‘Sleepless’ at the QCIFF

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Again, it’s another last minute post. I’ve been meaning to write about this since I saw the film last month at the 3rd QC International Film Festival but I haven’t gotten around to write on it. This is my 6th film festival of the year. The last is Cinema One Originals also last month where I saw Hou Hsiao-Shien’s “The Assassin” and an animated short film “Memorya” by Jovanni Tinapay.

2015 is definitely the year of the movies and I’m happy to know I was able to see that much this year, some were even free. It seems like I actually spent a lot on seeing movies this year more than anything else, even books, though I had some book purchases as well.

Like as mentioned in my previous posts, it has become a habit for me to attend and watch film festivals whether or not I’m going to write it for Pinoy Gazette, and I especially like to try the ones I haven’t attended before. This time, there’s Cine Europa which I had one movie and another one from the French Film Fest.

Another first for me this time is the 3rd QC International Film Festival. I actually really wanted to attend last year’s season but it coincided with Cinema One Originals. Luckily this time, they weren’t happening on the same dates.

I decided to watch one this romantic-comedy titled “Sleepless” starring Dominic Rocco and Glaiza De Castro from the direction of Prime Cruz and screenplay by Jen Chuansu, both former freelance writers from Star Cinema.

I was initially attracted to it when I read it’s about two insomniac and how these two different but similar people have come to form a connection during the hours while most people are asleep; talking about random matters from zombie apocalypse, to Facebook posts, superpowers, love, and all those in between.

And while I wasn’t particularly impressed with the chemistry, I can say that I’m very fond of the two characters’ simple interactions. Their conversations and at how they can almost talk about anything is one thing I really appreciate and that’s the core of real friendship.

I felt that there’s some sort of romantic spark going on but the film didn’t need to venture to that just so it can validate the value, realism and meaning of the film. I find that one thing particularly interesting.

Another highlight of the film is how beautifully it captured Manila by night and how the night becomes the witness to Gem (De Castro) and Barry’s (Rocco) nocturnal loneliness and the eventual development of their unique bonding and friendship. It’s part of the story, as if it’s breathing among them.

The way the film depicted Manila by night is something that affects anyone like them or even anyone who isn’t insomniac – the complete silence that it can almost break something and the things nocturnal people do at night.

To me, it’s like the night has become their home and their only solace from the life that they have to face during the day. I can relate to this a lot because I myself is someone who likes to be awake during the wee hours of the night. It simply has that unique calm and quiet feeling that the day doesn’t give.

I’d still give it 3/5 stars although it didn’t necessarily topped “That Thing Called Tadhana” by Antoinette Jadaone which I so love. But then again, the film has its own faults (cliche relationship of Gem to a married man or the awkward incorporation of animation) but it has its own distinct shining moments that any rom-com film doesn’t have.

Film Festival Circuit III: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in Cinemalaya Film Fest

When I heard about “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” being screened for this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival under the Independents: Asian Showcase section, I told myself I had to take the opportunity cause it’ll never have a regular screening in cinemas here so this is the only chance I got. I managed to tagged along my college friend Anna to watch it with me on August 9, one of the only two screenings for the Isao Takahata gem at the CCP Main Theater.

At first though, I was a little put off by the animation style of the film. It reminded me of the style of another Isao Takahata film, “My Neighbors The Yamadas,” although I haven’t really seen this one fully, partly because I wasn’t so interested. But fortunately, I went ahead to watching Princess Kaguya and I was definitely proven wrong on my apprehension regarding the animation. The film is Isao Takahata’s final film. The director is best known for “Grave of the Fireflies,” which I have seen and really brought me utter sadness and tears. I still find it hard to watch it again.

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The film is based on a 10th century folktale called “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and is considered the very first Japanese prose narrative from the Tokugawa period. It centers around the bamboo cutter Okina (Takeo Chii) and his discovery of a little child inside a bamboo shoot. He brings her home to his wife Ona (Nobuko Miyamoto), but when she carries the child she suddenly grows into a normal looking baby.

The couple decided to raise the child and naming her Kaguya (Aki Asakura), which means “radiant night” in Japanese. There was a shining light coming out of the bamboo shoot to where Okina found her, thus the name that means radiant night. The little Kaguya becomes friends with the local children and they also noticed how she strangely grows too fast like a bamboo, so they started calling her “takenoko” or little bamboo and developing a special friendship with Sutemaru (Kengo Kora).

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But the mysteries didn’t end with her discovery, Okina found gold coins and elegant silk robes inside the very same bamboo, and he was convinced that Kaguya is a gift from heaven and is destined for nobility. With this Kaguya’s life is changed entirely, from the suburbs to the city to learn the ways and principles of a noble lady fit for the high society.

The news of her elegant beauty has quickly spread, eliciting attentions from noblemen to the emperor. But on the day she was solemnized as Kaguya-hime (Princess Kaguya), she realized how most people only cared about her physical looks and that she’s only being named a princess due to her father’s wealth.

Despite her bold disobedience at times to her father and mentor Lady Sagami (Atsuko Takahata), she still yearns to please her father in the best of her abilities but upon hearing how people deride even her father makes her start to realize that all the things about her nobility is unworthy.

One of my favorite scenes in the film. Just look at that. 

One of the strong themes tackled in the film is how women of nobility are stripped of their free will, thrown into situations other people have decided for them without consideration to their opinions and feelings. Another is how women are merely treated as possessions and status symbols and how they are lured by men with money, flamboyant words and promises.

And yes not to forget the animation itself that initially turned me off. I have to say it really is majestic. The hand-drawn or brush-stroke style makes every scene feel and look like its being sketch as it happens on screen. The whole film is a masterpiece painting that comes alive before the audience. It can also  be likened to traditional Japanese painting such as The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

And of course, a Ghibli film is not complete without its accompaniment of musical score from perennial genius and Ghibli collaborator Joe Hisaishi that complements each and every moment of the film, from the joyful discovery of Kaguya, her early experiences as a human, to saying goodbyes, to good memories of friendship, and new beginnings and challenges as a princess.

Infinitely beautiful, truly one of the very best animated films ever made.

Film Festival Circuit II: Eiga Sai 2015 and the introduction to Ryuhei Matsuda

Watching Eiga Sai has been an addictive habit and if I could turn back, I would have wanted to have attended the very first edition of Eiga Sai. But I think when it started I was still in college, so it would have been a little difficult to spend almost the whole day to queue just to ensure a seat. Nevertheless, I’m still happy that it’s my third year attending it and I have my former then current work to thank for it because it opened more doors for me to discover my Japanese addiction.

The recent Eiga Sai was also attended by director Yuya Ishii and producer Takuro Nagai of the opening feature “Our Family” (2014) starring Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Kyozo Nagatsuka and Mieko Harada about a family in the midst of breaking apart but a sudden news of their mother being diagnosed with cancer brings them back together.

It is based on Kazumasa Hayami’s same-titled novel and Ishii’s follow-up project to the commercial and critical success “The Great Passage” (2013) starring Ryuhei Matsuda. Ishii shared that he made the film because he understands some issues and situations the Wakana family is going through and can be likened to his own family.

This year’s line-up also includes contemporary films “Parasyte,” “Wood Job,” “Thermae Romae II” and “Princess Jellyfish.” And under the savory Japan category are “It’s A Beautiful Life – Irodori,” “A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story,” “Patisserie Coin de Rue,” and two documentaries “The God of Ramen” and “Wa-shoku – Beyond Sushi.”

The Road to Ryuhei Matsuda

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It seriously makes me happy everytime I get to see one of my favorite actors at the big screen, even more so when it’s free, which is why I always make an effort to watch their film when it’s included in either the Eiga Sai or Korean Film Festival.

Just like 2013’s Eiga Sai where I first watched Kenichi Matsuyama at the big screen, who of course happens to be one of my favorite actors, this time, I was able to watch an actor who’s also very talented and popular for the first time who just became one of my favorites after seeing him in “Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko” (Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto).

The Great Passage opens the door 

Co-starring Aoi Miyazaki, Joe Odagiri

Unlike Kenichi Matsuyama, who I started following since I watched the first Death Note film back in 2006 or 2007, I have only seen or heard about Ryuhei Matsuda on Screen Red some weeks before the Eiga Sai started in Edsa Shangri-La Mall. I happened to chance upon his award-winning film “Fune Wo Amu” (The Great Passage) and Japan’s representative at the 2014 Academy Awards best foreign language film. But I wasn’t able to start the film so I ended up not watching it the first time. I saw it again few days after on TV, but again it already started.

And when the line-up for this year’s Eiga Sai came out, I saw his name in one of the films, and just like I always do I read each and every film’s synopsis and check out their trailers to make a shortlist. Fortunately, I ended up having the film on my shortlist because I like the trailer and the plot. So that’s the story of how Ryuhei Matsuda became one of my most favorite actors, next to Kang Dong-won who’s always been my top bias for the longest time, which means he already has pushed down some of my other favorite actors on the list who I have known longer than him. That’s how strong his effect on me.

Shota Matsuda in Hana Yori Dango 

Shota is the one in blue coat, first from right

But there is something else that totally sent me off the roof. That’s when I found out Shota Matsuda is his little brother. I’ve known Shota since the first Hana Yori Dango in 2005 but I think I saw the drama a year later, as I was motivated to watch the Japanese version of Meteor Garden that I so love. It just so happens that my favorite character is Hua Ze Lei in the Taiwanese version, who is Rui Hanazawa in the Japanese one that was portrayed by Shun Oguri. But in all honesty, I think Shota is the best looking among the four and and he’s perfect for Soujiro Nishikado’s playboy demeanor. Well that’s when until recently, I came to know about his beloved onii-chan.

I did kinda notice the similar surname but I didn’t pay much attention, and initially thought they just have the same surname but no relation. Finding out the real connection between them was a huge surprise, not that they don’t resemble each other, they do when you look closely, but more on the idea that they’re both very handsome and the fact that they’re even brothers – they share the same parents, same blood, growing up together makes it something close to a miracle. It’s not everyday, even in celebrity siblings that you get two brothers or two sisters who are both equally handsome and very talented. It was like my mind wasn’t very ready to take the awesome fact, totally blew my mind.

But then things took a different turn and I came to adore Ryuhei more than Shota. The very first thing I noticed about him is his tender cat eyes, they just look so mysterious and somewhat sad. His eyes speak volumes of things and stories in the most mysterious ways. And I love it when he smiles because I get to see his dimples and his silly laugh in the Mahoro series all got me. I find his features different from Shota despite having a resemblance to each other, because Shota is more of the conventional kind of a good looking guy and Ryuhei is not, which is why my vote goes to Ryuhei.

Mahoro Films and Series 

Mahoro Ekimae Tada Benriken, the first film

I started with Ryuhei at the recent Eiga Sai through the second film titled Tada’s Do-It-All House: Disconcerto and third installment of the Mahoro series, one of the most popular and most successful series of film and TV adaptations from the the Naoki Prize-winning series of novels by Shion Miura.

Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi – the series

In this second film, Gyoten (Ryuhei) has been staying with Tada (Eita) in running his benri-ya (handyman business) in Mahoro, a fictional laidback place in Japan for two or three years since the events from the first film (2011) and the series (2013). They accept almost all kinds of odd jobs, from cleaning, organizing, walking pets, driving and more. And most of the time, the two get involved with their clients more than they should. Tada and Gyoten are both divorcees, with past stories they want to forget and run away from.

Mahoro Ekimae Kyousoukyoko – the second film

This time, the two buddies are tasked by the local gang leader Hoshi (Kengo Kora) to investigate a mysterious cult group that produces and sells organic vegetables. Things get more messy when Nagiko, Gyoten’s former wife with whom he has a young daughter named Haruka is placed in the care of Tada while she’s away overseas. Tada is scared of what Gyoten might do, especially since he knows Gyoten doesn’t like kids and even more so when he finds out the little girl is his daughter.

Scenes from the series

What I love about the duo of Ryuhei and Eita is that they really complement each other, this one of a kind chemistry I haven’t seen in male actors before. And because of their amazing combination, I feel as an audience that Tada and Gyoten would be at lost without the other.

At the time Gyoten met Tada again in years at the bus station from the first film, it was the right moment for the both of them. Tada, then still couldn’t moved on from the passing of his son that led to his divorce, while Gyoten was on his way to kill his parents because they keep asking Nagiko to see Haruka. I know these all now because I’ve already finished the first film and the series after seeing the second film of course.

It’s also a unique story of two former classmates who find themselves face to face with each other again and becoming best buddies in the process, helping each other out when one needs the other. I have never seen such a story in any of the dramas I’ve seen before.

It’s also very unpredictable and highly enjoyable, I could never guess what adventure would the two be involved with in the next episode. Well-acted, mainly from Ryuhei and Eita who carry the direction of the film and series, picturesque cinematography and fun-loaded, naturally funny story and episodes.

And because of everything, Gyoten Haruhiko has become one of my most favorite fictional characters ever.

I’m also very delighted to know that The Great Passage, in which he won a number of best actor awards will be out in English edition next fall by Amazon Crossing as I was told by a caring staff from Kobunsha, its original publisher when I asked a sample English translation of the novel.

Film Festival Circuit 1: WPFF and 20th French Film Festival

I’ve been going around to many film festivals this past months of June and July – the 20th French Film Festival, the 2nd edition of World Premieres Film Festival and Eiga Sai 2015. It was my first time with WPFF and French Film Festival and my third year attending Eiga Sai. Eiga Sai has been a tradition to me, but the other two were a chance to see some other films.

A humorous story of a not so ordinary family 

I went to see La Famille Belier, the opening film at this year’s French Film Festival. With every film festival, I always go through each and every film to make a shortlist of the films I’d like to see. If the trailer is interesting for me, then that’s more than enough reason for me to see the film. I had two shortlisted films but had to just watch one because unlike Eiga Sai, it doesn’t come free.

La Famille Belier is a heart-warming and humorous story of a family whose parents and son are deaf and must cope with their non-deaf daughter Paula decision to leave for the big city. Paula is the family’s reliable interpreter and helps in running the family’s farm. Despite most of her family members being deaf, Paula and her family live normally just as everyone.

At a music class, her teacher discovers her singing talent and encourages her to join a prestigious competition. At first, Paula wasn’t so interested with the idea of singing but she eventually decided to take up after school lessons with her teacher and started enjoying it. She still continues with her normal day-to-day duties in the farm but hasn’t discussed with her family that she has been taking up singing lessons.

I enjoyed the simplicity of the plot and how her family members interact with each other and do things just like everyone does without the usual conversations, but instead, of actions and sign language.

I appreciate the patience and sincerity of Paula’s character that despite being different from the rest of her family, she doesn’t make them feel like she’s normal and they’re not. Instead, it’s her blending well with her parents and younger brother and tries to understand them in every way she can.

It’s a nice story of a family that’s just like everyone but not so ordinary. A heartwarming path to adulthood story of a teenage girl as she discovers in herself a talent that could be her lifelong dream and passion. It’s about pushing for your dreams even though it might not turn out for the best. And of parents overcoming their fears and apprehension and deciding to support their daughter in spite of so many uncertainties of what could happen to them after their interpreter daughter leaves the family temporarily and of her possible life in the big city.

A 30-something pressured to get married

In this year’s 2nd edition of WPFF, I’ve decided to watch an Indonesian film titled “Kapan Kawin?” (When Will You Get Married) under the ASEAN Skies category. The ASEAN Skies category covers films from 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN): Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

What attracted me to the film was that its lighthearted comedy approach to a serious issue, which is about women and getting married before they turn 30. It tells the story of Dinda, played by Adinia Wirasti, a successful 33-year-old hotel manager in the bustling city of Jakarta. But she’s a cut above the rest because she’s still single.

Her parents have been consistently badgering her to get married every year on her birthday, and it gets more troubling for her everytime she gets compared to her older sister who’s seemingly happy in her married life with a businessman and son William. This time, Dinda makes a serious decision and hires Satrio, a street actor to pretend as her boyfriend during the upcoming anniversary of her parents.

While it may not be a very original story, especially with the hiring someone to pretend to be this and that but in other sense, it’s still a different film.

According to producer/writer Robert Ronny who was gave a brief Q&A after the screening, it is a cultural phenomenon for women in Indonesia to be married before they reach 30. Although this social pressure is not heavily felt in the “megapole” Jakarta, but more in other places in Indonesia like Yogyakarta, which is also one of the reasons they decided to shoot the film there. It is considered as an important accomplishment in life for women and for some, being unmarried beyond 25 may even be considered a sin.

Ronny added that he believes in this kind of genre, the film is able to deliver the message of understanding this social pressure in an efficient combination of well-balanced lighthearted at serious elements not only in Indonesia, as well as in other cultures. It also gives light to the topic of following the parents’ wishes even though it may not necessarily be for the best of their children, as well as the parents being more open in accepting their own mistakes and the decisions of their children.

The story’s conclusion might be a little predictable but I highly appreciate the way the story panned out. It wasn’t made in a way that’s too serious or too comedic that it ends up being sloppy. Plus, the story of Dinda is someone anyone can easily relate to, whether you’re 30, 30-something or 20-something, where it also showed the effects of modern society to decisions being made by women of today in their search for happiness in family and marriage.

In any case, most women would have had that experience of being annoyingly asked when they’ll get married or when they’ll have a boyfriend though it may not exactly be culturally-rooted like Dinda’s situation.

The chemistry between the two leads Adinia Wirasti and Reza Rahadian is also one of the driving factors of the film. Most of the humorous scenes were from Rahadian in his interactions with Wirasti and succeeds in bringing out natural laughs from the audience. And not to forget, the film’s cinematography is another I highly appreciate. Since the location is a place I don’t really know much about, the film has wonderfully introduced the place to me in a way I wasn’t expecting. And yes, I really like the ending credits song but until now I still don’t know the title.

So that’s about it for my first time at the French Film Fest and World Premieres Film Festival.

Dia Internacional del Libro: Commemorates Don Quijote’s 400th year publication

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I haven’t had any special reason to visit Instituto Cervantes before, until I found out about the 10th edition of Dia Internacional del Libro (International Book Day). I specially got interested to attend because of the special activities laid out for attendees, in accordance to the commemoration of the 400th year of publication of Miguel de Cervantes’ second volume of “Don Quijote de La Mancha” (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote of La Mancha).

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Instituto Cervantes, Spain’s cultural center in the country has made the 10th edition of Dia Internacional more exciting this time and totally a different kind of book fair with La Noche de los Libros (The Night of Books), which was a whole evening of free entertainment that includes Spanish food games, jazz concert, poetry recitals, free Spanish classes, book market, and photo contest.

The Tradition of Books and Roses

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Internacional del Libro also happened to be on the 23rd of April, which is famous as St. George’s Day in Spain. During this day, people go to festive markets at the town center, particularly in Barcelona to purchase books and roses and give these to their loved ones. It also coincides with other cultural and literary activities, such as book signings and readings of Spanish literature.

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In tradition, men offer roses to important women in their lives, while women give books in return. And in honor of this tradition, the first 100 visitors that day received roses upon entrance at the center. Every purchase of books at the book market also came with a free rose and a free book of their choice, as well as participants of the night’s different activities.

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Re-Writing of Don Quijote

Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the first 100 visitors but then again I was lucky to be part of the Escribo el Quijote (Re-Writing of Don Quijote), wherein 500 book-lover volunteers took part in what they call the “Quixotic” endeavour – that is to hand-write Cervantes’ immortal novel, Don Quijote de La Mancha that is considered to be one of the world’s greatest novels ever written. Each volunteer had two minutes to copy few sentences of the novel that started from 4PM to 11PM. The final hand-written book was deposited at the Library Miguel Hernandez at Instituto Cervantes.

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This is where I got two roses, two roses because my turn was supposed to be at 8PM but it was already 9PM when I got to it. A senior official was kind enough to give me two in exchange of my patience and dedication to wait for my turn, though it was past the time it should have been.

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In part of the celebration for Don Quijote de La Mancha’s 400th year publication, a special set menu, the La Cocina del Quijote was prepared by Chef Juan Carlos de Terry that is based on some of the dishes and wines mentioned in the novel on April 17th at Terry’s Pasong Tamo, Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati.

I took home two books as well from Anvil Publishing (Confessions of a Volcano by Eric Gamalinda and Reading Korea: 12 Contemporary Stories), which entitled me to another rose. I have yet to start reading them though, as I’m still occupied with another book.

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That day’s buddy was my cultural events buddy Myleen. I initially planned to go by myself but I invited her to come along and good thing she was free. We didn’t get the chance to check out the library though, which is something I should come back to.

We both had fun being part of the Don Quijote re-writing activity while listening to jazz music in the background, discovering new books to journey in, watching groups of people and friends chatting, and just simply wandering around the place.

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I forgot to mention it was held outdoors, and they have this garden with a well at the center surrounded with trees, and it was simply picturesque at night. We even found a tree with flowers that’s like cherry blossoms, though we aren’t sure if it is a Sakura tree.

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Instituto Cervantes also held a film series on migration last month featuring films such as “Edna” (2014) starring Irma Adlawan, directed by Ronnie Lazaro about real and imagined fears of overseas Filipino workers; “El tren de la memoria” (2005) by Marta Arribas y Ana Pérez about migrant Spaniards leaving the country to different destinations; “Extranjeras” (Foreign Women) (2003) by Helena Taberna about migrant women in Madrid; “Flores de otro mundo” (Flowers From Another World) (1999) by Iciar Bolain about a group of women in search of stability and companionship and men in search of wives in a small town in central Spain.

It was followed by the film cycle, Great Books on Screen in all Saturdays of June. It included films adapted from novels: “La Colmena” (The Beehive/1982) about stories of people in Madrid 1942, post-Spanish civil war; “La Lengua De Las Mariposas” (Butterfly Tongues/1999) about an extraordinary relationship of a shy boy to his compassionate teacher; “Obaba” (2005) about a woman and her journey to Obaba, a small town in the Basque Country; and “Soldados De Salamina” (Soldiers of Salamina/2003) about a young novelist who has lost inspiration and became a journalist to investigate a true story that took place at the end of the Civil War and involving an infamous writer and an anonymous young soldier.

To know more about Instituto Cervantes, check out their website at manila.cervantes.es, facebook.com/InstitutoCervantesManila and @ICervantesMnila.

‘The Lunch Box’: Charming, Endearing Realism

 

“Sometimes the wrong train can get you to the right station.”

What if your home-made lunch intended for your busy husband is received by a stranger due to a mistake of a lunch box delivery man? In Ritesh Batra’s Cannes Film Festival 2013 Audience Choice awardee “The Lunch Box,” that very thing has happened to a young and unhappy wife whose well-prepared and delicious lunch box gets eaten by the wrong person, who turns out to give her the response she has been yearning for.

The Lunch Box is included in this year’s New Asian Cinema category of Cinema One Originals Film Festival running from November 9-18 at Trinoma, Glorietta, Greenhills Dolby Atmos and Fairview Terraces. This is the third festival for me this year and I’ve never had this much time to see so many festivals before until now.

I was watching Cinema One on the telly one night and my brother Jonson and I saw the trailer/teaser for the Cinema One Festival, so I saw this film there first. Not surprisingly, my brother already saw the movie, which he always does when it comes to films like this one. I always take into consideration his views on films, so when he said it’s a good one; I had to really see it myself.

Before seeing the film, my brother told me that the lunch box delivery in India really exists. They actually have a lunch box delivery system. As I was watching the first few scenes of the film, I was simply amazed to see how far the lunch boxes travel to get to its destination. The Dabbawala (one who carries the box) as they are called in Hindi transport the boxes first by a bicycle then via the train before they reach their destinations, to many employees working in the bustling city of Mumbai.

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According to an article from the The Guardian, the Dabbawala know who they’re delivering to, and that there is only one in a million chance that they could make a mistake on the deliveries. And by a simple stroke of fate and coincidence, this one in a million chance of mistake fell on Ila, a mother and housewife trying her best to put some flavor to her increasingly dull marriage through her cooking and Saajan – a senior officer at a company’s claims department, a widower and about to retire from his 35-year job.

What seems to be a slight mistake brought a pinch of happiness between the two, breaking the monotony of their seemingly colorless lives. Just like the saying “Sometimes the wrong train can get you to the right station.”

Sajaan, at first reaction was surprised by the food that arrived on his desk but didn’t think of it as a big deal. Thinking it was the restaurant that’s been preparing his food made the lunch that day, he personally went to thank  them and told them to keep up the good work. The restaurant staff thought the cauliflower made the trick.

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Back at Ila’s home, she was excited to receive the lunch box completely empty. Thinking that it was a sign of positive response from her busy husband, she delightfully tells the good news to her auntie who lives at the unit above them. However, her husband came home without any ecstatic reaction about the lunch he had. His simple reply was that it was good, just good and nothing else. He praised the cauliflower though, which instantly confirmed the idea that the lunch box went to someone else who actually liked the food she prepared.

Wanting to solve the mystery, she made another lunch box that seemed like meatballs and made a simple note to Sajaan in the hopes that he would reply. Sajaan replied  to her note but instead of thanking her for the lunch, he commented about the saltiness of the lunch despite still emptying the lunch box. Ila was a bit flustered to receive a comment slightly criticizing her cooking instead of a thank you. Her auntie, furious about the response gave her chilies to balance out the saltiness. She did as instructed and made another lunch. This time, Sajaan’s replied that the food was too spicy. Despite this, she continued to make lunch and what started as a mistake turned into an exchange of correspondences through letters and the lunch box.

The continuous exchange eventually created an avenue for the two of them to contemplate and turn to each other about their respective issues. She tells Sajaan,” What do we live for?” If her husband lives for work, her auntie whose husband stays alive by staring at the ceiling fan and her mother caring for her father with cancer, but what about her. For the first time, Ila finds herself eagerly awaiting the reply from the lunch box. In return, Sajaan finds it relaxing to talk to Ila; slowly breaking down his cold exterior. He opens up to her about his deceased wife and her favorite TV program that he started watching consecutively. At some point, Ila finds out about her husband’s infidelity but unable to confront him but feels comfortable telling Sajaan about it.

Ila finds herself at a crossroad, she tells Sajaan that she wants to go to Bhutan with her daughter and start anew. Sajaan replies, “What if I come to Bhutan with you?”

I appreciate the film a lot because it’s so charmingly close to reality. It’s realism at its finest. Of course, people go to the movies for escapism, to escape from their daily lives and not watch something that mirrors everything that’s real – whether it’s the good, bad or the worst. But The Lunch Box doesn’t need to rely on superficial things, on controversies, big emotions, scandals, intense scenes, tensions and confrontations.

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It’s all about real and the common human dilemmas – Ila represents the many women who are trapped in a lifeless marriage but not even have the courage to confront her husband; Sajaan represents the widowers who are left alone, no other family to tend to, have developed an ice-cold exterior, dedicated long years in their career, and on the verge of retirement; Ila’s husband being the symbol of how people neglect families and affection in exchange of securing a family but tends to remain in the family despite lack or loss of love; Sheikh – the new claims department staff represents the many orphans working hard for a living while trying to gain respect for themselves and from people. At some parts of the film, he provides a tinge of humor when he suddenly breaks the cherry atmosphere of Sajaan as he reads Ila’s letters during lunch. At first impression, I find him quite annoying, I mean the character but then I can’t help but smile when he manages to make Sajaan respect him and how he slowly becomes a close confidant to Sajaan who he could trust. The moment when Sajaan first shared the lunch showed Sajaan opening his door to Sheikh.

The film makes you to realize, appreciate the wonders of the simplest, even the most mundane of things. The beauty and joy of a simple exchange of conversations among strangers who incidentally finds  some solace from each other. At how the modern world of email can never be able to recreate the unique feel of reading handwritten letters, the intricacies and the underlying value of food and its preparation, and how a good food can magically make a difference even to complete strangers.

It partially tells how an accidental meeting and constant conversation can bring about different kind of emotions in people who barely know each other. It’s not entirely focused on the love story, it never forced the idea that they should fall in love. Although it does imply the seemingly forming chemistry until Sajaan retreats on that day when he was supposed to meet Ila. He chooses to watch her from afar, thinking that it might not be the right thing to approach her and introduce himself.

But despite not meeting and formally getting to know each other, their strange meeting through the misdelivered lunch box has changed them permanently; at how they perceive, appreciate things in life, view people’s lives and their own, and even their emotions, thoughts and their course of actions.

1st Mid-Autumn Film Festival – The Rooftop

Takeshi Kaneshiro in Red Cliff

Takeshi Kaneshiro in Red Cliff

 

Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jay Chou are now officially added to the list of biases I have seen on the big screen.

I’ve seen Kang Dong-won through the Korean Film Festival for (5) times already in “Jeon Woo-chi: The Taoist Wizard” and “Secret Reunion,” Kenichi Matsuyama through last year’s Eiga Sai with “Kamui Gaiden,” and most recently Yusuke Iseya twice for “Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno.”

I did see Jay first on the big screen with “Green Hornet” but that wasn’t a Taiwanese film. Takeshi has been a long-time bias, one of my very first actor biases so he’s really special for me. And so I did, I successfully managed to watch “Red Cliff” at the Newport Mall. I won’t be discussing “Red Cliff” anymore as I’ve seen the film before.

It was my first time really seeing “The Rooftop.” That is something for me, as I haven’t seen the movie before and seeing it on the big screen is amazing in itself.  At first I was a bit confused with the movie, I feel like there are too many elements thrown in all together in one.

The first scene I saw was at Dr. Bo’s herbal clinic where Wax (Jay Chou) works and his friends. There was this performance of girls dressed as nurses with guys in wheelchairs that was intended to make the audience buy herbal medicines from him. That scene was like watching a Jay Chou music video, which isn’t particularly a good or a bad thing.

I didn’t know the film was set in the 70s too, so when I finally saw it; it kinda felt a bit awkward. It’s a musical in 70s setting with action and a bit of fantasy. Like I said, there are so many elements going on in just one movie. And all the colors too, it was definitely colorful but I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do in every scene. I do give credit for Jay though for attempting a Taiwanese musical/action/fantasy film; combining genres in one. The costumes and the hairstyles may have been a little bit off at some parts for me, specially with Jay Chou’s Elvis Presley-inspired hair.

The film is set in a fantasy city called Galilee City; wherein people with power and wealth live on the ground and people who live of simple ways live on the rooftop.  Wax and his friends Tempura, Egg and A-lang live at the rooftop and while they may not have the wealth and power, they all seem to be happy with their way of life with their friends and neighbors. Wax is in love with an up and coming actress named Starling who has a billboard overlooking the rooftop. By chance, Wax gets to meet her in person and starts working as William’s double in the movie she’s filming with the influential actor. He also helps his friend Tempura on his side job as a rent collector for City Housing Authority headed by Rango.

Things start to get complicated when Starling grows closer to Wax. William hires the help of Big Red, another rent collector to snap photos of Wax and Starling and have it scattered all over the media in an effort to put Wax down. Unknown to Starling, she believes this ploy thinking that Wax betrayed him. Due to her father’s debts to William, she is then forced to accept his conditions by making them appear as a real couple.

By this time, the movie starts to go all cliche. The sing and dance routines are suddenly pushed to the background to focus on the film heading to serious cliche. After discovering Starling and William are now a couple, Wax is seen walking and pondering whether he should start forgetting about her, and accompanied with some sudden dancing as he walks by on a rainy day. He later decides to go see her at the film’s premiere with his friends. Tempura gets in the event without hassle as Wax, Egg and A-lang waited.

Rango finds out Big Red is looting some rental money from him and fires him. Tempura is asked to take over Big Red’s duties. With this, Big Red kills Rango and seeks revenge to William as well, because it was William who told Rango that he wanted to take over Rango’s position at the City Housing Authority. He creates a big show at the film premiere when he killed William in front of the audience, Starling and Tempura. Wax then comes to the scene who now has to decide whether to save Starling or his friend. He manages to outwit Big Red with A-lang and Egg’s help and take Starling away from the scene. And here we go again, the damsel in distress and the hero sacrificing his life for the girl.

If there are some things I did like about the film, those are the scenes at the rooftop. I particularly like their big gramophone and when they play music every night. I also love the new songs Jay has penned for the film, specially “Moonlight on Rooftop” and “You Are Everywhere.” These are the kind of songs he’s best at and not the electro/auto-tuned songs he has released lately. These type of songs are after all the very reasons I like him in the first place.

As for the film, his best is still “Secret” and I’m still waiting for that sequel. I’ve also seen him in “Initial D” and acting, story and directing-wise, it’s still “Secret” for me.

*****

 

Also tried something new at Lucky Chinatown Mall, which is a new and small yet very posh kind of mall. I tried Mr. Bean’s hot mocha soy milk. I love their tagline “Life’s simple pleasures” and their kawaii logo. I also tried Mongolian style bbq rice from Heaven’s BBQ at the food court. Lots of rice but the bbq was quite small yet delicious. I love the water bottle too at the mall that I didn’t want to put it to the trash.