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Poll

What's your favorite film by Lav Diaz?

Haven't seen any
3 (75%)
Don't like any
1 (25%)
The Criminal of Barrio Concepcion
0 (0%)
Naked Under the Moon
0 (0%)
Burger Boy's
0 (0%)
West Side Avenue
0 (0%)
Hesus, rebolusyunaryo
0 (0%)
Evolution of a Filipino Family
0 (0%)
Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess)
0 (0%)
Death in the Land of Encantos
0 (0%)
Melancholia
0 (0%)
Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution
0 (0%)
Century of Birthing
0 (0%)
Florentina Hubaldo, CTE
0 (0%)
An Investigation of the Night That Won't Forget
0 (0%)
Norte, the End of History
0 (0%)
Venice 70: Future Reloaded
0 (0%)
From What Is Before
0 (0%)
Storm Children: Book One
0 (0%)
A Lullaby to a Sorrowful Mystery
0 (0%)
The Woman Who Left
0 (0%)
Season of the Devil
0 (0%)
The Halt
0 (0%)
Genus Pan
0 (0%)
Historya ni Ha
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 4

Author Topic: Diaz, Lav  (Read 538 times)

Eric/E.T.

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Diaz, Lav
« on: March 07, 2022, 02:20:59 AM »
I'm about to go on a run of Diaz films, so I thought it'd be appropriate to also get a Director thread/poll going. I'll vote once I've seen my fill.

Only seen Evolution of a Filipino Family, and despite time constraints making me stretch it over a four day/four sitting period, I absolutely got lost in it every time I sat down. Love it.

My own ranked list, updated as I see more films:
  • Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004)
  • The Halt (2019)
  • Heremias: Book One - The Legend of the Lizard Princess (2006)
« Last Edit: March 20, 2022, 01:55:15 AM by Eric/E.T. »
A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire

Eric/E.T.

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Re: Diaz, Lav
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2022, 07:55:40 PM »
First, wanted to bring what I wrote about my first Lav Diaz film here, then go on to one of his more recent, The Halt.

Evolution of a Filipino Family
I like the experience of having a lot thrown at you to the point you have to surrender to the vision and just get lost in cinema. I've probably repeated this a few times here, but I love that kind of viewing, so I'll probably repeat it many more times. Lav Diaz utilizes long, lingering shots to accustom you to the pace of life of a family of peasant farmworkers in the Philippines from 1971-1987. The influence of Italian Neo-realism is fairly apparent in terms of subject and blunt reality, but Diaz stretches these shots and allows you to linger in this world, often windy, always textured and tactile, to slow your brain down, less to engage than to mesmerize. A viewer has really two options: Find the rhythm or throw in the towel. Personally, I was locked in. The reality of time in my own personal life limited this to 2-3-hour sittings for this one, but on a vacation, I'd probably split it into two days (though it's really hard to know where to pause this thing). The tempo of the film is occasionally disrupted by archival footage from the struggle against the Filipino dictator of the time, Ferdinand Marcos. This struggle hangs over the main storylines of the core family members like smog hangs over L.A. Hinting at a truth that common people don't pay much attention to politics, but instead often prefer hard work, family, and hard-won diversion over weightier issues (which is not restricted to the working class, but rather describes everyone; it's just that this film is about common people), is shown with the extensive exhibition of radio dramas that captivate the main players. You don't just sit there with them as they listen to the drama. Diaz actually shows you these dramas in production, and then smartly cuts from the studio to the family sitting around the radio at just the perfect time. He does the same with a documentary on a Filipino director of the time who stirred controversy by having his films shown in film festivals abroad while refusing to participate in Marcos' sham of a festival*, cutting from it to an image of a key figure in the drama on the verge of making a terrible mistake. Not spectacular diversion, and his roommate at the time sort of laughs at him for checking it out. You'd think Diaz did this more for the edification of the viewer than the actual character, needlessly drawing our attention from the main drama, but the overall animating force of this film is not just to show the evolution of a Filipino family, but also document the horrors that the Filipino people faced during the time period, and juxtaposing the struggle for freedom with the struggle to survive. It can be heady, but still the primary action, so to speak, is with the family and their changes over an extensive period of time. You really do see the kids grow up, as this film was shot over nine years, and it's most fascinating. To keep it simple, Evolution of a Filipino Family stirred both my head and heart, and provided an extensive and in-depth film-viewing experience that was worth the 10 hour, 25 minute runtime, and probably more.

Also, should just note, Lav Diaz doesn't just make this kind of epically, historically long film, though he certainly makes a lot of them. Diaz currently available on MUBI:
An Investigation on the Night That Won't Forget - 70 minutes
Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution - 80 minutes
Storm Children, Book One - 143 minutes
Norte: The End of History - 250 minutes
The Halt - 283 minutes
From What Is Before - 339 minutes
Century of Burning - 359 minutes
Florentina Hubaldo, CTE - 367 minutes
Melancholia - 447 minutes
Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess) - 519 minutes
Evolution of a Filipino Family - 625 minutes

There is no argument I would make, though, in trying to get someone to check out Evolution of a Filipino Family. It's a time and attention commitment, and on top of that, it's rather experimental. I mean, the blips and pops in the sound at the beginning of the film, and occasionally throughout, would probably cause a number of people to abort an attempt to view this film within the first five minutes. I think they signify a break in reality, and challenge you to consider the truth of the reality we take for granted, but who knows. Yet, this is a work of passion and skill that more than a handful of people will seek out and appreciate, myself included; and just for that, I'm grateful for its existence.

*This is one of the moments where I brace myself for someone to tell me that's actually Lav Diaz in a fake documentary or something. There actually is a brief explanation on the screen that it's from a documentary made in the past, but even that could be fabricated. I'm aware that I'm drawn to films that play with your sense of reality in such ways.


The Halt
This is fast cinema for Diaz. After watching Evolution of a Filipino Family, this film, at 283 minutes, feels economical. There are no super long shots of people appearing from far down a road, coming toward you, no man crawling to his death for 10-15 minutes. It's still a slowly unfolding, slowly percolating political/military drama that brings together the practical concerns of regular people and the detached reality of a dictator and his inner-circle with some thematic crossover to his earlier work.

The premise is that we're in 2030's Philippines, and a strongman dictator rules over the country with a iron fist after a massive volcanic eruption has left this region without sunlight. This is accompanied by "The Dark Killer", which is a deadly flu epidemic, an element which has some calling this film "prophetic", which I'll get into at the end. Diaz creates this world with a lot of darkness, drones, and huge posters of the fictional President Navarra draped all over the town. There are many frames worth a screen capture, where the human subject takes half of the screen, and the drone occupies the space of the other. Psychologically terrifying and compositionally minimalist. We get to spend substantial time with many figures, but most important of them all is the teacher-turned-call girl Haminilda "Hammy" Rios, who is the soul of this film. She is the regular person thrown into upheaval with the loss of sunlight and the mass quantities of deaths due to the flu epidemic. We see her battered, we see her attempt to make peace with the world around her, we see her crave for and drink fresh blood. While she's central to our understanding of the world, two of the president's most ruthless, murderous special forces operatives Martha Officio and Marissa Ventura offer a nice foil to Hammy, while the revolutionary Hook Torollo provides us a look from within the resistance. We also spend plenty of time having the frailties of President Navarra exposed.

It's a good film, but I don't think it's going to be among my favorite works from Diaz. The final scene/sequence elevates it for sure, as he gets back to a slower, more backdoor path to truth than the majority of the film, which is a deal more upfront. Even though he does a nice job of building his world and maximizing his resources, I didn't get the impression I had lived here as much as with Evolution (which, granted, is 5 1/2 hours or so longer). We get enough time to really see the plot unfold and to live with these crucial characters, but the camera doesn't linger enough to create the mesmerizing effect that contributes to what makes Evolution so great. None of this is to say the film is exactly accessible, but there is a lot more dialogue and shorter takes than Evolution, so it could be that I find it a somewhat OK entry point for the neophyte. Yet, I remain the neophyte myself, so I'm still weighing options on which Diaz to view next. Got to get one more in before break is over, one of his longer films for Saturday and Sunday.
A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire

Eric/E.T.

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Re: Diaz, Lav
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2022, 02:15:55 AM »
Heremias: Book One - The Legend of the Lizard Princess
I set my weekend up quite simply: Friday - Suns; Saturday - Heremias; Sunday - Zazen in-person + Tales of Arise. And so today, I did the Heremias thing, and continue to feel as if spending time lost in a Lav Diaz slow epic is among the highest quality things I can do on an off-day.

Similarly to Evolution of a Filipino Family, there are a lot of shots of roads, and the people we are following are always the ones who move slowest. They are the peasant farmers, the traveling merchants, and commerce in their small and remote communities works at their pace. Diaz takes the necessary, painstaking measures to ensure that you are attuned to the rhythm and way of these people's lives before providing anything in the way of story. I find the combination of gradual movement and ambient noise, often accompanied by wind or rain, to greatly contribute to that mesmerizing quality many attribute to Diaz's filmmaking. Just the time it takes for us to meet Heremias's clan, have him take a turn down an unfamiliar road (literally), and then get to the first event that would truly push a narrative out of this meditation is about 3.5 hours. There's no sense in watching this for action or a conclusion that satisfies the need for closure. And there is a Book Two that's much shorter and much more difficult to get at, though who knows if it will have anything to do with the narratives here. However, if you can focus on Heremias, his fall from a more sheltered existence into the harsh realities of a Filipino society and person in turmoil, it plays a bit like a neo-noir/Au Hasard Balthazar hybrid. A few crime film motifs and a study on the senseless cruelty of the world are elements a person could latch onto, but then they'd have to be willing to spend hours just watching people travel.

Thus, as with Evolution of a Filipino Family, I have no one to whom I'd recommend this film. I'd recommend Evolution way before Heremias, as its multiple storylines, clever use of archival footage, and being able to see the family grow over time right before our eyes possesses so much beauty, even in the ugliness that surrounds. Heremias is far slower, focuses on one man who seems moved in a religious way down another path, away from his predictable life, and outside of this character and a corrupt police officer much later on, we get to know essentially no one else. I enjoyed it quite a bit, feel like it was a day well-spent, and am looking forward to next week's pairing, Melancholia and Century of Birthing.
A witty saying proves nothing. - Voltaire

 

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