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11 April 2014

"One Bang Only!" (Film Review for "Bang Bang Alley")

King Palisoc's "Makina."
The best of the three. 

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When some of our resident critics ask ordinary moviegoers about their perceptions of independent films, most of our respondents mention the following things: shaky camera work, saturated or dull colors, gay life, and profound stories (“may lalim” to be precise in Filipino) or very pretentious in trying to be profound.  Therefore, some of the people that I personally interviewed have this aversion towards independent movies despite my constant urging that a great number of outstanding independent films were made just in 2013. Still, these ordinary moviegoers would rather spend their money in watching mainstream flicks like the recent “Starting Over” or “Diary ng Panget.” These two films do not pretend to be artsy, and despite the insulting assault of these two films on the collective Filipino intellect, some moviegoers still feel that they get their money’s worth.

That is the reason that we critics always welcome the new. In the hope that the new breed of film directors will be able entice young generations of moviegoers to change their viewing habits.  In the words of the fictional critic Anton Ego, “the new needs friends.”

“New” is a word that we can describe the three directors of the three-part movie anthology “Bang Bang Alley,” a “film noir-ish” film produced by former Eraserheads’ front man Ely Buendia. Unfortunately, the adjective “new” only goes far as describing the three directors as “first timers.” However, in terms of style, storytelling and that elusive “originality” factor, the three short stories of “Bang Bang Alley” look more dated and imitative than new-fangled. “Bang Bang Alley” takes inspiration from early Quentin Tarantino, Nicholas Winding Refn and Park Chan-wook. That being said, first time directors Ely Buendia, Yan Yuzon and King Palisoc showed promise and they still have a long career ahead of them. Only time will tell if they will succumb to the pull of mainstream cinematic style and commerce, which we cannot blame them if they do. After all, they need to work, and as one filmmaker once told me, “pera pera lang iyan, huwag nang magseryoso sa prestige.”

Story 1: "Aso't Pusa't Daga" (2/5).
Story 2: "Makina" (3/5)
Story 3: "Pusakal" (2/5)
Of the three stories, King Palisoc’s “Makina” stood out. The second story is more coherent, logical, confidently directed, and generally well acted with a good ensemble cast lead by Gabe Mercado and Althea Vega.  The unnecessary shaky camerawork and weird angles are absent and Palisoc focused more on his characters and his narrative.  Unlike the two stories, the cinematography actually enriches the film, and the editing was better than the other two stories. With all the elements working relatively well together, Palisoc’s story is more interesting and the audience’s viewing experience will potentially be more complete. In the end, we can understand the motivations of Palisoc's characters. Kudos for Gabe Mercado for giving the best performance in the entire film. 

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