Monday, February 26, 2018

The Woman Who Left 2016

             I don’t know much about the Philippines. I do know that they have suffered at the hands of various conquering nations including the United States throughout their long history.  They have been pushed and shoved by various dictators and have been the victims of many kidnappings and much bloodshed including the on going murderous campaign against the drug trade lead by their current heinous dictator.
                   I also know nothing about their film industry which it turns out is strong, vivid and vibrant and at one time produced over 200 films a year. This brings me to this film and If you have a spare four hours you might want to jump at the opportunity to watch this small scale tremendous epic from the Philippine director Lav Diaz who happens to live in Queens and is known for his very long intimate intricate films.
             I watched this lush and strong film that is set in 1997 over two nights and that might be the way to go. The story is based and inspired by a short story by Tolstoy and concerns the harsh life of a woman convicted for a crime she did not commit and spends 30 years in a penal colony where she teaches and inspires the other female prisoners and their children who are locked up with their mothers. The film opens and closes with a tale she wrote and reads that symbolically mirrors her own life. 
              One fine day she is set free because the person who committed the crime confesses before she takes her own life and Horacia sets out to find her son and daughter and to find the man a lover who caused her this grief and get her revenge. Diaz who also wrote edited and did the beautiful wide screen black and white cinematography presents us with this complex and complicated woman as she crosses paths with many different people both in the daylight and the dark nights of lost souls.
              She is conflicted and angry with duo personalities one kind and giving, the other harsh and cruel and is played by the well known Philippine actress Charo Santos who gave up acting to work in the executive board rooms of the Philippine media world and came back to do this film and gives an extraordinary performance.
             Finding her daughter after 30 years is easy but she doesn’t pull up a stuffed chair and settle in for comfortable old age, instead she moves through the country side searching for her lost son, and her ex lover a rich powerful and corrupt power broker who betrayed her 30 years before. 
             During her days and nights she prowls the back alleys and dark streets sometimes dressed in men’s clothes calling herself Renata and offering kindness and mercy to a motley crew of beggars, street vendors and others including a mad woman who sees demons everywhere and who Horacia lovingly washes and cleans, no doubt cleaning her own troubled soul as well. The most intense relationship is between Horacia and an epileptic transvestite prostitute Hollanda played by one of the Philippines biggest heart throbs and idols John Lloyd Cruz who gives a remarkable performance. Their long scenes together are touching and riveting as Horacia nurses her back to health after a horrible rape and beating (not shown as is most of the violence which is kept off screen) and are among the most memorable and searing sequences I have ever seen in a film.  Diaz fills his large screen with images mostly with medium and long shots there is to my memory no close-ups and his sense of spaces both intimate and vast are stunning. He is an artist and as Meryl Streep said about his eight hour film “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” “This film, this director, changed the molecules of my brain.”  Granted his films are not for everyone, I give you that, but anyone interested in film should at some point give his works a look even if that look lasts a few days and nights.       


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter