Saturday, June 07, 2008

Consuelo de bobo

Today's Inquirer editorial tells us that the critical panning "Serbis" received in Cannes isn't that big a deal; what's important is we're in competition.

To be included in the Cannes competition is already an honor; getting positive reviews and winning an award are just icing on the cake. To be sure, “Serbis” consolidates the reputation of Philippine cinema as the most exciting in Southeast Asia. Other cinemas in the region can’t lay claim to having been screened thrice in competition at Cannes.

Which is how Filipinos take bad news. Notice that even the worst tragedy can be interpreted as a blessing when contrasted with an even more terrible scenario. A guy who lost a foot would be consoled by saying "buti isang paa lang," a guy who loses both feet would be told "pasalamat ka may kamay ka pa," while someone who loses all limbs should take comfort in the fact that he's still alive.

Mendoza's "Serbis," is being compared to Vincent Gallo's "The Brown Bunny" (2003), which also triggered walkouts and featured a gratuitous oral sex scene that, five years later, is the only thing worth rewatching. And while Mendoza can take pride in the fact that his is the first Filipino film in 25 years to get in competition, Gallo probably still gets a kick out of convincing Chloe Sevigny to give him head onscreen.

But for me a Palm D'Or isn't the goal. What's more important is affecting global pop culture. "Gojira" and "Dragonball" are as culturally valuable to Japan as Kurosawa's films. I'd rather have people watching Filipino films the way we (and the west) consume Hong Kong cinema.

Which is why I think "The Echo" is more significant. Yam Laranas's Hollywood remake of his own film is charming audiences and will help promote Philippine cinema more. It may not be high art, but it's art nonetheless, and it's something more people like.

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