October 23, 2008

Tokyo International Film Festival, Day Three: Can't Win 'em All

There is no better feeling than walking into the theater, sitting down to watch a film you know absolutely nothing of apart from the title, and being blown away, either slowly or instantly, by what is unfolding on the screen in front of you. I still remember my favorite from last year, Sztuczki (Tricks), and hope year, Andrezj Jakimowski's that one day it is released in Japan. Meanwhile, Sergey Dvortsevoy's Tulpan, set in Khazkhastan, is my favorite so far at this year's festival.
General logic goes that if you watch films with no particular screening process, sooner or later you'll end up with a dud, the kind that drains you and puts you off movies for a little while. Watching the Filipino film Kurap (Blink) was, unfortunately, one of those experiences. Directed by Ronaldo M. Bertubin, the film follows Ambet, a young man who lives in an abandoned building with his sister, a little girl whose eyesight is rapidly deteriorating. Barely scraping by as a small-time crook, he encounters a journalist who offers him money in exchange for information on the black market.

What is most frustrating about Blink is that it is clearly a missed opportunity. The film's setup, of squatters in Manila, is intriguing, but it is served by none of the other elements in the film. Characterization is rudimentary, relying on us to use our knowledge of stereotypes (man with cute kid sister=golden, journalist=rich and soulless) to get us through the film. Blink strains to be cool, with the clunky nu-metal that kicks in from time to time, the montage shots of the city that add up to nothing, and the gratuitous gay and straight sex scenes in soft focus. They only end up making the undeniably low-budget film seem amateurish and dispensable. 

Walking grimly out of the theater, I felt the need to clear (erase?) my mind. Luckily, I had free admission to the Tokyo City View tour, which allows visitors to take the elevator to the 52nd floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. Five minutes later, I was 250 meters above sea level, staring out at the night view of the city. Surprisingly, apart from Tokyo Tower, the landmarks of Tokyo were not particularly easy to spot. In their safe distance, they simply twinkled prettily, like the constellations seen in reverse. I marveled briefly at the sight--and then got the heck down, too worried about an earthquake occurring then and there to enjoy it fully.

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