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“Love-him-or-hate-him director” Brillante Mendoza´s “Kinatay” (Massacre) in Cannes

May 18, 2009

Artist´s rendition of Brillante Mendoza(from Hollywood Reporter)

The news agency AFP, in their feature on the Cannes Film Festival, already calls him the “controversial love-him-or-hate-him director”: Brillante Mendoza’s is back in Cannes with ‘Kinatay’ (‘Massacre’) as a contender for the Golden Palm. It is safe to assume that the film does not stand a chance at winning that award. But to have three films in consecutive years in the festival, and two of them as candiates for the Golden Palm, is quite a feat for a director from the Philippines – not even Lino Brocka mangaged to accomplish that! (Or anybody else, for that matter…)

The film is about corrupt cops hacking a prostitute to pieces with blunt kitchen knives. (The prostitute is played by former Bomba (Tagalog for: softporn) star Maria Isabel Lopez, who is internationally best known for appearing in various states of undress in skin flicks like Elwood Perez´ Silip or Bobby Suarez´German co-production Manila Rose. )

As those, who know the post-dramatic films by Brillante Mendoza know, this is basically it. (Watch some particularily uneventful excerpts from the film here.) His latest films – like Serbis or Tirador – don´t have any plot or character development in the traditional sense, they have no climax or message, the characters have not redeeming qualities whatsover, and the movie completly focus on unfolding events as they, well, unfold. This might makes Kitayna look like an attempt at making dull torture porn. In any case, that narrative strategy enrages critics like Rogert Ebert, who likes his films like they have always been structured, and who mistakenly accuses Mendoza of over-intellectualization and persuing some mislead Grand Idea (nothing could be further from the truth). His complaints are actually a good analysis of the film:  “No drama is developed. No story purpose is revealed.” Well, that is just a point of the film…

Other reviewers seem confused as well. But Mendozas has no inhibitions whatsover in dwelling on the extermely unpleasant and sordid, and that has its own fascination. Read the reviews at Variety, Screen (that speculates that this film will end up in the “indie shocker niche occupied by Irreversible or Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer“), A.V. Club, and the Huffington Post, but be warned that after reading these reviews you might feel like you have already watched the movie.

See the team beaming on the red carpet, the terno (the traditional dress of the Filipina, made internationally famous by Imelda Marcos) of Mercedes Cabral and the press conference at the official Cannes website.

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