926 Manila in the Claws of Light

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Bloodthirsty Butcher
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926 Manila in the Claws of Light

#1 Post by swo17 » Thu Mar 15, 2018 3:08 pm

Manila in the Claws of Light

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Lino Brocka broke through to international acclaim with this candid portrait of 1970s Manila, the second film in the director's turn to more serious-minded filmmaking after building a career on mainstream films he described as "soaps." A young fisherman from a provincial village arrives in the capital on a quest to track down his girlfriend, who was lured there with the promise of work and hasn't been heard from since. In the meantime, he takes a low-wage job at a construction site and witnesses life on the streets, where death strikes without warning, corruption and exploitation are commonplace, and protests hint at escalating civil unrest. Mixing visceral, documentary-like realism with the narrative focus of Hollywood noir and melodrama, Manila in the Claws of Light is a howl of anguish from one of the most celebrated figures in Philippine cinema.


• New 4K digital restoration by the Film Development Council of the Philippines and Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata, in association with The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project, LVN, Cinema Artists Philippines, and cinematographer Mike De Leon, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Introduction by filmmaker Martin Scorsese
Signed: Lino Brocka, a 1987 documentary about the director by Christian Blackwood
"Manila" . . . A Filipino Film, a 1975 documentary about the making of the film, featuring Brocka and actors Hilda Koronel and Rafael Roco Jr.
• New piece with critic, filmmaker, and festival programmer Tony Rayns
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar José B. Capino

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 926 Manila in the Claws of Light

#2 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Sep 09, 2018 1:00 pm

An important film -- and beautifully restored (no resemblance visually to the devastated sources of other Philippine films of that era I've seen). However, I can't say I enjoyed watching this (almost unrelenting) grim and downbeat film. (I felt much the same about the equally famed Insiang, as well). I am glad Lino Brocka is getting attention -- but must say I much prefer the (more poetic?) work I've seen by his great contemporary Ishmael Bernal. Not sure why no restorations of Bernal's work are readily available (maybe sources are just too damaged).

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Re: 926 Manila in the Claws of Light

#3 Post by knives » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:59 pm

Wow, I never thought I'd seen a Brocka film look like this. The restoration work gives this an entirely different feeling and expression than the run down old copies I've seen. Contrary, though perhaps not ultimately, to Michael above I feel this cleaner look gives a more poetic sensibility to the film than I've seen elsewhere where he tries to ingrain his unique Homo-Catholic sensibility to the more realist 'third world' style that was in vogue for decades after Satyajit Ray. In fact this is rather the inverse of something like A Plea to God which is wrapped in metaphor and fantasy and yet is delivered as if it were Shoeshine. Here we get an actual Shoeshine type plot (though really it is closer as a story to something like Baran), but it is told with a wry camera that gives the impression that we've scaled into a foreign world not unlike Pedro Costa's work though without Costa's sense of exploitation.

Often the camera glides along in shot that would work in Soy Cuba (I'm name dropping like a mad man, I know, but how else can I get people to see this wonderful film that so few are talking about) for a curious exploration of a people it once was. It is as if Brocka is filming with nostalgia, but without sentimentality attached to it. The film appreciates this world, but is glad to be an outside observer (though that might also be me applying my own emotions with the film onto it). He also knows when to work quickly with editing hinting at a different sort of nostalgia. Now the quick cuts and other flashback techniques aren't uniquely used, but as a way to contrast with the memory of the present it is a brilliant mood and sets this up as a story of contrasts even as it is completely insular to the lead's mind.

This is also where the film gets a sort of determination for life from. It could be this miserable little thing, but it is often quite funny and interested in incidental details that give an optimism for humanity even as they often end in death (I'm thinking here of a certain musical number early on). These moments are probably necessary to explain the lead's own motivation which often he seems to realize is quixotic to the point of forcing him to be a Kafka protagonist.

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