Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pinoy Film Focus: Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980)

(Does Your Heart Beat Faster?)

Director: Mike de Leon

Writers: Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr., Raquel Villavicencio, Mike de Leon

Cast: Christopher de Leon, Charo Santos, Jay Ilagan, Sandy Andolong, Boboy Garovillo, Johnny Delgado, Armida Siguion-Reyna, Leo Martinez

Some films are so outrageously over the top that they leave an indelible mark on their audience. And then some of those are made with such style and wit that they become true cinematic gems despite their excesses...or maybe exactly because of them. Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, that Mike de Leon musical with the almost untranslatable title, is easily one of the latter.

As he arrives home from Japan, Johnny (Christopher de Leon) unknowingly smuggles in high-grade opium via an unassuming audio cassette. Japanese gangsters go after him and his friends to take back their goods. Johnny's group takes refuge in a church in Baguio, but there they discover that the priests and nuns there are fakes and actually in league with the Japanese. Adding to the mayhem is the Chinese mafia, which have agenda of their own that pits them against the Japanese. Appropriately, hijinks ensue in a battle cum musical extravaganza.

To say more about the plot is to ruin the experience; you'd have to see it to believe it. A word that captures the essence of this film is "absurd." That is no damning or faint praise, as the film revels in outdoing itself in its own exuberance. It has enough intelligence and complexity to put more "serious" films to shame. With an amazing cast and a rip-roaring soundtrack, Kakaba-Kaba Ka Ba? is truly a cinematic experience that one cannot soon forget. Nor would one want to.

Image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_nxUb2kYKSvI/R-3pEfgQXPI/AAAAAAAAFGs/JrpdTI8YM68/s1600-h/Kakaba-kaba-kaka-+80-+Mike+de+Leon-2-+small+file.jpg

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Pinoy Film Focus: RPG: Metanoia (2010)

Director: Luis C. Suarez

Writers: Luis C. Suarez, Jade Castro, Tey Clamor

Cast: Zaijian Jaranilla, Basty Alcances, Jairus Aquino, Mika dela Cruz, Eugene Domingo, Aaron Junatas, Aga Muhlach, Vhong Navarro

RPG: Metanoia is certainly not the first animated full-length feature film in the Philippines, but it's quite likely the best. Endearing, meticulously made, and culturally resonant, the film is a true gem that should have received more accolades than it has.

Nico (voiced by Zaijian Jaranilla) is an average kid who likes hanging out with his friends either online or in real-life (though a lot of the latter is spent in Internet cafes). When a disturbed and megalomaniacal player gets his hands on a rare and extremely powerful artifact in the MMORPG "Metanoia," he takes control of many of the characters and of the game itself. It is up to Nico and his friends to save the day, both in and out of the game.

The movie shares themes with the amazing Japanese animated movie Summer Wars and the Japanese light novel-turned-anime Sword Art Online--particularly the sometimes subversive gaming culture, dependency on technology, and government-funded technology experiments gone awry--and yet it feels so fresh and original. This is due in large part to how distinctly Filipino the characters, their dialogue, and their situations are. A particular stroke of brilliance here is how the online gaming is juxtaposed with the traditional Filipino children's games played on the street, where Nico gets bumps and scars for real and learns how to be a true human being. Which is not to say that the movie is a knock on the gaming culture that has consumed many children in the country and elsewhere. Instead, the film celebrates the value of friendship, camaraderie, and selflessness in both worlds, and it does so seamlessly.

RPG: Metanoia is easily one of the most smartly written Filipino films of the modern era. That it is found in an animated film (a top-notch one, at that!), for which the country is not at all known, is testament to the creativity of some of the country's filmmakers, just waiting to be given a break. Three years after its cinematic release, the original DVD has finally been released, out there for every serious fan of great cinema to enjoy.