Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Stroking my Spherical Valentine

In my attempt to overcome my nausea from YCC's recent shaming of a fellow film critic, I decided to explore a bit more of the writings on their blog to really see what they contribute to the ongoing discussion on Filipino cinema.

But I didn't--couldn't--get far.

Here is a tidbit from a review of Nora Aunor's recent Ang Kwento ni Mabuti:

The sanction of this ethic is suffered with an elegiac pace by the syntax of the sympathy, Nora Aunor. Her understanding of the pastoral is accurate, and almost exact in calibrating a sense of biome whose radii are aware of catastrophe and attentive to the fulfillment of the shamanic mandate.

Wait...I'm sorry, what exactly does that mean?   Are we talking about the same Nora? Pip's Guy...Uod at Rosas...Palengke Queen..."walang himala!"  Is there really any need to disassociate our popular imagination of the actress and pretend as if somehow she made her mark in some parallel universe dominated by Filipino Tarkovsky-s? Her power as a celebrity and as a recognizable actress came from the meanings and aspirations that the country attached to her image.  Waving that away with a wand of biomes and radii for the sake of critical convenience does nothing but obscure and delay the genuine critical effort of getting to the heart of Nora's enigma.

I'd take a Noranian's love letter over this hot intellectual mess any day.

In defense of Jojo Devera

I am resurrecting this blog to address the Young Critics’ Circle’s accusations of plagiarism on acclaimed Filipino film blogger Jojo Devera.  Apparently, he already admitted to the crime, and the subsequent shutdown of his blog just proves the guilt more so, but I’m not here to defend him for that.  What I’m here is to celebrate what Jojo has done and what the YCC has failed to do: make me give a damn about Filipino movies. 

My first interaction with Jojo and his blog came around 2007, right before I graduated from college with a degree in film and right when I consciously decided to be interested in Filipino movies.  I remembered as a young boy watching Darna and Captain Barbell and weepies with Maricel Soriano and wanted to know more about the cinema I grew up with but then forgot about.  Jojo’s original writings were unpretentious and sincerely came from a man who loved them.  It was a far cry from the dry and anemic style that academic film criticism tends to sound like (a style that, admittedly, I used when writing much of the entries on this blog), and it inspired me to want to watch these movies and ultimately to love them. 

After reading more of his reviews, I started to exchange emails with Jojo and found him a passionate enthusiast of Filipino movies, less interested in the socio-political and psychological abstractions and more on the very basic pleasure of watching and sharing these movies with others.  He was also a tireless curator of these forgotten gems, collecting even the lowliest and trashiest of them with no haste or judgments in saving even the most commercial and formulaic from rotting Beta and VHS tapes.  His encyclopedic knowledge of production trivia is inspiring and inspired in me the desire to go out there, too, and save these treasures before they are completely lost.  Once or twice we exchanged copies of movies that filled holes in our collections, and once I even went to New York to watch a retrospective of Filipino movies and felt giddy watching Tubog sa Ginto, a Lino Brocka film Jojo saved from a shuttering Chicago video store encased in a deteriorating Beta cassette. 

Jojo’s passion and dedication helped me to slowly love the beauty of this cinema that he so badly wanted others to appreciate.  His stories of discovering lost films recorded in unassuming Beta tapes gave the whole enterprise the excitement of a treasure hunt, of rediscovering something that was not lost but cruelly forgotten.  More than love the Brocka’s stories, or O’Hara’s lighting or Celso ad Castillo’s mise en scene, Jojo’s fervor made me want to save these movies too and feel heartbreak when I hear of another roll of film turned to vinegar or another memory of a film the absence of which leaves a gaping hole in a master’s cannon. It would not be undeserving to say that Jojo’s work inspired not just me but many others like me to bring Filipino film to the fore and to have the courage to talk about Ishmael Bernal and Truffaut in the same breath. 

I do have to admit that Jojo’s writing did however start to change during the last few years: it became stilted, dry, overly academic and lacking the passion it once had.  It made references to Marxist interpretations, socio-political meanings and over-analyzed symbologies.  Freudian analyses replaced reflections on what made stories sad, character dynamics effective, or resonance to personal experiences of history.  He even started to write in English.  His blog posts became confusing, not because the frameworks of interpretation became overly complex or the web of references became too thick.  It’s because he started to sound like my college professor who wrote a critique of Pasolini’s Mamma Roma as a representation of Italy’s growingly destructive bourgeoisie rather than as a mother who was trapped by her country’s unforgiving march to modernity.  His writing lost the immediacy of a devotee’s plea for others to see the beauty of his much maligned and much disregarded love. 

Therefore, I am glad to hear that the last few years were mere a result of plagiarism and not some cruel joke that Jojo was playing on us.  Hearing the news felt like waking from a bad dream where one of the most impassioned advocates of Filipino cinema had been silenced by academia’s stultifying need to feign importance. 

Because the truth is Jojo achieved far more for Filipino cinema with an underdesigned Blogspot, a Youtube channel and hours on end in video stores than the YCC has done with their pompous critiques and “intellectual honesty”.  In their apoplectic condemnation of Jojo, YCC’s contrived indignance shines through as they crucify Jojo for doing “this community a signal disservice”.  True, he may have done YCC a disservice for stealing the text, but Jojo did us more harm for ever thinking that his voice was not effective in endearing us to the pleasures of our cinema, and that he had to assume the voice of a critical organization the writing of which was as agreeable to read as a thorough enema.  In losing his own voice to assume that of YCC’s, Jojo denied us the unfailing passion that drew us to our country’s movies and to love them like they are our own.  Jojo didn’t gain credibility because he was some sort of interdisciplinary expert on Filipino cinema’s golden age.  (Although in hindsight, the screenshots of Jojo’s comments section does reveal that the guy actually kind of knows his shit.)  He gained credibility because he was unfraid to show that he loved these movies and refused to speak about them using academia’s funerary vernacular.  

(By the way, this excerpt from YCC’s condemnation is interesting: “Where he did not simply substitute his name for that of the author—as in the case of the post on Nunal sa Tubig (1976), which is wholly drawn from an essay by Eulalio R. Guieb III—he went a reprehensible leap further by producing reviews on films that combined excerpts from materials contemplating or assessing completely different issues—as in the case of the post on I Love You Mama, I Love You Papa (1986), which patches together parts from essays by J. Pilapil Jacobo, Nonoy L. Lauzon, and Patrick D. Flores, none of which discuss the Maryo J. De Los Reyes picture.”  Reminds me of Guy Debord: “Ideas improve. The meaning of words has a part in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress demands it. Staying close to the author’s phrasing, plagiarism exploits his expressions, erases false ideas, replaces them with correct ideas.”)

So in the end, I wish that Jojo survives this challenge because it would be an absolute shame if one of our cinema’s greatest advocates fade into obscurity because some academics (who are far too pleased with their own critical contributions) got their honor tarnished.  Personally, the choice is clear between them and a man who was instrumental not only in rescuing many of our films from the dead but also in expanding our appreciation of Filipino cinema not only as a critical object but as an object of pride and admiration.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Most Dangerous Gamer Has No Clothes

Photo courtesy of Jake Stangel of The Atlantic

This month's Atlantic features two fascinating articles about two very flawed geniuses trying to redefine their art form: hiphop's Kanye West and the video game world's esoteric genius Jonathan Blow.  The article on Kanye was interesting, albeit one that focuses primarily on the artist and little on the artist's relation to his medium rather than on his audience.  Taylor Clark's piece on the other hand is far more interesting,  a simultaneous mapping of a genius and the path of a new art form.  Much like other "geniuses," there is much brood intentionally being heaped upon Blow, borne out of the weight of the perceived responsibility of such a figure to understand the totality of humanity and the human condition along with the form of his craft.  Although such a portrait is generally a construct that stretches back to the romanticism of the artist in the 17th century, I was sucked into it nevertheless because it reminds one of the discussions still being conducted about the form and place of film as an art form.  

As compelling a figure Jonathan Blow is, there are nevertheless two points that stuck out as foul balls in an otherwise great mini-biography.  first, this quote:

 Blow said during a conversation in Chris Hecker’s dining room one sunny afternoon. “You’re not trying to make a game like Citizen Kane; you’re trying to make Bad Boys 2.” But questions of movie taste notwithstanding, the notion that gaming would even attempt to ape film troubles Blow. As Hecker explained it: “Look, film didn’t get to be film by trying to be theater. First, they had to figure out the things they could do that theater couldn’t, like moving the camera around and editing out of sequence—and only then did film come into its own.” This was why Citizen Kane did so much to put filmmaking on the map: not simply because it was well made, but because it provided a rich experience that no other medium before it could have provided.
What about DW Griffith or Soviet Avante Garde which forever set the basis of our understanding of the role of editing  in creating a cinematic reality?  The French Surrealists, who gave birth to the idea of cinema as not merely a replica of reality but as a creation of a new mode of consciousness?  Or the role of German Expressionism in pushing the idea of reality and realism as in itself a horrific thing to witness?  Influenced and informed by AFI, Clark, like the rest of the general American movie-going public views  cinema as the be-all and end-all Orson Welles' artistic expression.  According to him, before Welles cinema was still stuck in a singular plane, with movements running at 16 frames per second and narratives restricted by a single reel.  Maybe the trouble with video games is that it is searching too hard for a Citizen Kane and not understanding that Welles, like film itself, was a byproduct of a series of innovations and inventions that produced an environment that allowed for his genius to express itself.  They are looking for a turn-around point when what they need is an ever-widening field that allowed for the expanding possibilities provided by video games.

The other offending quote may be more suggestive of what I think may be the root of the problem of the video game's progress:

One night in his apartment, with the lights of San Francisco twinkling for miles outside his windows, I warned Blow that I was about to do something that might aggravate him: I was going to tell him what I thought Braid was about, and he could do with that whatever he wanted. 
Okay,” he replied with a half smirk, leaning back in his chair. 

So obviously there’s the theme of the creation of the atomic bomb,” I began. 

I think you can make a very strong case that that is an unambiguous reference,” he replied, which I interpreted as the Blovian equivalent of Yes

But I think what has frustrated you about people’s interpretations of Braid is that the atom bomb itself is a metaphor for a certain kind of knowledge,” I continued. “You’ve been chasing some deep form of understanding all your life, and what I think you’ve found is that questing after that knowledge brings alienation with it. The further you’ve gone down that road, the further it’s taken you from other people. So the knowledge is ultimately destructive to your life, just like the atom bomb was—it’s a kind of truth that has a cataclysmic impact. You thought chasing that knowledge would make you happy, but like Tim, part of you eventually wished you could turn back time and do things over again.” 

Blow remained silent. 

Does that make sense?,” I asked. 

Yep, yep.” 


He smiled. 

Well, I would say that I would not be frustrated at all with that interpretation.”
Really?   This complex man who wants to use the pain of growing up to guide his efforts to expand the universe of video games is satisfied with the explanation that the fruit of his efforts was a mere vehicle for further gloating about the pain of understanding others?  Blow was already a bit of an intolerable (pardon the pun) blowhard throughout the article, but you forgave him because you knew that the weight of his burden is huge and his efforts to shrug was real.  All the talk about transcendence and creating an expression of the human condition through this new art form was quickly whisked away with the suggestion--a suggestion Blow seemed to have approved--that maybe Blow's art was not meant to be transcendent, but as just yet another exercise in appeasing adolescent urges, anxieties and pain.   Braid may have been complex and cerebral, but it's a gut reaction like every other adolescent game to came before it, and that reaction came from the same gut all the same.  Clark wanted Blow to be that turn-around point for video game, but the reality is that he is not.  There are no geniuses in art, only people that lay the foundation for the changes to come after them.  Blow is no genius--just like Welles, he is a psyche wanting to free itself through a medium.  His genius does not come from reinventing the video game, but from his contributions to the ground work required for the evolution of the video game.  The video game does not need a Citizen Kane, as film did not need it to advance as an art form.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We Found Love (Melina Matsoukas, 2011)

Bursting with the energy of an unapologetic rebellion, the music video for Rihanna's "We Found Love" is a worthy counterpoint to the controversies that plagued her last year, as a victim of a domestic abuse drama that also featured Chris Brown.  Although the fall out of the incident was more severe towards Brown who was (justly) crucified for his violence, Rihanna was relegated to the role of the hapless victim thrown into a circumstance she neither created nor wanted.

But I have friends who believed her complicity. "You know she must have said something..." And to an extent, the role Rihanna was painted into was an unfortunate one: the inactive participant, victim of circumstances she did not will to control.  If domestic violence is about power, she definitely did not have it.  But the video turned powerlessness on its head: she was a willing participant who went down the rabbit hole hand in hand with her abuser.  It was a path of self-destruction both took, but she ultimately left.  Comparisons have apparently been made about this video and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, but I think the characters' agency makes the difference.  The sex, drugs and filth of Boyle's film was the circumstance that sucked everyone in, while the music video focused on the universe being created by two people madly and irresponsibly in love.  Instead of the clean narratives of protagonists and antagonists that made Rihanna's story such a sensation in the media, her video was about a woman both in and out of control, but nevertheless making her own decisions.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2 (David Yates, 2011)

So I take this very long hiatus on watching movies (life, it gets in the way sometimes) and what do I see?  Damn right...Harry motha Potter! I don't really know if I feel satisfied for finally ending the series or for elbowing some obnoxious teenager in line for the tickets, but it is undeniable that the satisfaction is real.  The movie itself does nothing but toe the line of fear and violence that has been the hallmark of Hollywood and American cinema for the ten or so years--one could argue that the series itself is a byproduct of the pervading fear that has defined the 2000s--but it is satisfying in a sense that the last Matrix movie or the second Lord of the Rings was satisfying.  The makers know that the series is done, and whatever thing that needs to be expunged was already elaborated many times over in previous films.  The last film then becomes just a way to get things blasted into space with a very big explosion.  Two hours of destructive money shot, ending in the catastrophic (yet unsurprisingly, bloodless) death of villains and anyone else we didn't like before.  There was some effort to make the characters more conscious of their existence within this magical milieu, but it failed because it was either weak or insincere, especially when presented in context of relentless dichotomies between good and bad with no areas for ambiguity.  In the end, it sated the desire for closure, for completing, and for wholeness, and that is really what a movie should be all about.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula Sa Kamulatan (Ato Bautista, 2005)

I'm never one to suggest that progress necessarily implies that the present is inherently better or more “advanced” than the past, but Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula Sa Kamulatan illustrates the great strides that the current Filipino digital filmmaking scene has taken. The film works best as an extended dream sequence, where it is always night but we never see anyone really sleep. Bodies and characters move through space like zombies, as if the proper solution is not deep sleep but complete escape. But it never happens, and the one moment it seems to have happened, it may as well be just the dreams of a man who is dying for revenge. No one dies; everyone just suffers continuously. Wide lens and telephotos are used in abundance, skewing perspectives and distorting shapes and producing the effect of a drug-induced hallucination. The darkness punctured by the golden glow of street lamps and naked light bulbs made eery by the constant billow of cigarette smoke exaggerate the sense of being interrogated in a dark room, a session of truth telling largely limited by the listless confessor and the interrogator in denial. Regardless of the title, the film is one long nightmare, and the characters merely wake into it. However, as a critique or illustration of society, the film is problematic. A dream at least does not have to make sense, an unintelligible soup of symbols and Freudian allusions that mean nothing. It is enough that we walk through this landscape without necessarily knowing what is going on around us—only, that it is hell.

Once the film tries to make sense of everything—and it wants us to make sense of everything—it falls into the same tried cliché of blaming “moral corruption” for the mess. For Bautista, hopelessness is a product of laziness, unrequited libido, shady authoritarian figures, and conniving homosexuals ready to prey on the trodden masculine ideal. Any explanation of how these contribute to social degradation does not come. The viewer, who is supposed to be “Filipino”, is assumed knowledgeable of the rights and wrongs that make these “issues” the source of the problem. In short, it relies on cliches and social norms to understand the very system that makes these “norms”. Paired with the way the movie was edited—disrupting actions to focus on exposition—scenes become incoherent, like Angel's father who kills one of her lovers really for no good reason, or the evil policeman Lakay who proceeds to sodomize Jopet while trying to convince him to be one of his drug runners. The accompanying yelps, screams, and tears point to a cinema, then, still unshackled from melodrama. Although films such as the flawed but good Endo ultimately succumbed to melodrama (albeit more subdued), it was still in hindsight a signpost to how films were to become: more complex, accepting the truth of the situation rather than the easy explanations that wish it away. Whereas the disillusioned youth of Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula Sa Kamulatan were more products of a middle-class third world fantasy/dream/nightmare, Endo struck closer by depicting people as they are, desperate but taking each day as it comes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pepot Artista (Clodualdo del Mundo, 2005)

Philippine Cinema has always been very introspective. Not in a sense that the entertainment industry is as much a spectacle as its products, as seen in American Cinema, or even the deliberate self-examination of the art as seen in many European Cinematic movements. In the Philippines, self-reflection tends to be extremely personal, the film or entertainment industry as an extension of individual Filipinos' experiences, charting their hopes, dreams, and sad settling into the mundane life of being mere spectators. It's not just a spectacle, or an art, but life itself. Compare for example Singin in the Rain, which valorized Hollywood's artifice to Bernal's Pagdating sa Dulo, which charted the creation of a movie through the ups and downs of the bit players that create and are shaped by the movie. Or, a filmmaker's relationship with his craft in 8 ½ to the actors and filmmakers' relationship with their dreams in Babae sa Bubungang Lata. From Stardoom, to Kastilyong Buhangin, to Bomba Star, to Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit, Filipino movies about movies never really focus on the movies, but on the lore, myth, and sad reality of the people that make them.

Pepot Artista follows this tradition. Pepot is a young boy in the 70s, growing up during the limbo when the old Filipino cinema is about to die and the new, Third Golden Age of cinema is about to be born. Of course, it's already been born: Pagdating sa Dulo was made in 1970/71, many of Brocka’s early films have already been made, and Celso is already an active filmmaker. But it still hasn't asserted itself: Nora is still the female half of Guy and Pip and is yet to threaten to throw her baby under the bridge, and Boyet is still yet to condemn that small Nueva Ecija town. In a world of komiks featuring local movie stars, flash-bang shootouts with FPJ, and impersonators (that artform that Filipinos have mastered) at the local fair, Pepot is dazzled and sets about becoming a famous actor himself. The kid, of course can't act, can't sing, and has no redeeming features that could make him bankable. He could however dream. This world of celebrity deification however is built upon the crushed hopes and dreams of a nation, whose fortunes it saw dwindle and its future equally dim with the intensifying grip Marcos has on them. Nothing discourages Pepot to pursue his dream, other than the dire reality in which he finds himself. Yet, like Leolo, he dreams because he is.

Del Mundo does a very good job of capturing the film's milieu, especially knowing the kind of restrictions he must have had. (Forget the budget, how did he manage to get cell phones out of every single scene!? In a camera-crazy populace, how did he manage to keep regular passerbys from waving at his camera!?) His world isn't mired in the filth and sin of Brocka, Bernal, or O'Hara's Manila. Which makes sense, coming from a child's point of view where filthy squatters turn to impossible mazes and boring classes with physically abusive teachers (yeah, that teacher, it's Tado, a heterosexual drag queen of sorts who specializes in weirdly masculine women who would probably be clutching whips and wearing leather during their free time) turn to games that involve play on the teacher's favorite one liners. His children go to school, make money on the side selling gum and comics on the streets, and go to the movies or to the fair at night. They laugh, they play, they cry, and they dream. His adults as usual try their best and meet real world hardships with little luck, such as Pepot's father who is scammed by a recruiter promising a job in Saudi, or his mother who shamefully buys everyday goods on credit, or the his miserable teachers who must entertain their failed dreams through their favorite students.

But beyond their challenges is their consciousness of popular entertainment as an escape, as a way to make life more entertaining and more “real.” The mother especially likes to wail and weep like any on-screen suffering mother would do, and for the most part it's sincere with a bit of self-conscious irony added. The teachers, too, are over-dramatic and over-expressive, like any over-bearing teacher should be. In a sense, they dreamed, and they realize that they have failed, but that nevertheless does not suggest that they tire of entering the world that could have been. This to an extent is more palpable than those tired movie cliches where the mother would shout, “does acting put food on the table!?” Well, it doesn't, but in a culture so saturated by movies, it's impossible that anybody actually manages to escape the reality of celebrities, popular songs, popular komiks, and popular movies by being a miser. By suggesting a constant shifting but never ceasing relationship between movies and its spectators, del Mundo gives us probably the most accurate portrayal of just the kind of personal relationship Filipinos have with their movies.

It would be criminal of course not to mention del Mundo's almost Godardian slips of the fourth wall as his characters talk to the camera, meet older versions of the young stars that they adore, act out their fantasies, and point out the complicated identities of actors (imagine, an actor playing an actor playing himself acting, as Joel Torre's cab driver demonstrates). The actions are never left unadulterated. The characters once in a while make comments to the camera. And as a movie about dreams, del Mundo indulges some of the characters in having their dreams filmed: the Guy and Pip impersonators sing with Nora and Tirso's voices, the mother gets her own melodramatic background music, and the students act out their heroic characters in the school play. But unlike the special lights and fans in Singin in the Rain, del Mundo never films them in glamour. Instead, he indulges them during the height of their banal everydayness. Sure, it puts an emphasis on the broken dreams to come, the unfulfilled promises, and the disgusting normalcy of the everyday compared to the fabulous life of an entertainer, but not necessarily. Del Mundo does underline the reality of his characters, but instead of dwelling in their misery, he gives their reality decency by demonstrating the glory of their dreams dreamed in their context. Del Mundo points out that these characters do not dream of otherworldly experiences, only a better life and a life with a certain purpose.

It's quite disappointing that many of Del Mundo's filmic references wouldn't have worked if he didn't overdo them. References to Biyaya ng Lupa would not have made any sense if the film didn't rapidly cut back and forth between the reference and the referred. Tirso Cruz III literally had to put his face next to a younger version on an old komiks to make the connection click. Only Joel Torre's appearance really made sense without the heavy hand, but it's because he still works, and his face is still familiar. It didn't quite work because it deprived the viewer of the thrill of seeing something new but not really, but therein lies the complexity of Filipinos' relationship with their own cinema: we love it, it sticks in our minds, but how can a memory be memorialized by an amnesiac? The movie directed its audiences a little too forcefully, but tell me, who the hell remembers those wooden coin banks?

Despite the need for such obviousness excusing the presence of it, it does point out one thing: that despite the film's “passion” for Filipino cinema, the result is along the lines of Tarantino. You can tell that del Mundo is a fan of the local cinema, and he reflects the Filipino craze for their own movies, but he doesn't really go into trying to understand that craze. Like Tarantino, he goes nuts trying to recreate the scenes from movies he love, poking fun at some of them, even (lovingly, of course). But he stops there. He could have broken down the Nora's very politically charged image—something that O'Hara first recognized when he cast her for his Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, and something that he almost realized when a Nora impersonator declared she too can be a superstar, with her “shimmering brown skin”—or the business of image saturation, with actors' faces appearing in notebook covers, komiks, cinema, banners, and as a result, in dreams, aspirations, and broken promises. Most especially, he doesn't really examine the fleeting nature of movies, especially Filipino movies, which are more ephemera rather than enduring works of art. Again, how can a memory be memorialized by an amnesiac? Del Mundo is content with a vague answer: we do, but we don't. He doesn't address that very painful love for the indigenous cinema, much like loving an older woman, of feeling intense passion but cognizant that love and beauty have already been claimed by time. We settle for their contemporary selves—although beautiful, only a meager reminder of what they were.

Peopot Artista suffers from the same problem that other valiant efforts of this contemporary Filipino independent movie scene suffer, which is good try but with the crappy means to make it good cinema. I've said it before and it needs to be said again, that digital images do not have the depth of chemically-produced images, and bodies in digital movies always look and feel like they are moving in a two-dimensional world. Now, with a little bit of effort this does not have to be the case, like the images in Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, but del Mundo I believe does not have the chops of Aurelius to really make the means that he has work for him. His scenes are extremely flatly lit and composed, which really emphasizes the limited gradience of digital colors. His colors—in the clothes, the komiks, the small alleys—pop, but not in a good way. Garish and monochromatic, the electronic colors are sad but without the dignity of running make-up.

Peopot Artista is a respectable effort that displays one’s loves cut short by the lack of means to make it good. The camera and the story settles into a languid study of life, but that study is cut short by the frustrating plastic effects of video—which, like 8mm films, emphasizes the movie as a video, as a capture in time and nothing more. The movie wasn’t painted using light and shadow. Rather, it was a product of a point-and-shoot camera that brought no dignity to its characters. Pepot Artista offered us a glimpse of our cinematic selves, but like a deteriorating VHS copy of a really good movie, it’s just irritatingly not enough.