Thursday, November 29, 2007

Death in the Land of Encantos.

Danièle Huillet once notoriously remarked that cinephilia is also a lack of ambition. Presumably also with that warning in mind, Serge Daney later in his career as a film thinker redefined cinephilia (as it should be) as not just a relation to cinema, but a relation to the world through cinema. Cinema as perhaps the most complex and yet still straightforward means of human expression to understand or at least most accurately describe all the moral, social, political and aesthetical complexities of the worlds we inhabit and – more importantly – share. And it is with this understanding in mind that one should first approach and later ponder on Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto, the latest masterpiece (there really isn't any other word) by Lav Diaz, that most honest, hardworking, heart wrenching, eye stunning and thought inspiring filmmaker at work today. Watching Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto thus surpasses a "mere" (nevertheless still absolutely unique) experience of cinema and becomes a fully fledged experience of life, an almost unbelievably sincere and courageous exploration into the heart of three grand existential matters: the meaning of love, the importance of hope, the redemptive power of art. All things of beauty – in a film of terrible beauty…
-- Jurij Meden, film critic, editor/KINO Magazine, Slovenia

Every new film signed by Lav Diaz means a celebration of film (as) art. In his latest adventure of images, gazes and words, Death in the Land of Encantos, he strokes again with enormous artistic power and unsurpassable poetic vision. He proved once more that art as such, irrespective of form it takes to realize its ideas, can be as dangerous weapon as any kind of firearms to fight against the terror of all kinds of oppression. His unique film expression, in which he took another large step forward to a new direction, is kind of experience that overshadowed great deal of filmmaking since Heremias. I can see or rather feel Death in the Land of Encantos as an invaluable gift, which will stay with me for a long time. At least because I'll be able to break trough all of the layers of its complex structure and countless meanings. Until then I'll enjoy the flashes of memories of this precious hours in film theatre, which flew too fast despite the contemplative rhythm of the narrative. Thus I could only reveal a deep debt of gratitude to get the chance to participate in such unique act of creativity and artistic responsibility.
-- Andrej Šprah, film publicist and writer from Ljubljana, author of several articles about Lav Diaz in Slovenia.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Memoir to Suffering

There remains but one film to celebrate, among the greatest in Venice, and certainly the longest at nine-plus hours: Lav Diaz's monumental memoir to suffering, Death in the Land of Encantos, a modern mosaic cobbled together from the modest of means. In 2006, a typhoon devastated the region of the Philippines where Diaz shot much of his last two works--so the filmmaker went back and began filming, although with no clear game plan. Eventually he developed a narrative about a generation broken by their country's seemingly inescapable corruption: an assortment of the living dead wandering a landscape filled with the grief-stricken. Diaz's protagonist is yet another of the festival's schizophrenics, and manic-depressive in the bargain.

As in his 2005 Evolution of a Filipino Family, the filmmaker creates a massive tapestry, here incorporating documentary footage of typhoon survivors speaking out about government's neglect of their plight, as well as fragments from an unfinished short horror film shot in Zagreb in 2003. The latter concerns a lost tribe of Aswangs--ghouls of popular Philippine folklore--who have found a home in southeastern Europe. Little if anything at the Lido was as emotionally exhausting and exhaustive, as rich an experience and as crushing as Diaz's film.
-- Olaf Moller, Film Comment Magazine
November-December 2007