected media figure having worked as CNN’s lead investigative journalist in Asia for two and a half decades and was head of ABS CBN News and Current Affairs. She has won an Overseas Press Club Award for Best Documentary and countless others.
The Paranoid Becomes A Leader
Milller continues, “Paranoia has a power and it rises not basically from ravings about plots and hidden conspiracies but from the grain of recognizable fact around which the fantasies are woven. The paranoid feels endangered by some person or group mysteriously controlling his actions despite his will. His violence therefore is always defensive, trained against oppressor who means to kill him before he can kill them.” For Filipinos this helps explain the oft-repeated excuse in the loss of life in police operations. The term is nanlaban, which means fought back therefore a justification for the police to use force thereby killing the suspect.
Miller also offers an explanation how the paranoid becomes a leader, “His job therefore is to unmask and disarm, to find the seemingly innocent traces of the pervading malevolence and he comes to recognize hostility even in the way a person holds his hands or turns his head. His only hope is power, power to neutralize the dangers around him. Naturally since those dangers can be anywhere his power must also be total in order to work. And of course it is true that to one degree or another we are, in fact hostile to each other, and when we are accused of holding that hostility, we do indeed hate the accusation and the accuser. So that the paranoid creates the reality which proves him right. And this is why the paranoid, who in normal times might merely end in an institution can rise to the leadership of a society which is really insecure and at a loss of spiritual debility.”
McCarthyism and Impeachments
Miller wrote THE CRUCIBLE in 1953, the heyday of McCarthyism. It was an era that was also marked by paranoia and persecution of ‘accused’ communists. He described the parallelisms between the two, “Three hundred years apart both prosecutions were alleging membership in a secret disloyal group. Should the accused confess his honesty could be proved only the same way – by naming former confederates nothing less. Thus the informer became the very proof of the plot and the investigation’s necessity. Finally, in both eras, since the enemy was first and foremost an idea, the normal evidentiary proof of disloyal actions was either deemphasized, left in limbo or not required at all. And indeed actions finally became completely irrelevant. In the end the charge itself, suspicion itself all but became the evidence of disloyalty”
Days before President Duterte made his threat of arresting his ‘enemies’ via a revolutionary government, Commission on Elections Chairman Andy Bautista was impeached in congress October 11. This is only the latest among other impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Both women are outspoken critics of Duterte’s War On Drugs and have impeccable reputations in the judiciary.
While there have been impeachment trials from previous administrations, only under Duterte has there been impeachment complaints against 3 separate officials. The complaints all come within his first year and a half in office. One of them against the Ombudsman, which ironically is defined as “charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or a violation of rights. The ombudsman is usually appointed by the government or by parliament, but with a significant degree of independence.”
Former COMELEC Chair Sixto Brillantes described Bautista’s impeachment, “(It’s) a total farce. I am fully aware that the process of impeachment is both political and legal. It is totally, absolutely and purely political because all legal aspects were brushed aside.’ Citing one reason, he said the House committee on justice had determined that the complaint itself was accompanied by a “deficient, defective, flawed and infirmed verification.” From philstar.com: Comelec Chief’s Impeachment a Farce Says Predecessor
The article continues, “Some congressmen who attended the caucus and who did not want to be named told journalists that there was a “marching order from the Palace” to impeach Bautista. Duterte denied this on Friday, saying he does not meddle with his allies in Congress, some of whom are also claiming that he has given them the go-signal to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.”
Miller’s words ring ever true, ‘Indeed actions finally became completely irrelevant. In the end the charge itself, suspicion itself all but became the evidence of disloyalty.’
Jude Thaddeus Bautista
On the ceiling of K’s (Ryan Gosling) apartment a small crane comes alive at the end of it a ray of blue light. From it a 3D projection of a woman walks in dressed as 1950s white homemaker clothes complete with apron. She puts projection of a hot home made meal on top of K’s microwave dinner. As she takes a step forward she changes her clothes to a black sweater. Her hair also changes to a more contemporary look. Her image flickers changes hair and clothes a few more times.
Joi (Ana de Armas): “Bon Appetit! I missed you baby Sweet.” K takes a bite of the microwave dinner he set down himself, “Honey its beautiful.” Her voice is calming, warm yet seductive at the same time, “Just put your feet up, relax…. It was a day.” K: “It was a day.” Joi: “Would you read to me? It will make you feel better.” K: “You hate that book.” Joi: “I don’t want to read either. Let’s dance.” K: “Do you wanna dance or do you wanna open your present?” Joi: “What present?” K: “This one.” Joi: “What’s the occasion?” K: “Let’s just say it’s our anniversary.”
He unwraps it. Her eyes grow wider. Joi: “Is it?” K: “No, but let’s just say that it is. Ok? Happy Anniversary.” He pulls out what appears to be a black stick that has a switch in the end. It has a similar blue light but more subtle. She gasps, “An emanator!” She laughs crying tears of joy, “Thank you!” K smiles, “Honey you can go anywhere in the world now. Where you wana go first?”
They go up to the roof of their apartment building. She watches the rain go down like a child. Then she takes a step underneath it cupping the drops in her hand and putting them to her face. She cries tears of joy again and looks at K. Takes a step forward to him in the rain, whispers, “I’m so happy when I’m with you.”
K: “You don’t have to say that.” He leans in to kiss her. Just then her projection freezes. A small beep comes in. K is exasperated. A ringtone follows then his boss’ voice. Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright): “The dig has come through. We have a new lead. Get down here.”
BLADE RUNNER 2049 by Denis Villeneuve is a lot more than just a look into the very near future. Just like the first installment it tackles the eternal question: what makes us human? This time it manages to go deeper; it doesn’t just deal with human memory but attempts to define it. There’s a more expansive universe to conquer.
The original BLADE RUNNER with Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard directed by Ridley Scott captured the world’s imagination of a dark high tech future with overpopulation, poverty and of course crime. It became a cult classic receiving commercial and critical success.
I was too young to watch in the cinemas when it first came out in 1982 and saw the movie via Betamax some years later. All I remembered was Harrison Ford getting his ass kicked by Rutger Hauer and the unforgettable face of Sean Young. Everywhere you looked in a U.S. city were countless Asians. In my college years in DLSU Dr. Mike Rapatan showed it to us. He made us study the lighting and cinematography, the look it achieved and compared it with film noir movies from the 40s. So there was an enormous excitement with the release of 2049.
Deckard was a cop (called Blade Runners) that specialized in dealing with rogue Replicants. Here in 2049, Ryan Gosling is also a Blade Runner, the difference is that Deckard was human while Gosling’s character is a replicant himself. He’s called ‘K’ because it’s the beginning letter of his serial number/code. Since they are not ‘human’ replicants are not given the privilege of having a name.
Genetically Modified Humans
When the first movie came out the concept of genetic engineering was not yet widely known or appreciated. This time, the sequel comes out with an audience more familiar with the concept. Nowadays we’re all aware of genetically modified, vegetables, fruit, even chicken, pigs. They all fall under the acronym GMO (genetically modified organisms). The growing of human tissue is possible nowadays apart from heart and kidney transplants being the norm. So manufactured humans whose genes are manipulated for specific purposes is something that we can grasp.
Usually they’re designed to be physically stronger, sometimes with better reading and comprehension skills. There’s a wide array of uses from making them soldiers, cops like K to designing them for sexual pleasure- artificial prostitutes. Something more explored here in the current version: ‘Ro Girls’- Mariette (Mackenzie Davis), Doxie #2 (Krista Kosonen) and Doxie #3 (Elarica Johnson). They look like Victoria Secret models willing to fulfill your every sexual fantasy.
Ro Girls are different from Joi a 3D projection who satisfies a more romantic and emotional need for companionship. Mariette has a wider role in the story beyond that of a Ro Girl. She is played by Mackenzie Davis who has gained fame from the hit TV show HALT AND CATCH FIRE. Mackenzie has recently appeared as the title role in IZZY GETS THE FUCK ACROSS TOWN at the L.A. Film Festival and will be in TULLY with Charlize Theron to be released in 2018.
Life spans can also be extended or shortened. That’s how space colonization or the outer worlds were conquered because of the replicants. They were able to manufacture humans more suitable for travel through space. The original BLADE RUNNER was set in 2019. The period between them were covered in a series of short films available on YouTube. After the fall of the Tyrell Corporation, the proposal to create and use replicants again became acceptable.
Blade Runner 2036 Nexus Dawn Short by Luke Scott
Because of the success of colonies in space through their use, another corporation has risen: Wallace Corp, led by Niander Wallace. He is blind but extremely ruthless. Played by Jared Leto, he gives his role a single-minded obsession in creating more replicants for the conquest of space. Niander is a character that should have been explored more. That’s something they can rectify in another sequel or third installment.
Although he is blind, there’s almost a consistent glint in his eyes. This is one of the indicators of being a replicant from Ridley Scott. SO I have a personal theory that its possible he may be a replicant pretending to be human and blind. Again this may be explored or disproved through a sequel.
Leto has the villain monopoly since his performance in SUICIDE SQUAD where he played the Joker. In an interview with Conan O’Brien he shared that he has been offered the role of serial killer Charles Manson and cult leader David Koresh. Leto was also seen on a zipline during a THIRTY SECONDS TO MARS concert in Rio, Brazil. He also confessed that co-star Harrison Ford is his hero.
My brother Noel called him “quite possibly the defining actor of our generation. Who can say they were in three sci-fi fantasy mega franchises? STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES and BLADE RUNNER?” Of course there are actors like Hugo Weaving who was in even more sci-fi fantasy franchises MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS, TRANSFORMERS. Then there’s Andy Serkis who is in the newer STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS, LAST JEDI, EPISODE IX, PLANET OF THE APES, LORD OF THE RINGS.
But neither Weaving nor Serkis were in the lead role the way Harrison Ford carried countless films. This includes memorable action flicks like AIR FORCE ONE, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER and THE FUGITIVE, which were also huge blockbusters. So Ford is a strong candidate as one of the defining actors of our generation if only for the sheer popularity of the movies.
He excels in portraying shady characters who find it in themselves to do the right thing just like smuggler Han Solo. He is great at showing the inner conflict in a character. Although Indiana Jones is an archaeologist he goes into ancient structures to acquire these treasures not from his country or culture. As Deckard he’s a cop but falls in love with a replicant.
For most fans of the original BLADE RUNNER he’s the reason why they are watching 2049. Edward James Olmos is another holdover reprising Gaff, Deckard’s superior officer into origami. Olmos became popular in a similar role in the TV show MIAMI VICE.
He’s not as good-looking as Ryan Gosling or has the muscularity of Schwarzenegger or Stallone that’s why he’s more relatable. But there’s courage and complexity in his characters. He’s also proven himself in dramas and comedies as well: SABRINA, ANCHORMAN 2, MORNING GLORY. Fans would also be glad to know he has signed on to do another Indiana Jones film to be released in 2020.
With all the Asians running around in BLADE RUNNER you’d think the flying cars would either be Japanese or Korean made. But no, they’re by PEUGEOT, their logo appeared in one of the screens in K’s car. PEUGEOT is a French brand in support of a Canadian (but French speaking) director Denis Villeneuve.
PEUGEOT isn’t the only European touch as the more important roles were also given to rising stars Sylvia Hoeks and Ana De Armas. Hoeks has already won accolades in her home country of Netherlands. In the role of Luv with dark hair she channeled the hot geekiness of NCIS’ Pauley Perrette with ferocity of UNDERWORLD’s Kate Beckinsale.
Ana De Armas on the other hand was born in Cuba but also had breakthrough TV roles in Spain before she moved to Los Angeles. Ana plays Joi, the holographic girlfriend of K. The role accentuates Ryan Gosling’s strength of being a romantic lead. Combined with De Armas’ captivating eyes, angelic face, warmth, they make their relationship as real as the warm-blooded human variety.
This is the central theme that BLADE RUNNER director Ridley Scott, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth successfully put to screen with their breathtaking visuals. And Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins expanded and improved on in BLADE RUNNER 2049.
It is the relationship between Joi and K that poses a lot more questions. It begins with the eternal question of what makes us human and evolved from there. IF we are able to create sentient beings such as replicants or artificial intelligence, do they not have feelings? And if they can be self-aware the way we are as people why should they be discriminated upon? Perhaps just thinking of expanding our definition of humanity to artificial intelligence has benefits. Maybe, just maybe then there’s hope in eliminating discrimination like racism, sexism, homophobia and many more to our own species in our own time.
Eggsy (Taron Egerton) was excited to get out of the Kingsman tailoring shop and have a quiet dinner with his young, loving girlfriend. Two steps from the Kingsman vehicle disguised as a black London cab, a familiar face confronts him. Charlie (Edward Holcroft) holds a gun to his neck and forces him into the car. Eggsy appears to give in, just as the car door opens he flips Charlie into the backseat and tries to electrocute him with a hidden Taser. Charlie responds, “That’s not going to work on me anymore.” Charlie’s right sleeve burns and reveals a robot arm and punches Eggsy who gets out of the way. Eggsy screams at the driver to “Just drive!” Just then Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ starts blaring out the speakers as they try to kill each other, the car runs a hundred miles per hour through London’s busy streets.
As they struggle in the back seat, Eggsy sees another car speeding beside them. The back door swings open as Eggsy hangs on. Before an oncoming car hits the door, Eggsy leaps out of the way and he lands on the door skimming on the street like a spinning surfboard. The attacker’s car following them tries to run over him. Just before he gets run over, he grabs the trunk handle, opens it and gets in. He hits Charlie through the cushion and starts the fight all over again.
Kingsman The Golden Circle has it all: cars being driven underwater, ordinary looking eyeglasses that allow video conferencing, robot dogs that tear people apart to electric lassos and bullet proof umbrellas, hands down the best action movie of the year. The first film established it as James Bond to the nth power with a little bit of Austin Powers mixed in. Golden Circle tops all that and much more.
Combining high tech action and dry British comedy had the expected result: a hit earning $192.2million worldwide after the first week of opening. In the U.S. it has already out grossed the first film. But what was even more remarkable is how it dealt with something that was perfectly relevant to Filipinos. The message seems targeted or specifically tailor made for the Philippine situation.
Nowhere in the film does it even mention the phrase or acronym EJK or extra judicial killings because it goes way further than that. The film breaks the fallacy of two very clear generalizations that have been the norm in our country: 1. All drug users are criminals 2. All criminals deserve to die.
Mark Millar & Dave Gibbons were the two comic book creators originally called The Secret Service. But both Writer/ Director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman should be praised and congratulated for making the story and dialogue for The Golden Circle beyond an action blockbuster. They injected something pertinent most especially with the current situation in our country.
Before anyone can say spoiler alert, in this section of dialogue no character is revealed to have died nor the result of their plans. It does reveal the mindset and intentions of the U.S. President convincingly played by Bruce Greenwood. The scene is after nemesis and Drug Lord of the World Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore) has poisoned millions of people in America and the world with an additive in her drugs that ensures a painful death. She also offers an antidote if the President will end his War on Drugs and legitimize her business.
President (Bruce Greenwood): What I’m proposing is we appear to agree to her demands to prevent global panic. And then let the junky scum go down in flames! Hehehe Yeah! Let this Poppy cancer go down with them. No drug users, no drug trade! Win-win situation here. Chief of Staff Fox (Emily Watson): But sir we’re not talking about a handful of hostages here. We could be looking at the deaths of hundreds of millions worldwide. President: Hundreds of millions of criminals a burden to society! Am I right McCoy? General McCoy (Mark Arnold): Absolutely sir.
Chief of Staff Fox: What about people who were just experimenting or self-medicating? Functioning professionals? Kids? President: Don’t give me that crap Fox! The fact is this presidency has just won the war on drugs! General McCoy: Congratulations sir! President: Thank you! And that deserves a toast! Chief of Staff Fox: This is totally unethical sir. President: Fox shut up! McCoy declare martial law we need to maintain control. Commandeer stadiums, schools, civic centers order a press black out. Put the military on standby…
Champ (Jeff Bridges): Whether they committed a crime those people are human beings. Great God, right now Tequila is in deep freeze because of this. Whiskey (Pedro Pascal): We can’t make it personal sir. Champ: Personal? Agent we can’t stand by and let folks like him die. These people, we’re they’re only hope…
Although the President was not the direct cause of the ‘deaths’ of drug users, it is crystal clear that he is more than happy to let them die, even when he had the chance to prevent it. According to the morality, logic and common sense of the film because of this he was still criminally liable. It’s the universal consensus in laws of man – Constitutions across the world, laws of God – in different religions from thousands of years is the sacredness of human life.
If this is common sense and is a universal consensus how is it in our country that all drug addicts are considered criminals? And how is it that all criminals therefore are deserving of summary executions? How is any of that acceptable? How was it made as a viable solution to our country’s ills?
If the U.S. President in this film can be held accountable for letting people die what more if a President is the actual cause of these people’s deaths? It may not be in the millions but it’s already in the thousands here in the Philippines. Then that President is without a doubt criminally liable.
The War On Drugs is not the only political statement of the film. There are many but one of the most traditional is the use of the U.S. flag. The symbolism of inserting it in cinema is even older than Hollywood. In my Documentary Film class (many, many years ago in DLSU) was taught by Dr Doy Delmundo. He is one of the esteemed screenwriters and filmmakers in the Philippines. He showed us one of the earliest films ever produced here during the Fil-Am War of 1898.
U.S. soldiers were marching, carrying Old Glory. He talked about the positioning, front row and center. As it got closer to the camera the stars and stripes filled almost the top half of the frame. That simple composition impresses upon the viewer the dominance of America or as an emerging superpower from a silent-era documentary film.
More than a hundred years later, the theme and technique still live on albeit with more special effects. In one scene from KINGSMAN the good guys pull a ripcord releasing a parachute. Emblazoned on the whole fabric the unmistakable Stars and Stripes. The U.S. flag almost explodes on to the whole silver screen as air hits the chute expanding it. The message here is slightly changed, with America being the world’s savior.
Think and Ask Questions
Whether it’s the War on Drugs or American role in the geopolitical landscape, no one has to subscribe to any and all of the ‘political statements’ or ‘propaganda’ intentionally or unintentionally made in KINGSMAN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE. What it should do to us as viewers is make us think and ask questions. Why do we believe the things we do? What is my stand on this or that issue and why? And if a movie is able to make me think this way and ask questions while at the same time entertain using incredible action scenes with Prince and Elton John blaring in the background, then so much the better.
Guardians 1 Ending
GUARDIANS Awesome Mixtape
There’s been a recent trend in blockbusters of using music from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Yes it has been done countless times before. But the recent success of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (the first one) has even more action and sci-fi flicks turning to the older hits that millennials are completely ignorant of. GUARDIANS was nominated for a Grammy, AMA & Billboard for their soundtrack while winning Best Music Supervision for Films Budgeted Over 25 Million Dollars (Dave Jordan) from Guild of Music Supervisors Awards and HMMA Best Soundtrack Album.
GUARDIANS last scene even included an old tape deck, on a space ship for that matter playing AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel, before that scene MOONAGE DAYDREAM from David Bowie and even the Jackson’s ABC during the credits. STAR TREK BEYOND followed with Beastie Boys SABOTAGE for its climactic scene.
Crazy Elton John
KINGSMAN THE GOLDEN CIRCLE took it a step further when they actually cast one of the biggest songwriters from 70s and onward: Sir Elton John as himself. His scenes are the craziest you’ll ever see him. He plays to nearly all of his past real life tabloid exploits and emotional meltdowns dropping f-bomb after f-bomb. His fans and most people won’t be surprised at his ease in comedy. What is a revelation is his adeptness in the fight sequences. Youth of today will get a great intro to his work: DANIEL, SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT FOR FIGHTING and Trump’s favorite ROCKET MAN.
He wasn’t the only 70s icon honored too. Mark Strong who plays the gadget man Merlin had a very touching rendition of TAKE ME HOME COUNTRY ROADS by John Denver.
Official KGC trailer
Kingsman The Secret Service represented everything that’s quintessentially British from dapper suits to scotch whisky. The Golden Circle adds their American cousins in Jeff Bridges (Champ), Channing Tatum (Tequila) and Halle Berry (Ginger Ale).
Pedro Pascal is unrecognizable as cowboy/agent Whiskey. Fans know him as the Mediterranean, Middle Ages Prince Oberyn in an unknown TV series called Game of Thrones. Here he has an electric lasso. Pascal was able to transform himself looking and sounding like a young Burt Reynolds with a southern accent. Pascal was born in Chile but grew up in Orange County, California and San Antonio, Texas.
The Golden Circle may seem like pure escapism with international locations, huge stars, super visual effects and awesome soundtrack but it also has some food for thought us Pinoys are in dire need of.
As Harry Hart (Colin Firth) imparted to Whiskey: “Manners maketh man.”
My Warmth, Beloved,
Joli garçon, je dis oui (Pretty boy, I say yes) Bras de béton, je dis oui (Arms of concrete, I say yes) Coeur de bonbon, je dis oui (Heart of candy, I say yes) Seul vit l’amour ou vit l’envie… (Love only lives where there is desire…) Oui mon amour (Yes, my love) Cueillons les fruits (Let’s gather the fruits) Sans perdre un jour (Without losing a day) ni même une nuit! Mon cheri…(or another night My darling…) Joie du retour, (The joy of returning) tu chasses mes ennuis (You chase away my unhappiness) Tu peins de ta main (You paint with your hand) Les couleurs de ma vie…(The colors of my life) These are lyrics from the song Joli Garçon (Pretty Boy) sung in the French film SOUVENIR by the eternal and peerless Isabelle Huppert.
SOUVENIR is part of the 20th Edition of the Cine Europa film fest and is free on a first come first served basis. The fest runs from September 16-26, 2017 at Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall in Mandaluyong, Philippines.
Now on its 20th year, the film festival has become stronger and bolder as it brings to the Philippines 24 films from 16 EU countries including from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and Norway.
SOUVENIR is truly European as it has a Belgian Writer director in Bavo Defurne leading a French Production. The story revolves around Liliane Cheveny played by Isabelle Huppert who was a former French representative to a wildly popular European song contest (with stage name Laura) but did not gain the superstardom of ABBA. After a failed marriage with her music mogul husband, she lives humdrum life working in a paté factory. To non-French viewers such as myself, they may initially mistake the paté as fruitcake or enormous bread. The size is around a generous loaf of bread even my friends who’ve lived in France had the same mistaken impression.
Glamorous Isabelle Huppert
She falls for a young 22-year-old boxer in Jean Leloup played by Kévin Azaïs. Although there is a considerable age gap between them, one can easily see how Jean falls for Liliane. She may not be a buxom blonde, but her red hair still holds its fire. Isabelle Huppert makes Liliane’s frailty lovable even sexy. And when she sings that’s when she pulls you in. The vocals aren’t necessarily operatic or Celine Dion-like. But the passion is certainly there. There’s both romance and insecurity in it that’s very relatable even charming that makes a song well…a hit.
The cinematography of Philippe Guilbert and Virginie Saint-Martin brought out the glam in Isabelle Huppert, almost a throwback to old Hollywood. Huppert certainly has the face and body for it; this film only enhances that iconic beauty of a star.
There is this misty, dream-like look in selected shots from the macro photography of bubbles in the champagne glass to the motorcycle scenes of Liliane and Jean. Liliane’s face was happy with an almost orange glow of sunset in the background that was used in the 60s or photographs in the 70s. The cinematography was dreamy but not too much that it takes away from the realism of the story.
Filipino fans were introduced to Huppert in Brillante Medoza’s CAPTIVE (2012), which also had its Philippine premiere in Shang Cineplex. It was attended by Amb Gilles Garachon, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Loren Legarda, Ces Drilon, cast member Angel Aquino and National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.
CAPTIVE was very gritty in terms of look as it followed the story of Thérèse Bourgoine, a French social worker kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf Group. As their captors were hauling them through the jungles, it wasn’t an opportunity to appreciate the glamorous side of Huppert unlike here in SOUVENIR.
Kevin has the classic Gaelic features of piercing blue eyes and almost platinum blonde hair. He has ripped abdominals enough to be convincing as a lightweight boxer Jean. But his physique is not too rough that he overpowers Huppert. He maintains his boyish charms that catch her eye.
Much needed comic relief is from Jan Hammenecker who plays Jean’s father Eddy Leloup. The overweight dad is an even bigger fan of Laura from the 80s, that’s how Jean is familiar with her. It was so funny watching him fall all over himself the first time he meets her, while this irritates Jean’s mother.
Music especially in this film played a crucial role in telling the story. Belgian Writer director Bavo Defurne and co screen writer/producer Yves Verbraeken tapped songwriter and PINK MARTINI pianist Thomas Lauderdale to score the film. Lauderdale spent months getting to know Huppert as she was supposed to perform the lead songs. The title track SOUVENIR, was the original hit from the European song competition that made Laura famous. While the song JOLI GARCON was supposed to be descriptive of Laura’s love for Jean: ‘arms of concrete’, ‘heart of candy’.
For JOLI GARCON Defurne and Verbraeken were also credited as co songwriters along with Pink Martini’s China Forbes, Valentin Hadjadj and Thomas Lauderdale.
The music has a very catchy Latin rhythm with a very strong LSS (last song syndrome) effect. After watching the film don’t be surprised if you start singing the chorus: Je Dis Oui !
PINK MARTINI is a group founded by former U.S. politician turned musician Thomas Lauderdale in Portland, Oregon. He describes the band, “Our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue. We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America… the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world… composed of people of every country, every language, every religion.”
Pres. Emmanuel Macron
Similarly it is this multicultural sentiment that the European Union and even the Cine Europa film fest celebrates. Diversity is something that should be preserved and feted. This is a facet of French ideals in Liberte, Egalite and Fraternite that President Emmanuel Macron believes in and campaigned for. He squarely defeated rightist, ultra-nationalist Marine Le Pen who ran on a campaign that was anti immigration. French voters agreed with Macron’s beliefs via a landslide victory over Le Pen during the last presidential election.
President Macron also has similarity with the character Jean Leloup in SOUVENIR as he has fallen in love and married an older woman. First Lady Brigitte Trogneux, was his drama teacher in high school. She is 25 years older but is seen as one of the most striking First Ladies in the world. This is more acceptable these days especially after his election. ‘The statistics are changing when it comes to a woman having a younger “monsieur” according to a new study by France’s official statistics bureau Insee.’ [From thelocal.fr article: French women going for younger lovers, study shows]
Cine Europa Partners
Cine Europa, according to EU Chargé D’Affaires Mattias Lentz, has earned a niche among film enthusiasts in the country because of its strong partnership and collaboration with its partners including Shangri-La Plaza, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Arts Council of Cebu, Ayala Center in Cebu, the University of the Philippines- Visayas in Tacloban, the Visayas State University in Baybay Leyte Liceo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City, Palawan State University and recently, Ateneo de Naga University. “We also owe a lot to our Filipino moviegoers who have supported Cine Europa for the last 20 years since the European Union started the film festival as a gift to the Philippines for the latter’s centennial celebrations”, said Mr Lentz.
Cine Europa Roadshow
After its edition in Shangri-La Plaza, Cine Europa takes a road trip to the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, Baybay, Puerto Princesa and back to Manila. For the first time, Cine Europa is travelling to Ateneo de Naga University.
Facebook: EU Delegation to the Philippines
Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus Bautista
Beneath the flickering light of the screen, she sways. Moving slowly swinging her hips, arms, shoulders, in a smooth sexy rhythm…in high heels. Her eyes are on the screen above her, plucking the harp the way she plucks at men’s hearts. She moves to the music she makes, a sight to behold.
Even in the near darkness of the Shang Cineplex movie theater, we were all captivated with watching her. We would’ve been forgiven if we forgot there was actually a silent film we had to watch. The enchanting jazz music by Helouise La Harpe on the electric harp, Ryan Villamor (keyboards) and percussionist Aldous Castro was more than enough entertainment.
The fest ran from August 31 to September 3, 2017, featured a total of 9 Silent films from 9 different countries accompanied by esteemed musicians from the local scene. Opening the fest is EL GOLFO (1918) from Spain- Instituto Cervantes on 8 PM August 31 with music by TALAHIB.
September 1st Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND (7:30 PM) from the U.K.- British Council with music by GOODLEAF; THE NEW ENCHANTMENT (9:30 PM) from France accompanied by Helouise La Harpe. September 2nd A PERFECT FAMILY (3 PM) from Italy- Philippine Italian Association / Emb. of Italy with live score by TOM’S STORY; Yasujiro Ozu’s DRAGNET GIRL (5:30PM) from Japan – Japan Foundation with live narration from benshi Ichiro Kataoka and music by THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA; Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (8PM) from the Philippines – FILM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES with music by KAPITAN KULAM. September 3rd CAFÉ ELECTRIK (3PM) from Austria with music by RIVERMAYA; PANDORA’S BOX (5:30 PM) from Germany – Goethe Institut Philippinen with music by SANDWICH and Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL (8PM) from the U.S.A with music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS.
The choice for Helouise La Harpe was actually perfect for the story of (English title The New Enchantment) L’INHUMAINE (1923) from FRANCE in more ways than one. The story involves Claire Lescot a captivating opera diva, played by Georgette Leblanc who was the most sought after beauty of her time. Her suitors were among the most powerful and famous men: A Maharajah – Djorah de Nopur (Philippe Hériat), an intellectual revolutionary – Wladimir Kranine (Léonid Walter de Malte) and the mysterious Einar Norsen (Jaque Catelain) who keeps his true profession away from prying eyes. The description of being inhuman comes in, as nothing these men did to please or capture her attention seems to satisfy her.
Percussionist Aldous Castro had several instruments at his disposal to produce a lot of different sound effects. But one of the most unique is The Hang (‘the hand’ in Swedish/German). It looks like a giant wok inverted with circular indents. He is able to hit it with one hand and control the vibrations with the other. There are wide varieties of sounds it emits that contribute to the mood of the scene.
In between scenes keyboardist Ryan Villamor would bark out moods and tempo. Among the silent film titles L’INHUMAINE had the feature of having different colored tints from shot to shot. Sometimes it would be sepia, green and of course the usual black and white. Cristina Moricca of PIA (Phil. Italian Association) shared a previous talk by cinema historian Nick De Ocampo. He said that these tints were an indication of mood for the scene, which was used in the silent era. Villamor also said that these indicators were quite helpful to the musicians. For modern viewers it could be disorienting, it takes some getting used to; imagine a feature length Katy Perry music video.
Directed by Marcel L’Herbier there’s a strong fantasy element to the film with elaborate sets. Claire’s home for example was palatial with pools and fountains complete with servants. In the story, Einar was so distraught by Claire’s perceived rejection he drives his car off the cliff. In spite of news spreading of the suicide, Claire decides to go on with her scheduled concert.
The theater hall was filled with spectators, and after one rabble-rouser heckles her for the suicide (for being inhuman) the whole crowd turns and chaos ensues. Just as people were about to mob Claire she begins to sing. In real time Helouise La Harpe also begins to sing in French. The mob that was about to tear Claire apart was so moved by her voice they begin to calm down. The live audience in Shang Cineplex were similarly moved by Helouise’ jazzy, hypnotic voice. By the end of the song the theater was in a rapturous applause for Claire and trouble had been averted.
This was one of those cinematic moments that evoke a deep emotion and stays with you. Made all the more special by a unique live performance. It doesn’t matter that it’s from a French film from nearly a hundred years ago. You don’t have to know or understand everything. All you have to do is watch, listen, the way Helouise was feeling the story, the music, with her body just moving to it.
Apart from the electric harp and her sexy moves, Helouise hid her most emotional tool: her voice, for the climactic scenes, including one dialogue where she sang as Claire spoke of love. There was an incredible applause after the film as she enchanted everyone in the cinema.
She is of French and Vietnamese descent. Her name is pronounced (with a silent H in the beginning) EH-LOO-WEES LA-HARP. Emb of France Audio Visual Attaché Martin Macalintal ‘discovered’ her while performing at the Makati Shang Rila Hotel’s French Week. He has earned high praises for acquiring her talents for the Intl Silent Film Festival Manila.
We converged in our favorite bar downstairs BROTZEIT, which has German, European and a lot of unique beers on tap as well as the best German cuisine. This is where Ryan Villamor spoke of ‘controlled improvisation’. Each musician had instructions on the mood and sound for the sequences at the same time the element of jazz gave them space to improvise.
Evidence of the power of Helouise’ performance, renowned abstract painter and portraitist Allan Cosio was so moved he gifted her with an impromptu sketch at BROTZEIT. He instructed Helouise to pose across the table. In a few minutes of strokes in charcoal he was able to produce a portrait that she warmly treasured.
Cosio also happens to be the father of Ina Avellana-Cosio of the FDCP and Intl. Silent film Festival Manager. Ina’s grandfather on her mother’s side is National Artist for Film Lamberto Avellana.
All in all it was a magical night that started with controlled improvisation in the cinema and ended with an impromptu portrait session in BROTZEIT.
UNDEGROUND from the British Council with GOODLEAF
Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND may have been the most technologically advanced (as far as camera work) not just in this batch but from the silent era. The quality of the digital restoration also seems better than films of later eras in the 30s or 40s for example. I’m unsure how much of it was the restoration or the image quality the filmmakers were able to achieve. Whichever the case UNDERGROUND was certainly ahead of its time.
Asquith was able to build suspense and emphasize emotion through camera movement, even editing. This was not commonly utilized in most silent film. The underground station will seem very familiar to today’s audiences. Its mind boggling to think that the underground has celebrated its centenary and is still very much in use today as it was back then. The tunnels to the trains, factories, even the power plant shows a London that was the very first industrialized city/nation in the world.
The very urban, industrialized theme of the film is perfect for the synth and electronic sound of GOODLEAF. Their sound is a rich combination of electronica and even reggae. This is a combination most commonly heard in the 1980s not unlike British band from the era: UB40. But GOODLEAF has its own updated twist with trip-hop and has their young fans that were also drawn to the screening. Their music gives the viewing experience of UNDERGROUND a more current interpretation that helps people today appreciate the film in a way they normally wouldn’t.
EL GOLFO from Instituto Cervantes with Talahib
El Golfo from Spain on the other hand pulls on the heartstrings. Ernesto is a street urchin who turns his life around and makes good abroad. This is similar to the OFW stories here in the Philippines. The drama comes when he tries to win back his childhood love whose parents supported his education and success abroad.
The combination of the film with band Talahib was very successful. Talahib uses native instruments like the hegalong along with drums, guitars and chimes. So the original Filipino sound mixed with the Spanish film results in something unique but at the same time we’re used to since the Philippines is a product of all these influences.
For Pinoy viewers the subtitles in Spanish had a lot of words in the Filipino language, so there’s that also that common bond. From everyday words like hijo, hija, noche, amigo to longer words like ignorante, origen, memoria, la muerte.
The band is composed of vocalist Janis Ann Añonuevo, Noel Taylo (percussion), Burn Belacho (guitar, hegalong), Mark Estandarte (bass), Domeng Molina (percussion), Jones De Vera (percussion), Darrel Roberto (drums) and Max Celada (percussion).
Percussionist Max Celada is also a member of the esteemed theater group Tanghalang Pilipino along with partner Sheenly Gener. I was able to photograph the couple on the last day of the ISFFM in Shang.
Sheenly was not able to catch Max’s performance with Talahib because she was shooting a film entitled SI APPLE, SI CHEDENG AT SI ELVIE. The Cinema One produced film has Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropesa as its stars co directed by Rae Red and Fatrick Tabada. Sheenly can also be seen in the upcoming DORMITORYO in QCinema directed by Emerson Reyes.
“Men wished to lay fortunes at her feet, and celebrities vied with each other to be seen and photographed with her. Tribute was collected from men of rank and fame, the most famous actors wished to have her as their partner, producers and directors couldn’t wait until they could work with her, and her circle increased to include the top writers and creators of her day. Dukes and generals and even the heads of nations wanted her to grace their tables. One journalist, quoted in one of the many books devoted to her, not only raved about her beauty but ‘rated her brains on a par with those of Napoleon, Caesar, Mussolini and Lenin’. Opposed to this pinnacle of glory was her position on my stage. Here was no enthusiast, but a cold-eyed mechanic critical of every movement.
If there was any flattery, it was concentrated in a ‘That’s fine, it will do.’ More often she listened to ‘Turn your shoulders away from me and straighten out … Drop your voice an octave and don’t lisp … Count to six and look at that lamp as if you could no longer live without it…Stand where you are and don’t move; the lights are being adjusted’.” One gets the sense that von Sternberg loved the exposure and the success their relationship brought them, but his intimate relationship with Dietrich was becoming increasingly complex. Writer James Hancock describes the connection between screen icon and director in his article ‘The Brilliant Doomed Romance of Marlene Dietrich and Josef Von Sternberg’. The quote from Von Sternberg is from his autobiography FUN IN A CHINESE LAUNDRY.
Filipino audiences have the great privilege of catching a very rare screening of Marlene Dietrich’s early work CAFÉ ELECTRIK with live music by RIVERMAYA in the 11th Silent film festival for free on September 3rd, 3pm at the Shang Cineplex, Shang Rila Plaza Mall. Entry/ seats are available on a first come first served basis so check schedules and come an hour early.
The fest running from August 31 to September 3, 2017, features a total of 9 Silent films from 9 different countries accompanied by esteemed musicians from the local scene. Opening the fest is EL GOLFO (1918) from Spain- Instituto Cervantes on 8 PM August 31 with music by TALAHIB.
September 1st has Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND (7:30 PM) from the U.K.- British Council with music by GOODLEAF; THE NEW ENCHANTMENT (9:30 PM) from France accompanied by Helouise La Harpe. September 2nd has A PERFECT FAMILY (3 PM) from Italy- Philippine Italian Association / Emb. of Italy with live score by TOM’S STORY; Yasujiro Ozu’s DRAGNET GIRL (5:30PM) from Japan – Japan Foundation with live narration from benshi Ichiro Kataoka and music by THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA; Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (8PM) from the Philippines – FILM DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES with music by KAPITAN KULAM. September 3rd has CAFÉ ELECTRIK (3PM) from Austria with music by RIVERMAYA; PANDORA’S BOX (5:30 PM) from Germany – Goethe Institut Philippinen with music by SANDWICH and Buster Keaton’s THE GENERAL (8PM) from the U.S.A with music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS.
MUST SEE from every country
Every title from every country has its own ‘must see’ attraction. The Japan Foundation for example will bring in a benshi or traditional narrator Ichiro Kataoka combined with the very Filipino classical musical sounds of THE CELSO ESPEJO RONDALLA. They will be performing to DRAGNET GIRL (1933) from one of Japan’s most revered filmmaker in Yasujiro Ozu.
The International Silent Film Festival Manila on its 11th edition has garnered some praise from abroad. Pordenone Silent Film Fest programmer and VARIETY film critic Jay Weissberg said, “One of the wonderful things about the festival in Manila is that everything is accompanied by live music exactly in the way these films were originally screened. Music too is an important part of any silent film. The program that you will be seeing is also exceptional. You have wonderful films, one of my favorites Anthony Asquith’s UNDERGROUND a truly terrific drama, thriller. The program goes beyond Europe and the United States of course Japan. And relatively more recent films from the Philippines prove that filmmakers even today are experimenting with the pure visual beauty of what it means to make a silent film as always with live music.”
Weissberg is referring to the recent work of Gym Lumbera’s TAGLISH (2012) and from Filipino-Italian filmmaker Ruben Maria Soriquez: Una Familia Perfetta A PERFECT FAMILY (2017).
Two Female Icons Plus
Two countries have set themselves apart by having a strong female icon in their cast. Austria has CAFÉ ELECTRIK from 1929 with Marlene Dietrich. Viewers have the chance to see a rare glimpse of the screen legend before she achieved stardom.
Dietrich is considered to be the ninth-greatest female star of classic Hollywood cinema as ranked by the American Film Institute. In the same list on the male side is Buster Keaton ranked 21. One of Keaton’s biggest films THE GENERAL (1926) is also part of this fest as an entry from the U.S.. Soul and funk music from FLIPPIN SOUL STOMPERS will accompany the biggest budget action comedy movie of its era.
The second female icon is from a German film: Louise Brooks (as Lulu) stars in George Wilhelm Pabst’s PANDORA’S BOX (1929). Goethe Institut Philippinen has likewise chosen a high stature band in SANDWICH to provide the live score. Both RIVERMAYA and SANDWICH are established Filipino bands with a long list of hits. RIVERMAYA guitarist/vocals Mike Elgar has said that they will be choosing from their library of music and play the best songs to fit the soundtrack for CAFÉ ELECTRIK.
First Female-to-Female Kiss
Marlene Dietrich was born in December 27, 1901 in Schöneberg, now a district of Berlin. Her screen name is a combination of her given name Marie Magdalene with a nickname Lena. So the pronunciation is MAR-LEE-NA. She came from a cabaret background in 1920s Berlin that was a more open and tolerant scene.
She was used to wearing men’s clothes. She made quite a splash with her Hollywood film MOROCCO (1930) wearing a tuxedo, top hat and tails. She capped off those moments with the first ever female-to-female kiss in the lips on the silver screen. The 30s were also the time when talkies became popular where sound had accompanied film.
Biographer Steven Bach said, “I still think that’s the most startling star introduction in the history of motion pictures. Marlene was the first great star to be created in the sound era. And how did he (Josef Von Sternberg) do it? She sings a French song from the turn of the century, dressed in men’s clothes. Turns, gives a very obvious lesbian kiss to another woman…This was the Marlene Dietrich he wanted us to remember.”
Later on she would deny ever making a silent era film, although she did at least two in Europe. She eschewed being identified with the older silent era stars. “Only Garbot and Gish made silent films , I never..” That’s why her appearance here in the Austrian made CAFÉ ELECTRIK is a very special and rare opportunity for Filipino audiences. They will be able to compare her performance from that time to her more popular and known film work.
PANDORA’S BOX in 1929 actually predated MOROCCO and was more significant going beyond a mere kiss. Louise Brooks was an American who was cast in a German production. Director George Wilhelm Pabst describes her, “Brooks had both innocence and the ability to project sexuality without coyness or premeditation.” And for the character of Lulu, this magical combination was essential. [From: The Style Essentials: Louise Brooks written by Kimberley Truhler]
It would be years later when PANDORA’S BOX would be recognized for breaking barriers: “This film is notable for its frank treatment of modern sexual mores, including one of the first screen portrayals of a lesbian. Brooks then starred in the controversial social drama Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), based on the book by Margarete Böhme and also directed by Pabst, and Miss Europe (1930) by Italian director Augusto Genina, the latter being filmed in France, and having a famous surprise ending. All these films were heavily censored, as they were very “adult” and considered shocking in their time for their portrayals of sexuality, as well as their social satire.” [From: Louise Brooks Wikiwand]
Creatively PANDORA’S BOX was also considered as a landmark achievement in terms of the visuals. The lighting, mood made it a precursor to the famous film noir genre. Kimberley Truhler writes, “G.W. Pabst is a legend of early cinema. The composition of his shots was elegant and ahead of its time, especially when combined with the lighting of cinematographer Gunther Krampf. Together they used shadows to create drama and, especially toward the end of Pandora’s Box, a somewhat sinister mood. Some scenes in the movie included filtering light through window blinds, which would later become a staple of film noir style. In the 1930s, directors like Josef von Sternberg continued to refine the look; his cinematography with Lee Garmes and James Wong Howe for 1932’s Shanghai Express, for example, shows even more of the evolution. And when film noir hit its stride in the 1940s, directors Billy Wilder (Double Indemnity), Carol Reed (The Third Man), Michael Curtiz (Mildred Pierce), and Alfred Hitchcock (Notorious) all admitted their admiration for Pabst and Pandora’s Box. “There’s no question,” says Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller, “that German Expressionism was one of the strongest roots from which film noir grew.” [ from: The Style Essentials: Louise Brooks written by Kimberley Truhler]
Bob Cut and Jean Patou
Louise Brooks had a unique style all her own. She had a very distinctive short bob cut that became a trend and was copied by other actresses of her time. But its impact can still be seen today, such as Katie Holmes and Linda Evangelista. “Other fashion trends that stem from the movie include Jean Patou’s tank dress, which became a staple of 1930s style and resurged in popularity once again in the 1990s. Pandora’s Box fan Calvin Klein included them in collection after collection that decade. And Prada is still remembered for dressing Uma Thurman in one for the 1995 Academy Awards. At this year’s Oscars, we saw another 20s-30s trend with jewelry draped down the back of some stars, which brought to mind Patou’s bejeweled razor back dress for Lulu.”
The same article continues, “Lending to Lulu’s seduction are the all-important costumes of Pandora’s Box. Though the wardrobe was overseen by (and credited to) Art Director Gottleib Hesch, Louise’s clothes were courtesy of Jean Patou. Patou is one of the legendary European couturiers of the early 20th century, already dressing Louise and other international stars such as Gloria Swanson both onscreen and off. Along with Coco Chanel, he is considered the inventor of our modern casual attire, especially in the area of sportswear.”
Both Louise Brooks and Marlene Dietrich were known to have many lovers, men and women. But they seem to prefer men, having a greater number and more intimate male sexual relationships. Dietrich’s biographers seem to agree with this and in Brooks’ case her own memoirs.
But it’s the lesbian angle that seems to titillate a lot of fans, even historians who have studied their lives. For example, Dietrich’s female lovers have included a lot of high society names, movers and shakers in Hollywood.
“Sewing circle was a phrase used by Dietrich to describe the underground, closeted lesbian and bisexual film actresses and their relationships in Hollywood. In the supposed “Marlene’s Sewing Circle” are mentioned the names of other close friends such as Ann Warner (the wife of Jack L. Warner, one of the owners of the Warner studios), Lili Damita (an old friend of Marlene’s from Berlin and the wife of Errol Flynn), Claudette Colbert, and Dolores del Río (whom Dietrich considered the most beautiful woman in Hollywood). The French singer Edith Piaf was also one of Dietrich’s closest friends during her stay in Paris in the 1950s, and always rumored something more than friendship between them.” [From: Marlene Dietrich- wikiwand.com]
Neither Bi nor Lesbian
The sources for most of Dietrich’s intimate details of her life are from her daughter Maria Riva who wrote tell all book and biographer Steven Bach. Brooks however, was more open about her past, with a few interviews and even through her own writing.
“Brooks enjoyed fostering speculation about her sexuality, cultivating friendships with lesbian and bisexual women including Pepi Lederer and Peggy Fears, but eschewing relationships. She admitted to some lesbian dalliances, including a one-night stand with Greta Garbo. She later described Garbo as masculine but a “charming and tender lover”. Despite all this, she considered herself neither lesbian nor bisexual:
I had a lot of fun writing ‘Marion Davies’ Niece’ [an article about Pepi Lederer], leaving the lesbian theme in question marks. All my life it has been fun for me. … When I am dead, I believe that film writers will fasten on the story that I am a lesbian… I have done lots to make it believable […] All my women friends have been lesbians. But that is one point upon which I agree positively with [Christopher] Isherwood: There is no such thing as bisexuality. Ordinary people, although they may accommodate themselves, for reasons of whoring or marriage, are one-sexed. Out of curiosity, I had two affairs with girls – they did nothing for me [From: Louise Brooks – wikiwand.com ]
Dietrich’s Modern Marriage
Dietrich however, had a rapacious sexual appetite that would make Madonna look ‘Like A Virgin’. Brooks was more just unlucky in love. She was unable to marry the great love of her life in George Marshall. Brooks became a noted film critic and writer later on.
In 1923 Dietrich married Rudolph Sieber and had her daughter Maria a year later. Maria Riva in an interview for the documentary NO ANGEL – A LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH, said, “Ménage trois we understand. But ménage quatre (4) and ménage cinq (5) was very normal in our house.” Steven Bach added, “Dietrich had a famous affair with Douglas Fairbanks and it was reported the two moved in with Rudy (Sieber) and his girl friend. These two were modern people even by today’s standards”.
NO ANGEL – A LIFE OF MARLENE DIETRICH
Dietrich would even show the letters of her lovers to Sieber. He would have a mistress later on in life with the knowledge of Marlene who at one time brought them to California. Sieber and Dietrich although living apart, would remain formally married until the time of his death in 1976.
In 1930 she made her first film with Josef Von Sternberg, THE BLUE ANGEL and the same year MOROCCO. The brilliant director was madly in love with her. The problem was she tended to have affairs with co-stars, which broke his heart. They continued to make films 7 in total, some argue is the most successful team up of actor director creatively. Their best work was undoubtedly with each other as Dietrich shot to stardom after MOROCCO.
Because of her fame the Third Reich had offered Dietrich to come back home to Germany and produce propaganda films. To this Dietrich flatly refused despising what the Nazis had done to her homeland.
“In the late 1930s, Dietrich created a fund with Billy Wilder and several other Germans to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, her entire salary for Knight Without Armor ($450,000) was put into escrow to help the refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II, and Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to help sell war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and was reported to have sold more war bonds than any other star.”
“During two extended tours for the USO in 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, the UK and France, then went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton. When asked why she had done this, in spite of the obvious danger of being within a few kilometers of German lines, she replied, “aus Anstand”—”out of decency”. Wilder later remarked that she was at the front lines more than Eisenhower.” [From: Marlene Dietrich- wikiwand.com]
For the Cause
The documentary also dealt with her war efforts, “Narrator: It wasn’t just her talent she gave. Fact was she was willing to lay her body for the cause. A dedication extended to fulfilling the servicemen’s fantasies. [Footage of Dietrich surrounded by crowds of servicemen, sometimes crowd surfing them]
Riva said, “It was part of the romanticism. If you were going to face death don’t you want to live one time? Really magnificently before you face death? Right? She felt that if a young man, a soldier from Arkansas, the South, somewhere, would sleep with a movie star who was beautiful and giving and loving. Was that not the proper way to prepare for the mourn of his demise?” Narrator: She didn’t restrict herself with enlisted men she had a long affair with James Gavin the youngest general in the army. He was described as a cross between ‘Henry Fonda and Gary Cooper’.
Her affair with Gavin would be the cause of her rift with her long time lover, French man Jean Gabin. Even in later years she was still capable of seducing co-stars. “Ex lover Michael Todd directed AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, the 54 year old Dietrich had 3 others in the cast who claimed to be her old flame: George Raft, David Niven and Frank Sinatra.”
For her War efforts Dietrich received the Medal of Freedom, from the U.S. in November 1947. She said this was her proudest accomplishment. She was also awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French government for her wartime work. She would become the first woman and German to receive the Israeli Medallion of Valor in 1965, “in recognition for her courageous adherence to principle and consistent record of friendship for the Jewish people”.
Dietrich was the true embodiment of glamor. To this day we continue to be fascinated with her work in film, as singer and recording artist but even more with how she lived her extraordinary life.
The 11th International Silent Film Festival is made possible in partnership with Shangri-La Plaza, Para sa Sining, the National Film Center of The Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, the Embassies of Italy, Japan, and Spain, Filmoteca de España, Institut Français, JEC Philippines and Marks & Spencer London . All screenings will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Watch and listen as we score the silents again!
For more information on the schedule and inquiries, please check our Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/InternationalSilentFilmFestivalManila or you may also check our websites:
Embassy of Austria :
The Japan Foundation, Manila
Embassy of France
Embassy of the USA
The 11th International Silent Film Festival is made possible in partnership with Shangri-La Plaza, Para sa Sining, the National Film Center of The Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo, the Embassies of Italy, Japan, and Spain, Filmoteca de España, Institut Français, JEC Philippines and Marks & Spencer London . All screenings will be open to the public on a first come, first served basis. Watch and listen as we score the silents again!