Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Fantasia Daily, 2012.21 (8 August 2012): The Woman in the Septic Tank

I didn't necessarily mean to make my last day at Fantasia a short one, movie-wise; the last couple of days just tend to be tacked on late in the process and filled with repeat showings - in fact, the schedule for those last couple of days were often filled with TBAs in previous years. Another time, things got shuffled because a guest's travel plans changed quickly just before the schedule was finalized . This year, there were actually a few movies I was interested in seeing during the last days - Inseparable, Sleep Tight, and Septic Tank, so I was glad I'd added at least one day to the schedule originally announced. Some of the other stuff playinig today is stuff I'd already seen, so it wasn't too disappointing to miss the last day.

So, what did I do instead?

Official Stewart Museum cosplayers: Soldiers at the Stewart Museum prepare to fire upon the La Ronde amusement park.

I thought this might be a good time to hit the Stewart Museum, which I'd visited a few years ago and found really nifty. Luckily, I opted to do it today rather than yesterday (they're closed Monday and Tuesday) or in the last couple of years (they were closed for renovations for quite some time). A lot of work still seems to be going on; areas that were open the last time I went are locked up tight. I figured that there might be a lot of War of 1812 stuff for the 200th anniversery, considering how much they had last time I was there. Maybe they're saving it for a couple years from now, to celebrate the bicentennial of Canada's supposed victory.

(Seriously, I love comparing how the War of 1812 is taught on various sides of the border. For this New Englander, it was a second war of independence to stop the British from blocking American trade and impressing American sailors into the Royal Navy; in Canada, America was harboring British deserters, invaded their territory, but the provincial militias turned the American Army back, marched south, burned Washington, DC, and America hasn't screwed with them again.)

Anyway, I took that picture because I thought it looked like the guys who shoot a cannon off every few hours were sick of the noise coming from the "La Ronde" amusement park next door and decided to do something about it.

Anyway, after walking around Parc Drapeau for a while, I went back Concordia-way to have a burger and see my last movie of the festival, and a guy at the next table took issue to me scribbling in the notebook I carry around that is full of notes from screenings and half-finished movie reviews. He was taking issue with a lot of things, but his friend came over to ask if I was writing about him. Especially weird because it was the second time during the festival that it had happened; some girls had done the same at Smoke's Poutinerie about a week before.

Is this a thing people get nervous about? I mean, I can't remember anyone ever asking me to stop fiddling with my phone (which has a freakin' camera) or asking someone at the next table to put their iPad away, but a 4-inch-square notebook is threatening? Weird.

So, that happened, I saw my movie, spent what was left of my Canadian currency at Paris Crepes on St. Catherine (and getting some snacks for the ride home), and then got back to the apartment to pack and rush to the bus station. Fun fact: It's now a much longer run from the Berri-UQAM metro stop to the gare des autocars, with a segment where you have to go up and then down, which is awesome if you're dragging a wheeled suitcase. Made it just in time... And then the bus left 25 minutes late and got stuck in traffic. I thought I got lucky when the guy in the seat next to me got off at the Burlington, VT airport, but I got a new seatmate who really did not have the instinctive recognition that the middle armrest was where my personal space began, especially when sleeping. It was a fun ride.

Anyway, last day of Fantasia up north. My plans? Well, I got a screener for Sleep Tight, so I'm tempted to cue that up at 7:30pm in sync with the folks in Montreal, but I will probably crash/watch my first baseball in three weeks.

Ang babae sa septic tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 8 August 2012 in Concordia University Cinema de Seve (Fantasia 2012 Spotlight: Filipino Film, HD)

I see what you did, Fantasia Festival programmers, scheduling a series of FIlipino films that wallow in the poverty of the slums and then finishing it with a movie that takes the piss out of the rest. Or, alternately, scheduling the parody for one of the "extra" days after the closing film when many festival-goers have returned home. Either way, it would have been even more clever if The Woman in the Septic Tank was as consistently sharp in its satire as it is in its best moments.

In a dirt-poor Manila slum, Mila prepares dinner for her seven children from one package of instant ramen, bathes the oldest, dresses her in a nice dress, and delivers her to an elderly caucasian man. That, at least, is the movie that young Filipino writer/director Rainier (Kean Cipriano) wants to make - Walang-wala ("With Nothing"). Producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman) and production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) are equally enthusiastic. It's everything that the foreign film festivals that love the likes of Brillante Mendoza go for, and they've got a meeting with one of the country's biggest stars, Eugene Domingo, for the part of Mila.

The main gag here, of course, is that the filmmakers are middle-class, running through script sequences on their iPads while driving to Starbucks in their late-model car and then complaining about the wi-fi. They've got far more in common with the foreigners who are their true target audience than with the destitute people that they would cynically offer up for their audience's pity. And it's a good gag, especially when writer Chris Martinez and and director Marlon N. Rivera are really on their game. They open the movie with narration describing whats happening on-screen with "Sequence 34", which while being how a script reads also highlights just how generic and codified this stuff has become, while the camerawork is subtly obsessive, needing to capture every repeated detail of hardship.

Full review at EFC.

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