Monday, May 13

Hello. I just want all of you to know that I am still alive. (That goes to you too, Mark.)It's just that work has been taking out a huge chunk of my waking hours right now. Wah. The only semblance of a day off I had was last Friday, when I dropped by U.P. to meet up with some friends. Astrid and Butch have turned into fitness buffs. Since I am a lazy girl and I had no energy then, I had this blank stare while they huffed all over them exercise mats and them exercise machines. I must have had that blank stare too long, and didn't realize I was staring at the guy who was doing his crunches right across from me. Duh. What was he thinking?

Anyhow, we all had lunch at Rodic's, and I really dig their tapsilog (with itlog, hehe). Yum, shredded cow meat. Then they were off to swim at the Ateneo, but I didn't go because I promised my friend Marge we'd go walking.But she had errands to do first and was late by a good hour and a half. I ended up hanging out at the Booksale stall at the Shopping Center.

There was this article in Gear magazine about how Amores Perros is the start of the Latino revolution. There is all this hype about how being Latino/Hispanic is the new black. It's a new thing because brown is not exactly a race or a color the way we used to categorize the world into black/white, self/the other, first world/third world dichotomies. Latino is not based on raced but a shared language and culture. Remember how Ricky Martin exploded on the scene with his World Cup song two years ago, and then suddenly everyone thinks that being Latino is sexy, and you got Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera trying to squeeze everything they could of the nano-iota of Hispanic ethnicity into their mass-produced pop? There you go, it's cool to be brown now.

The Gear mag article by Chilean novelist Alberto Fuguet discussed this perceived new coolness in being Latino. Mexico City is the new destination for those who want to be cool, and Amores Perros was a contributing factor to all of that. If Soderbergh's Traffic showed Mexico City as the border, middle ground place full of thugs and drug deals but rendered in blue (or was it yellow?), thus giving it a feeling of un-reality. Traffic's Mexico City was violent, and it doesn't entice you to go there but otherwise. It's like being included in the world's ten most dangerous places list. You may lose an important appendage if you do something wrong.

But Alejandro Gonzalez IƱarritu changed all that. He showed us a De-Efe (Distrito Federal) that pulses with music blaring from custom made cars and jeeps, and the streets can lead you to alleys where dogs are at each other's jugulars, and their owners can slash your intestines out with a fan knife. The streets are fetid and dirty, the smell of the decay from the sewers practically cling to your clothes. Mexico City by way of Amores Perros feels like Manila (Tondo, Sta Cruz, pick your own slum area) or any other crowded urban megalopolis from the third world. When they scream curse words at each other ("Hijo de puta, Octavio!") you can feel your gut retch because you understand. The people there are so undeniably jologs, their behavior so kanto they might as well be playing something by Salbakuta on the soundtrack.

Amores Perros was IƱarritu's first feature film. Before that, he was a disc jock who got a reputation because he only played English-language tunes in his radio show. Then he directed commercials that became very popular (like David Fincher?), and was your regular in-your-face cool guy that everyone below thirty knew his name and all his credentials. Then he decided that he wanted to make films. He wanted to capture Mexico City's breathing, pulsing life force, and he thought that he could only do that by telling stories about people you can recognize while walking down your street.

Amores Perros owes a lot of its style and structure to Western influences. It's like Go! and Pulp Fiction, but grainier, bloodier, and certainly more Mexican than anything that Tarantino can put his hands on. Innaritu says he wants narrative to drive the film, not just the style, or music or the frenetic camera work. Style is nothing without story, and in our day and age, narrative is plural. One incident can spark a lot of reactions from all the people involved. Thus he says, it makes sense that we tell three stories at once. Simultaneously. That is the new three-act, he says.

"What have you done?" was the film's first line. It places you right in the middle of the action, with the tone so accusatory and laden with blood and really, there literally was a lot of blood in the back seat of the car. A bleeding dog, a car crash, a chase scene. From there you have three stories going all at once, in different places of the city, one single incident related in a complex web of people cutting across all the social strata.

I really liked the very brashness and the aggressiveness with which it tells its stories. It's like watching a fatal car crash. The scene grabs your guts, and makes you want to look away but you can't. It's just too fascinating. When you watch a piece of cinema like Amores Perros, it makes you want to go out there and make your own movie. And I just wish that we can see more films like these more often. And when I say "more of these," I'm not talking about making a movie "inspired by" Amores Perros, and just basically transplanting the plot and the characters from De-Efe to say, Tondo. That's copying in the iconic level. That's what pisses me off about our Pinoy movies, even (and especially the ones) trying to pass themselves off as art films. Bah. You might as well xerox the film and dub it into Tagalog, to save money.

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