Jesa’s Review of Patay na si Hesus: Padayon: How to keep calm and carry on


The spice of life is not its problems; it is the comedy that we make out of its little agonies.

During the Salamindanaw International Film Festival, on the last day of the Film Criticism Workshop, we had the chance to watch Patay na si Hesus (Villanueva, 2016) which for me was like winning a lottery.

A-scene-from-Patay-na-si-Hesus
Iyay, her kids and a nun-friend (From: http://cebudailynews.inquirer.net/109110/cebuano-film-patay-na-si-hesus-wins-two-awards-at-qcinema-film-fest)

Continue reading “Jesa’s Review of Patay na si Hesus: Padayon: How to keep calm and carry on”

On Pretentious Art


What makes “pretentious” art?

Obviously not in the art itself, not in its formal aspects, not in the way a cinematic shot takes fifteen-minutes long and not the more standard five seconds in Hollywood, not in the way a black square is superimposed on a red rectangle, not in the way sentences are cut short in the midd, not in the way language calls attention to itself, say, by changing mula Filipino to cambiar, grammar notwithstanding.

Pretentious art becomes in the manner of seeing, the tools in analyzing and judging.

Pretentious because there is an expectation of honesty from art, of art knowing what it is trying to achieve, trying to articulate, of art knowing the limits of its powers, harnessing its chosen forms and techniques to match with what it is trying to achieve, trying to articulate. INSTEAD OF SOMETHING THAT PRETENDS TO KNOW WHAT IT IS DOING WITH THE VISUAL POEM? THE ERRATIC MONTAGE IN FILM? THE ABSENCE OF SOUND IN MUSIC?

Less pretentiously on my part, pretentious art is made by the lack of the proper and necessary education and venues for conversation to make sense of, grapple, grasp and fondle such works of art. This kind of education is not a very humble thing to ask given the millions who do not even know how to read or write. Pretentious art is made by the lack, or more aptly the inequality of access to these works of art of cultural works. Access to these things not a very humble thing to ask given the millions who do not even have access to food or clean water.

I see Vice Ganda dancing all day and then one day I see Lav Diaz opening a movie with a scene where nothing happens for 88 minutes.

For some—or most?—“pretentious” art is even an anomaly. Majority of artworks, of cultural works—from a ten-peso rental of a Precious Hearts Romance to Arundhati Roy’s much-awaited The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Kathniel’s kilig flick from Star Cinema to Lars’ Nymphomaniac—are not a pretense to them. It is a luxury.

Andalusian1
That famous image from Un Chien Andalou

Kurosawa and Apostol on Madness


In our cultural tomes, not a few times has madness been extolled, turned on its head, made majestic:

In “The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata,” the titular character said that “every city had the capacity for novelty if only you looked at it through foolish eyes.”

In “Ran,” this:

vlcsnap-2017-04-18-13h19m05s251

Damned these drawls, only made to be seen.

Now’s time to get crazy and know it

How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity


A seemingly insignificant anecdote in her notes on Nicolas Roeg’s “Insignificance” about Einstein can rain on vitality when put side by side other works. In “Remote Control”, Barbara Kruger recalls Einstein’s little act of defiance: “When the red-baiting senator tries to confiscate a pile of precious equations, Einstein outwits him by throwing them out the window. So it rains relativity on the hotdog stand and produces an insignificant spectacle of spectacular significance.”

Continue reading “How Fidel Castro and Einstein Live, or, Raining Pamphlets and Relativity”

On the first Friday, we watched august


First, Ishmael Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo,” which from what Jesa has gathered was named Film of the Decade by some award-giving body and then Brocka’s apparently more commercial film called ____. There were only around ten people in the cinema – parang sa Baguio lang – including Mahjeng and Jesa[1] and I.

What was august about it is Friday and its often yummy promises of weekends; but more than that, there is Manila Cinematheque, which we have visited for the first time – finally, finally, after two months of sleepwalking in Manila, uselessly uselessly denying Manila.

Maybe it was very visible, the kilig in being able to watch a film again (and in Manila, and in Manila Cinematheque!) after cram-watching the Fockers’ Trilogy and some Pinoy shorts in our quietly hysterical last days in Baguio.

Tapos si Bernal, and again from what Jesa has gathered, it was his very first film. Was I daydreaming when I saw Godard (and Truffaut too) in Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” last Friday? Am I daydreaming, fantasizing now as I affirm here that I saw Godard (and Truffaut too) in “Pagdating sa Dulo?”

We were late a few minutes for the 5pm screening, and in the first scene we saw, there was Eddie Garcia, whose character Ruben was a film director in the film. He was shooting a scene with real-life married couple Carmen and Romeo, whose marriage troubles are stifling their work. I saw both Godard’s Le Mepris and Truffaut’s Day for Night here in that all three movies involved the making of films.

vlcsnap-2016-08-07-10h55m25s229

In Le Mepris, a couple in disarray also strained the production of the film within the film. In Day for Night, emergencies in the actual lives of the actors – illness, a wife giving birth – compelled the director to make some maneuvers in the film’s production lest it gets delayed.

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When Carmen walked out of the shooting, Eddie Garcia’s character had to find a replacement – and there came Ching who used to be a “taxi dancer” before dabbling in films as an extra.

Carmen and Romeo would then leave the limelight; they will be replaced by Ching, later on Paloma Morales and Pinggoy – the taxi dancer and the taxi driver; the mistress and the man. This couple is not without their rifts. Ching accused Pinggoy of being jealous when she told him of her break as Carmen’s replacement. “Naiinggit ka ‘no. Akala mo ikaw lagi ang nakakalamang.” Then Pinggoy: “Pinapaalala mo sa ‘kin na taxi driver lang ako.” And “Wag mo kalimutan na alam ko kung sa’n ka nanggaling.”

Carmen got her big break; Pinggoy continued his life as a taxi driver. In another scene in the film, there was Godard. Someone approached Pinggoy while his taxi is parked; someone is inviting him to get back to acting. The highway in that scene in “Pagdating sa Dulo” was sort of like this, or I was daydreaming.

vlcsnap-2016-08-07-10h47m13s144

 

Eddie Garcia, Direk Ruben, was meditative in many parts of the film. Arguably Bernal’s conception of film (how do you call “ars poetica” when applied to film?) – which was included in the documentary about him produced by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines – is encapsulated in these lines by Direk Ruben: “’pag ang pelikula ‘di nagpapakita ng totoo, ‘wag na lang magpelikula.” You stop caring about grammatical flawlessness when the point of the statement is pinching you in the ass.

In one scene with Ching, Direk Ruben was pointing out how film cheats us: it is filled with “retoke,” it is filled with “daya.” In a later scene, it became apparent that Ching has imbibed the point: getting wasted hours (or a night?) before the premiere showing of her and Pinggoy’s first starring role – entitled “Pagdating sa Dulo” as well – she pointed out to the person who was talking into her how what appears as walls onscreen are actually just paint.

But they were not speaking of a complete gulf separating the two – film and reality. They were speaking of exactly the opposite: how film and reality alter, distort, complement, enlarge each other.

I guess I am pushing too hard for this presence of Godard in Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo.” In “Band of Outsiders,” we see this about Franz as my favorite scene in the film unfolds:

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Can I speak finally of the terrifying other that castigates us, the other that haunts us and shatters our illusion of total separation, predicated on our idea of a unified and stable Self? Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” ends with the premiere night of Ching and Pinggoy’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” where they were startled by the legion of fans awaiting their arrival. The film ends with the frozen shot of both actors’ faces – visibly stupefied – at what they are seeing. What is spelled out in their faces is not exactly delight, and this is prompted by Jesa, but a horror that most likely surprises them as well.

The film has become reality, and reality has become a film?

In the end I see not Godard, but Truffaut, another cutie from the French New Wave movement. I see the final shot in 400 Blows, where a very meaningful confrontation is marked: a confrontation between the character and the turn of events in his filmic life, a confrontation between the character and the viewing audience.

We refuse the platitudinous: films are reality and reality is a film. We embrace the substantially violent: films inflict wounds on reality, reality births films – and as in all birthing, it is fraught with blood. Last Friday, Godard and Truffaut and Bernal killed one another and we too, Mahjeng, Jesa and I, and that is how we felt more alive afterwards.

 

 

[1] My filmmaker friends. It would be lovelier to tag them as close filmmakers, not closet filmmakers.

Friday 3some


The teapot fulcrumizes
The teapot fulcrumizes

But there are no eyes for each other

no eyes for each other

hi there pot

hi there pot

oh hello, nice to meet you

you wear really nice clothes

 

Hi Summer, thank you for being made as a film character
Hi Summer, thank you for being made as a film character

 

Hi,

Hi there miss,

I am a shy boy

So I will look at the dining table

Here’s my friend Mckenzie

The spokesperson of my self

 

Dancers, eating in a restaurant
Dancers, eating in a restaurant

This is what you do

after a minute of silence

In other words, after a minute of silence

You transfer your mouth to your feet

in a restaurant

Playing with films


Jesa (who is perhaps amusingly more of the film buff between us) and  I have been having this game which we play whenever we walk in places (we started doing it somewhere in Ayala Avenue, when we talked to a lawyer in preparation for her libel case, and in Marcos Highway. on our way home). The “rules” of the game are simple. We are going to give one-line descriptions of films that both of us have watched (not necessarily together) and the other person should guess the film that is being described.

It is fun and challenging because there is a need to be creative in thinking of descriptions that will be guessable but not to the point of being a giveaway. Also, on the part of the one who will guess the film, she should be thoughtful enough to recall all the prominent scenes, the objects acting as motif, the decisive lines and all other technical aspects of the film in order to give the correct answer. Here are some of the lines we have used during our last “contest:” Film might get offended by how we made words alter/extend its own language, but to me, there is some positive value in it. But anyway:

1. The nymph was cured by the water of the sea.

The answer: Nunal sa Tubig, directed by Ishmael Bernal (1976)

Image taken from: http://www.oocities.org/seapavaa/bulletin/av04/av406.htm
Image taken from: http://www.oocities.org/seapavaa/bulletin/av04/av406.htm

2. The hero was not reasonable.

The answer:

Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle (1996)

Trainspotting

3. I will go to your dimension and bring you a coffin.

The answer:

Dr. Plonk (2007), directed by Rolf de Heer

Dr Plonk

4. The eyes are penis.

The answer: Shame (2011), directed by Steve McQueen

(In the opening scenes, the protagonist, Brandon, was on a train and was “eyeing” a lady he finds sexually attractive. I cannot take a snapshot of this scene because the copy in available computers is all gone). But here: the movie poster:

Shame poster

5. I shall prove myself by making the moon tiny.

The answer: (this was sort of a giveaway) Despicable Me (2010), directed by Pierre Louis Padang Coffin and Chris Renaud.

Despicable Me

6. How about we go to the restaurant to say condolence?

The answer: Luis Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

A dinner was spoiled...
A dinner was spoiled…
...because of a death.
…because of a death.

The Third World Hero and the “Third World” “nation” (how Mike de Leon’s Bayaning Third World made Rizal, “Rizal”


Bayaning Third World

Watching Mike de Leon’s “Bayaning Third World” somehow reminds me of “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank.” The idea behind both movies seems to be parallel, although Bayaning Third World certainly has an extended envelope for its having a more serious concern. The shared idea is the filming of the (arduous) process of film-making. However, there is another slight but vital difference that must be cited. Whereas “Septic Tank” shows the actual process of doing a film – from meeting with prospective lead actors and shooting scenes – Bayaning Third World dwells on perhaps the more painstaking, if not excruciating process of conceptualizing a film. And with the latter opting to burden itself with the ‘heroism’ of Jose Rizal, it was able to make subtle comments not only on the process of filmmaking but also on the life and legacy of Rizal-the-National-Hero and how succeeding generations have come to grasp and shape their own idea of him.

Ricky Davao and Cris Villanueva cutely played the role of the two people working on the supposed film on Rizal.

Rizal,looked upon
Rizal,looked upon

Right at the onset, they were figuring things about the angle and focus of the film until they, perhaps inevitably, came to debate on certain issues surrounding Rizal’s highly storied life – from his involvement with Josephine Bracken to his alleged retraction of everything he has written in order to ‘return’ to the Church. In a suggestive mishmashing of temporal planes, the two filmmakers took turns in interviewing the people who know a lot of things about Rizal. They interviewed Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonso, his two sisters, Narcisa and Trining, Josephine Bracken and Father Balaguer. Each character provides a specific, if not expedient angle in understanding Rizal. Notably evident is the repulse of both Teodora Alonso and Trinign towards Josephine and Josephine’s lament on how she is usually construed as the disgrace to the National hero.  On his part, Father Balaguer’s account revolved principally on Rizal’s ‘retraction’ on night before he was shot at Bagumbayan.

Most telling though is the two filmmakers’ encounter with Rizal himself, played by Joel Torre. They tried to get it straight from the hero, tried to clarify the gray issues that can help them proceed on their movie with a clearer concept of Rizal. But Rizal only made it more problematic for them, refusing to shed any illumination. To the shock of both filmmakers’ Rizal lighted a cigarette and smoked, contrasting with the Rizal they have in mind. One of them also commented on Rizal’s shoddiness, as if he is not a hero. This is the point where Rizal vented his reasonable disappointment perhaps not only to the filmmakers but to the entire community hailing him as ‘their’ hero.

“Nabasa niyo na ang lahat ng naisulat at sinabi tungkol sa akin pero hanggang ngayon hindi niyo pa rin ako kilala.”

Because Rizal is already dead and the Rizal that we have now are the Rizals of popular media, of government-issued textbooks and varied ‘historical’ accounts?

Because the Rizal that we know is the Rizal who wrote El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere and our approach to both is limited only to interpretation and not full illumination?

The filmmakers would retort: Hindi mo na mababago ang itinakda ng tadhana! (I find this a bit ironic because at some points of the film, both filmmakers were hinting little admiration, if not respect for Rizal. The scene where the title was uttered involves Ricky Davao intentionally breaking a small Rizal sculpture in their room: marupok na bayani, Bayaning Third World…)

Joel-Torre-as-Rizal: Mababago pa ang itinakda ng tao!

This precisely prepares the somewhat unsurprising conclusion of the film: Kanya-kanyang Rizal. While those who tend to glorify Bonifacio more than Rizal will less likely see Rizal’s contributions than push for his supposed discouragement of the Katipunan revolution, there are those who will tend to see Rizal as the initiator of that same Revolution courtesy of his two novels. And definitely we cannot forget that the social institutions are mainly for Rizal. The Rizal subject mandated in every tertiary school is one good proof of this bias. So: kanya-kanyang Rizal, then so be it?

At the end, I refuse to see this conclusion as akin to the contemporary mold, certainly influenced by the post-structural and the postmodern, which begins to appear to me as more of a lazy resolution for the hypothetical things. Kanya-kanyang pagtingin na lang can always be argued to carry a particularly relativistic tone. How am I choosing to view how the Rizal ‘problem’ was tackled by this film by de Leon is by conferring much hope on its non-suggestion of a deadlock. A deadlock as if: okay, kanya-kanya na lang, tapos na. In other words, I want to look at the film as an intricate performance; I want to think that underlying it is the subtle intent to elicit further thinking. Both this performance and this elicitation to further thinking are necessary because ‘Rizal’ is an important part of our discourse. Rizal is an important part of our ‘national’ consciousness, of how we view ourselves as a Filipino, and of how we understand the past of our-country-the-Philippines. Or if we wish to stick with the post-structural notion of the ‘nation,’ we can always begin from it in order to debunk it. Because if the ‘nation’ is imagined, then all members of the community should be part of its imagination, of its construal and eventually its enactment. And if we want this ideal, then everyone should be welcomed, encouraged even, to partake in this ‘nation’-building, both in the more abstract and the practical sense.  It is after these overarching principle that I am choosing to view de Leon’s Bayaning Third World: Rizal is a discourse important to this nation, and so we must grapple with him as an idea, if only that can make us grapple as well with who we are as Filipinos and what has happened, is happening and should be happening to our country/nation that is called the Philippines.

Vital lapses of (magnificent) images in Samsara


It is tempting to adopt the view that what Samsara provides us a venue for the ‘oriental gaze’ (in a cute mishmash of Said and psychoanalytic approaches to cinema, especially Mulvey’s ‘feminist’ overtaking of the theoretical dishing in the said medium) to be launched against the supposedly ‘orientalizing’ viewers. Post-colonialists already said a great deal about this, from Orientalism where Said spoke of the West conjuring and valuing the East according to it images and against its own standards, and Homi Bhabha’s concepts of hybridity and mimicry that afford the Oriental the potential to unsettle the power relations established by the West.

Notwithstanding the pitfalls of the dominant voices in post-colonial theory, namely in Bhabha, its appropriation of abstracted psychoanalytical concepts and in general for everyone, the usually susceptible identification of a particular category (gender, class, race among others) as the root of inequality and oppression and hence must be the basis of any struggle, they cannot help but be mentally retrieved in thinking about the experimental film Samsara.

At first, and even though it does not overtly claim it, Samsara can remind us of “The Man with a Movie Camera,” another experimental film, albeit a very early one, that aims to construct a filmic language completely distinct from the language of theater of literature. I am yet to finish watching this latter, although what I infer from it, aside from the usual realist bent purported by most films, is its wish to exist without an overt narrative. There will be no dialogues and characters, as in novels or plays, only sounds and images (including people, which are different from ‘characters’). Samsara appears to be following this principle and it proved to be very clever and ingenuous both in selecting and capturing the images it showed in itself.

The first and last images speak of the communality that is certainly stronger in the East than in the West. The dancing rituals, among other special, if not charming (hopefully not to verge towards an exoticizing tone) manifestations of traditions and cultures of communities say something about the traits of the people in these communities.

Samsara Opening

Samsara Closing

Aside from the sense of communality and the synchronicity and interdependence it carries, there are also the intense concentration and assiduity manifested in the sand art the men were doing inside their temples shown in the early part of the film.

Sand Art

A powerfully troubling transition occurs from the shot of a black woman with hair covered with some leaf (a cultural practice, my girlfriend and I agreed), silently but grimly looking at the camera, to the shot of an Asian superhighway, presumably in Tokyo. This I read as the transition from the more cherished traditional to the contradictory global and eclectic. A very admirable shot from the ‘traditional’ phase of the film is the one that captures, mostly in medium shots and in low-angles, the passing of day and night in a land with nothing or no one in it aside from sculptures of human faces. Many other passing-of-day shots can be located in the first part of the film, and they serve to show the less spoiled places of habitation and the surrounding environment of the earlier, more traditional people: the beautiful and intricate creations of nature, the various rock shapes, the waterfalls overlooking thick forests, the cave-like formation of soils. All these wonderful pieces of nature rightfully precede the ‘gaze’ of the traditional man with some white sort of painting over his dark brown face and a big accessory strapped on his head. He (or she?) is then shown with two others, all of them wearing beaded accessories, all of them gravely looking at the viewer, via the camera. After them are curly-haired, bare-breasted, black women, rich in necklaces, having their way to gaze too. A few shots before the shift to the city were allotted to survey the villages of these ‘traditional’ people, their domiciles and their tools inside them. Then we were transported, hopefully not with a shock after all the perhaps disconcerting images from a ‘distant’ space, if not time, to the more familiar images of the city: the rapid cars moving and making the city twinkle from afar, the ‘robotic’ 8-5 workers among others. An interesting scene here is Mr. Coat and Tie putting off his eyeglasses before disfiguring himself hysterically. These words hardly give justice to the blunt unfolding of the sequence. The madness in the office is made evident.

Mr Coat and Tie

Rapidity comes again in the superhighway and then in gymnasiums and in golf courses and in amusement parks and the same story about the contemporary urban is made crisper here. The yakuzas of Japan, the countercultural emos and punks, the mostly delectable potential of interracial relationships – all these are shown I think as if to add vitality to the multitudinous in the city.

And then we get to my favorite part: the assembly line production of the everyday goods we put in our mouth, we stuff our bodies with: the chickens and cows and the fattened pigs and the microchips that we will purchase in the supermarkets and fastfoods in the form of oily hamburgers or ostentatious gadgets. Here, Lukacs could be smiling wryly, if not dejectedly, with his interpretations getting to live in the flesh: reification triumphs when in the process of our consumption, we are completely oblivious, if not unaware of the process of production which our consumed products underwent. In this production process, there are no people. There are only a mass of bodies with efficient hands and eyes and ears dressed in the same clothes, waiting for the others as they finish their task so they can do theirs. The product is the focus: the color of its cover, the fit of the screws and wires, the smoothness of its grip or the greatness of its size and the people who contribute in furnishing these products to everyday consumers are erased in the process. The disorienting gaze continues, Samsara seems to vow to slap us in the face not only with the images they show but more so, with these gazes from the very people who are part of these images. The Japanese geisha sheds a tear after the barrage of sex toys and the ‘real’ sex toys flood the screen.

Geisha Cries

The men and women in prison from the Philippines wearing the classic orange clothes are also shown looking at the camera deadpan, perhaps taunting and contending with the viewer, largely succeeding in refusing any taming, any interpretation, any judgment. To me, this is where Samsara is strongest, when the people in it disrespect the camera, when they annihilate, and ironically in a very quiet and peaceful manner, the illusion of a separation between ‘looking subject’ and ‘object-looked-at’ made by the camera. When the people in the ‘scenes’ are suddenly elevated from the screen in order to look at the viewer, not only to accomplish a Brechtian alienation effect that should disturb the assumed, lulled audience, but more terribly, following Zizek, to imply that these images are not “just strips of film, hence, not real;” but exactly the opposite: these images are real, they are not just part of a film. These are not just a screen away from the audience; they are all living in the same place as the audience.

After all these haunting, Samsara returned to our view the female dancers wearing complexly ornate and I assume, delicately made clothes. They then did their dance, or ritual, again showing synchronicity and harmony without an apparent effort. This scene made me feel awfully shameful of myself and my culture and the dominant culture of most people. We always mourn the consumerist culture and all its individualist, alienating, profiteering adjuncts and when we see something like this dance, this magnanimous display of sheer collective harmony harnessed in a tradition protected and developed over generations, the sickening feeling of being mired in the present, dominant culture only gets more puncturing.

The film ended with a tracking shot of a desert which I assume to be somewhere in Asia too and I try to refrain myself from reading this as the filmmakers’ discreet call for a return to nature, a supposedly more pristine, less corrupted nature.

Finale

Aside from being a passé one, it misses the entire complexity of existing social and economic conditions that underline everything the film showed. Indeed, images can barely speak, they can barely ramble an exposition; they can only show themselves. This is what I see as one of the major backlogs of the kind of film envisioned and already actualized by The Man with a Movie Camera and Samsara. Images, after all human intervention in the process of selection, editing and all that, when they are flashed in the screen, must not signal the end of the enterprise. These images must speak more explicitly. This is where narrative obviously helps. This is where actual characters, with their implied active human consciousnesses can help a lot. It is through these characters that the audience can be illuminated more and the situations depicted in the film shown to be alterable. This is the biggest loss in Samsara, after all its magnificent, wide array of shots and their various, significant implications, a loss that concerns what I believe should be the primary aims of cinema: an exposition of relevant social truths and the human agency that must continually come before and after these truths.

Intersections of complex human relationships in Jorge Coira’s 18 Comidas


William Whit (1995) made the point about the meanings we can trace in our activities involving food. He argues that specific food habits can have specific significations. For instance, eating food together can manifest solidarity while a more rigorous manner of preparing the food can suggest greater intimacy.

In Jorge Coira’s 18 Comidas, we can see these implications in the various meals that were presented to us. Sol prepared a meal for Edu, the street musician, and they had lunch together in order for her to tell him that she has been dreaming “dirty” dreams about him lately. Victor prepared a meal for his brother Juan, and he invited him to his flat which he shared with his lover, Sergio. The actor, Vladimir, prepared a breakfast, and eventually another meal for Laura only for him to be disappointed. In these instances, we can see how meal preparations can and actually become a springboard for meaningful interactions; or in Vladimir’s case, how the absence of such interaction can lead to vital realizations. Sol and Edu “flirted” with each other while the former’s husband was at work and we can assume at the third part of the film, when Sol talked to her husband after the dinner, how meeting Edu had made her arrive to the decision to leave her husband. In the meal shared by Victor and Sergio with Juan and Ana, the waitress he just met and flirted with, we saw a “coming out,” albeit not an explicit one, and how this expectedly led to a confrontation marked by fits of emotion only to be resolved with an embrace shared by the brothers (hermanos) and an admittedly heart-warming vocal expression of Sergio of his commitment to Victor, as if he was his brother.

One of the more heart-warming homosexual film couple i have seen
One of the more heart-warming homosexual film couples i have seen

In both the meals shared by Edu and Sol and Victor, Juan and their partners, we can see how the rigor of preparing a meal implies the gravity of purpose in having a meal together or the intimacy between the people sharing the meal. I believe Sol did not invite Edu merely to tell him of her dreams. This is rooted more deeply in her growing sadness which is mainly caused by her marital relation, and which I believe she thought seeing Edu can alleviate.

Tension-filled borrow time
Tension-filled borrow time

Another recurring element in the meals in the film which I think speaks more of the Spanish culture is the wine that is present at almost every dining table. Vladimir prepared one bottle supposedly to he shared by Laura and him. Sol and Edu had one too. Even the old couple who shared a meal silently by themselves in their house and passed on pancakes to each other also had a bottle of wine. The close shots, which I observe to be very prominent all throughout the film, strike the most for me in the sequences of the old couple. I believe that more than dialogues could have, these shots have communicated more intensely the intimacy between the old couple. This kind of shot also seems the most apt in rendering supposedly revealing, if not emotional scenes occurring in the typical and ordinary domain of the dining table where people share meals with one another. The indecision is very visible when we are closely directed by the camera to the face of Sol and then of Edu while they were appraising the look thrown by the other. Vladimir’s dejection was also obvious when Laura confirmed in the phone that she could not make it to his place and have a meal with him.

In all, Coira’s 18 Comidas is an invigorating take of cinema in exposing the possibly multiple layers that can be found in the act of dining that we engage ourselves to every day. Taking in “everyday” kind of people as its characters, the film does well in depicting the tensions of everyday and the different attitudes people take in relation to them and at the end, the decisions they make and how these can lead either to relief, a sense of triumph or an insight on one’s relation to others and the world.

Someone might decide to take time away from her husband, or decide to stand firm beside someone who just saw a father having a heart attack, or confirm the rightness of their choice on whom to spend their life with no matter what others think, or give up hopes on a girlfriend arriving for a shared meal and join friends instead on a birthday party – any of these decisions and actions can ensue from a simple meal.

The poetry in normally casual meals
The poetry in normally casual meals

Reference:

Whit, William. 1995. Food and social order. In Food and society: a sociological approach.

            Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.