Archive for the Film Category

Unofficially Yours

Posted in Film, Review on February 19, 2012 by theburningpulpit
image from internetphilippines.com

My Pa makes the silliest comments when watching movies. This time, he says: nagagaya na tayo sa America.

Uh… for a long time running now, Pa. For better or for worse.

Unofficially Yours (directed by Cathy Garcia Molina) begins with Mackie (John Lloyd Cruz, In My Life) and Ces (Angel Locsin, In the Name of Love) banging each other after a short verbal exchange regarding sabaw and laman. Immediately afterwards the two part on their own separate ways, only to be brought together inside the Manila Bulletin office. He is a former dentist and an aspiring journalist; she is his senior and mentor. And, in the evenings, they are engaged in one-night stands.

The movie is many things: a comedy, a writer’s story, a bit of a social commentary. It’s funny, somewhat witty, and even a little bit sexy. But to wit, Unofficially Yours is ultimately about how a casual setup between a man and a woman becomes that dreaded thing that is love. And, as my Pa’s comment hint, such a story is not yet that familiar this side of the Pacific.

Unfamiliar, but not unheard of. While watching the movie a couple of movies and short stories popped into my head–some less related to the matter than others. Among them were Love and Other Drugs (Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway) and Friends With Benefits  (Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis), which, I must admit, I can tackle only in the most superficial level. Local fiction also came into mind: namely, “Vinyl Strangers” and “Into Ashes All My Lust,” by Michelle Tan and Exie Abola, respectively. The common denominator? Must be sex minus all those wishy-washy namby-pamby feelings that drive one to crumpling down beside the oven. Or is it?

Unofficially Yours may divided into two parts. The first is all about Ces and Makie thrashing all about the office, the car, and the apartment. We learn that Mackie’s just recently been through a string of relationships and is resolved to make of himself a new man; supporting a lovestruck single mother and a jobless brother, Ces doesn’t want love to get in the way of her career. Words fly past headset-covered ears, roommates stay still in spite of loud bangs and groans, and Mackie’s offer of post-sex coffee, tea, juice, cold water, and warm water are rejected in this half of the movie. Pardon my lack of exposure, but bear with me when I claim that this part seems almost out of the pages of Hollywood, and that I say not as a bad thing. The casual script, coupled with John Lloyd and Angel’s good acting, lends the movie a certain charm that is not of love, but of fun and smart-aleck retorts.

But the movie being a romance after all, the second part progresses with Mackie exhibiting what seems to be more of a needy nature. Despite his promises that he would go the extra mile for Ces, who he finds himself more enamored with, Mackie begins to show something like a puppy dog’s behavior by always asking her to go here and there, at one point almost forcing her to go into a family lunch when she has expressly stated she has work to do. Ces, on the other hand, finds it harder and harder to resist–she even forgoes work for that very same family lunch–and becomes torn between her not-relationship with Mackie on the one hand, and her application for work in Singapore on the other. And the usual Philippine-brand of romance techniques rear its head, with sob lines and an injured heart, a callous third party and, yes, more sob lines. And because it is a Valentine’s movie and people demand happy endings, both see the error of their ways (well, Mackie’s neediness is only summarily addressed while Ces goes on to have a heart-to-heart talk with her Ma) and, voila, make-up song and they are in a relationship.

Now, you may think that I am terribly disappointed with this movie. Actually… not at all. Unofficially Yours avoids as much pitfalls as it finds itself falling into. In a sense of gumption rarely seen in male leads, John Lloyd’s character does not go head over heels when his ex shows up in the family lunch. Angel gets slightly jealous, but just that: slightly, without any real basis and only to illustrate her growing feelings for John Lloyd, and briefly. Nor does anyone moralize over the appalling and depraved scenario that is the one-night stand. And even in comparison with all the literature I’ve mentioned earlier, Unofficially Yours is able to stand up, if not with a victorious pose and a smug smile, then at least with a straight back. The movie certainly does not have the ability to make Mackie’s article improve through the power of love discovered (despite what the film tries to portray), nor does it explore the possibility of Ces becoming satisfied (or should I say satiated?) with sex and sex alone. The beauty of rediscovering beauty in the midst of pain, the increasing depravity of the human person–these themes are wonderful, no doubt, but it would be a happy genius who could pull it off together with the happy ending demanded during the Valentines season. As Jose Dalisay says, the most difficult of stories to write is a credible and riveting love story set in McDonald’s or Jollibee in Quiapo or Cubao–much more if it is to have a happy ending. So Unofficially Yours, while retaining a bit of the old Philippine cinema sob lines and lack of middlegame power (Patrick Garcia was almost a deus ex machina, and Angel’s back story did not even have a scene to go with her narration), follows the merrier path of Hollywood.

Of course, this is not to say that mainstream Hollywood is the ideal when it comes to one-night stands. The best one-night stand films I know, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in tandem, are mature while fresh, and while these do not have the confetti and the fanfare and the rainbows the Hollywood staple love story has, these do leave a warm afterglow, one that is not quite the giddiness of being in love, but something that goes beyond it.

And to those who are worried about the future of Philippine cinema: despair not! If you’ve noted the movies I’ve attached to John Lloyd and Angel earlier, you may find that, though these are nothing approaching earth-shattering Oscar-baggers, In My Life and In the Name of Love are not completely of the old pattern of local films: much like Baler and Rosario (which I have mentioned elsewhere), they are stepping-stones, tentative dips into the water. I’ve had the peculiar experience of watching a so-called vintage local movie, whose title I cannot and, if ever, will not recall. Only allow me to say that our moviemakers are gaining ground. Just give them more time!

Anastasia

Posted in Film, Review on April 13, 2011 by theburningpulpit

It was only a matter of time.

Anastasia (Fox Animated Studios, 1997) is perhaps the last of the great princess movies, the final wave of which broke out in the ’90s. However, our family never got around to watching this film on its initial release in 1997, despite the fact that, in the past, we have seen the classic 90s movies like The Lion King and Thumbelina. But perhaps that was just as well, as otherwise I would probably not have appreciated Anastasia in a far different level.

Taken as a movie Anastasia only rates slightly above average. It has wonderful visuals, a great vocal cast (Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, and Angela Lansbury), and its catchy songs and quaint choreography recall Broadway. Besides these things, however, the film has little else to offer. The greater part of the movie is a melodramatic love story between a dashing con man and a princess with an amnesia–hardly something someone of my age and cynicism (a friend of mine calls it “cold-heartedness”) can relate to.

As a historical film Anastasia fares even worse. Despite the film acknowledging itself to be more of a fairy tale than history, historians have deplored over the terribly sanitized version of the actual events. Sure, put all the blame on Rasputin. Sure, minimize the Russian Revolution. Sure, romanticize the Romanovs. By doing so, however, Anastasia may mislead the younger audiences, providing them with a skewed framework of Russian history. And as we all know, a skewed knowledge of history gives birth to a skewed knowledge of a people and its culture. In this particular case, the audiences may think of the Russian Revolution as something of no great import (and for better or for worse, it actually is a landmark in Russian history), and that the Grand Duchess, canonized as a passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church, is nothing more than a bit of an over-romantic ditz.

And yet, though wanting in plot (and exceeding in animal friends and unnecessary spunk) and misleading in its representation of history, something in Anastasia compels the viewers, catches and commands their attention–at least, in the earlier part of the movie. I am referring, of course, to the scenes leading to and occurring in the song, “Once Upon a December.” Various people, from fans uploading the song in YouTube to my own sisters, have described it from “haunting” to “nakaka-iyak.” I personally cannot even begin to identify its characteristics, but only feel a certain chill as I watch the ghostly figures descend to the deserted hall, which in turn comes to life with bright orange light as pairs dance and waltz and blend into a painterly crowd as the Czar of all Russia walks down and kisses Anya’s head. For some reason, something in me snapped in that scene. It was as if, in that scene, I was watching a different movie altogether: something that is not part of that above-average Fox film, but rather, something truly touching, truly awe-inspiring, something great.

In Wikipedia, we find amateur historian Bob Atchison saying, “if 900,000 kids go to Anastasia and of that, 10,000 kids become really interested in Russian history and go on and find the truth and pursue it, it’s worth it.” For me, at least, “Once Upon a December” served as such an entry point. It did not only introduce me to Russian culture and history (of which I was, before, only data-versed), but also to a different perspective of history in general. What must history appear to be to those who found themselves its victims? The entire movie did not give me an answer; the song only provided me only with a glimpse. But it was that glimpse that turned things upside down.

In the end, Anastasia is the last great princess movie not because it is glittering, not because it is populated with a wonderful cast, not because it has cute musical numbers. It definitely has no extraordinarily engaging story, and it definitely does not stay true from history. But in spite of all its shining glitter, there, in the film’s earlier parts–and especially in that song–is the hint of darkness. And this darkness disturbs as well as captivates, and it unnerves as well as beckons us closer, closer, to see past the glamor, to look deeper, to feel deeper, to see history through a different lens.

Elsewhere I have said that it is this darkness, this which the 90s movies do not altogether shy away from, is what makes the animated films truly great. There is a dark undertone in The Lion King; even The Little Mermaid and Aladdin have something more to offer than the usual flat evil villain. (In their cases, forbidden love and class divides.) Perhaps this is what the latter movies lack. In the desire to accommodate more people, to be more politically correct, and to be more appropriate, the filmmakers have filled everything with light. And without the contrast, everything appears flat, everything appears too bright, and it stings our eyes. So, yes. Sanitize the movies. Take extraordinary amounts of creative license. But never remove the dark tones altogether.

Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Zsazsa Zaturnnah

Posted in Film, Literature, Review on March 27, 2011 by theburningpulpit

Believe me when I say that this graphic novel is a fresh breeze. Hence, this is my final official entry to my Filipiniana Feature Month WordPress event.

I’ve heard of Zaturnnah years before, but I was able to watch the movie two or three years ago and read the graphic novel last week. And I must say that in the movie, the musical (which my sister has watched) and the graphic novel, there is a certain fidelity and unity testifying to the strength and brilliance of the Zaturnnah franchise.

The original graphic novel focuses on Ada and his best friend Didi, both members of the third sex. (To be less politically correct: they are both gays.) Ada, an owner of a small beauty parlor, receives a strange stone from the sky with the word ‘Zaturnnah’ etched on it. Whenever he swallows the stone, Ada turns into a voluptuously muscular female superhero, whom Didi dubs as ‘Zsazsa Zaturnnah.’ Zaturnnah then goes on to battle a giant frog, a horde of mumus, and a posse of radical alien feminists hellbent, for some strange reason, on dominating Ada’s little town. At the same time, Ada/Zaturnnah also has to contend with his/her feelings and romantic needs, condensed in the form of Dodong, a well-endowed *ehem, I’m getting a relish for certain things* and chivalrous young man. With the stress brought by evil supervillainesses and, worse, a troubled love life, Zaturnnah/Ada is stretched thin to meet the demands of both fronts.

Much has been said of Zsazsa Zaturnnah being a milestone for third sex literature–and the franchise, from Vergara’s graphic novel to the movie, truly is. That strangely moving scene between Ada/Zaturnnah and his/her father, now part of the mumu army, really struck me: that a father would, even beyond the grave, still harbor his disappointment and rather tear himself to pieces than accept Ada for who he truly is! And yet, even the biggest chauvinist, given that he has something of a literary inclination, cannot help but be at least amused with the self-aware humor in Vergara’s graphic novel. Ada’s swallowing the stone just because Didi told him to, Zaturnnah getting those dramatically burlesque panels, the superhero sardonically yelling at the panicking crowd to stay aside so as to avoid the rampaging giant frog, the said crowd’s uncontrollable tendency to surround dangerous fight scenes… all these things “deconstruct” (whatever that word means nowadays) the graphic novel form and the superhero genre, re-presenting the experience in a funny new light without trying to be hyped and/or intellectual. I mean, come on, see that scene where Queen Femina Suarestellar Baroux channels a tiger with her kung fu routine and Zsazsa channeling a mermaid with her… interesting… mahalay arts. If you don’t at least smirk at that episode, you should probably see a psychiatrist or three.

The musical and the movie, by extension, are also good renditions of the Zaturnnah story. My sister, who has watched the musical, said that the story was engaging and the music wonderful, even though the “Didi” dominated the stage. (Then again, Ada was never meant to be a show-stopper.) Perhaps the musical’s being staged seven times says something of its popularity, its ability to capture the audience’s imaginations. The movie I can vouch for, even though it did not bag an MMFF award. The music ranges from catchy (“Babae Na Ako”) to haunting (“Multo ng Nakaraan”), and its plot, retaining much of the original (as I later found out), preserves the soul of the graphic novel. The musical, the movie, and the graphic novel, in the end, are all must-sees.

Because really, we need more “earthy” literature. We need literature that can reconcile the intellectual might of the academe and the gravitational popularity of mass media. Perhaps Zsazsa Zaturnnah has shown us the way. And now, as I end my Filipiniana Feature Month after presenting one photo album, one academic novel, one movie, and one graphic novel, I hope that those who write Filipiniana can finally push the frontiers not a little forward, no, not anymore, but by leaps and bounds.

Rosario

Posted in Film, Review on March 22, 2011 by theburningpulpit

(My apologies for the late post. Grad rehearsal yesterday.)

It is our family’s tradition to watch an MMFF movie every year. As Mano Po, the movie series preferred by our family (read: not me) was not in the roster last year, I rather hoped I could successfully suggest RPG: Metanoia, which even then was getting good reviews as a first in the Philippine film industry. However, we (read: not I) eventually decided to see Rosario, at the time also getting positive vibes thanks to Dolphy’s good acting.

So Rosario it was.

I should have enjoyed this film. Even now I am hankering for decent “Era” films and stories, and Rosario is as close to “Era” as one gets. While it is not of a historical line like Tirad Pass, Rizal and Baler (the last I liked even though I did not see it in full), the production and design teams went over and beyond my expectations to match (if not to faithfully replicate) the costume, the language, the mood, and the atmosphere of the early American period. The Spanish twang was still strong in that part of Philippine history, as evidenced in the term “Nueva York,” the Spanish punctuation marks in Vicente’s letter, Vicente’s Revolutionary sentiments, and the hacienda era in Negros–wide fields, beautiful houses, amigos and paisanos gathering in sumptuous dinners. I suspect that the people behind this film are, at the least, fascinated with that different day, that different age, and I believe that if more of these people step up, then there is hope still in molding our country’s sensibilities.

And yet for all its glamor–for a glamorous visual treat Rosario is, and no one can deny it–I find myself disappointed with its plot and theme: the film could have better played with the liberated woman standing out in a society only beginning to come out of its shell. We, the viewers, do not feel that Rosario’s mistakes are brought about by her conflict with a retrogressive society. Instead, she comes across as a woman who just could not resist getting it on with all sorts of men: we do not see the Jennylyn Mercado of chi-chi sensibilities and smoking habits cavorting with Yul Servo and Dennis Trillo, but just a woman without any self-restraint. She did not float her way through her partners because she honestly believed that, as a liberated woman, she could, but because her id just drove her to it. Nor did the theme of redemption, emphasized by Dolphy’s narration (incidentally, his name in the film was “Jesus”), truly come out. It had not been well-reinforced. Even the scene where Mercado bangs on the door of Servo’s car, trying to plead with her daughter, did not evoke a particularly strong sense of guilt and regret, for it had come too late in the film.

The story’s frame (Dolphy talking about his mother to his estranged nephew, Manuel V. Pangilinan) comes across as rather stale. True, Dolphy does need to tell his mother’s story in spite of her character, for ancestors should always be remembered. But that Rosario did not prove to be a truly redeemed character weakens the glow in Dolphy’s design. Moreover, I did not understand the need to hide MVP’s face. The only conflict in the latter’s character was whether to accept Dolphy’s claims as true or not; there was nothing in MVP himself that warrants the obscuring of his face. If they could not have gotten the actual person, then why not make someone else look like him?

In the end, Rosario holds value only because of its beautiful rendering of an era. Despite the Lopez-esque argument that a story that is purely ornamental is lifeless, I believe that beauty must hold for something, and that art for art’s sake is also valid. And so Rosario must join the ranks of “first” movies like In My Life, RPG: Metanoia, and Baler–movies that attempt to revitalize the Philippine film industry by pushing the conventions further, by depicting an honest (if not faithful) era atmosphere, by dignifying a third-sex relationship, by daring an animation movie, by portraying the other side of the coin.

And yet, as one applauds these pioneers, he must also ask himself: why is it that these films only remain “firsts,” and that no follow-ups proceed them? If we admire In My Life and Baler, then why don’t we continue pushing the limits? Why don’t we make more honest era stories? Why don’t we make more good lesbian and gay love stories? Why does our film industry not press forward and improve on the faults of these pioneer movies? Rosario and RPG: Metanoia, alas, may as well be stored in that same moldy and webbed cupboard of “firsts,” of revolutionary movies that, unfortunately, bear no more fruit. Can we let this go on?

Tangled

Posted in Film, Review on February 18, 2011 by theburningpulpit

Since everyone said that Disney’s latest “princess movie,” Tangled, was such an awesome film, I decided to give it a go. Anyone claiming that I watched this for my #2 girl-voice crush Mandy Moore (Grey DeLisle, of course, is #1–too bad she was replaced in voicing Gothel) is totally saying it wrong.

The film, all in all was good–it had an engaging plot, beautiful colors, and the proper funnies. But if I expected something as magnificent–no other term for it–as The Lion King, or even as quaint as Aladdin and Anastasia (which, by the way, is not Disney), then Tangled comes across as a huge disappointment. Despite stunning visuals and beautiful Mandy Moore songs, I felt that the film had not much to offer besides teh shinies and role reversals (feisty girl, ditzy guy, badarse horse). Also, the film’s resolution did not satisfy me: I didn’t appreciate Rapunzel and Flynn’s happily ever after narrated in such a cavalierly summarized manner. And the geek in me protested the generic nature of Rapunzel’s kingdom: where was it? As she and Flynn browsed books, a map corresponding our world was shown–so shouldn’t it follow that the kingdom was a real kingdom like France or Germany? (At least Princess Diaries had tried to depict fictional Genovia as situated geographically and politically in the real world.)

But my biggest beef is against Disney’s obsession with animal friends and the overly optimistic “fulfill your dreams!” clause. The latter pervades this movie so much that I cannot help but whine: I’ve seen all this before! And in every post-90s Disney productions! (Of course, Camp Rock and High School Musical were, strictly speaking, Disney Channel–but still.) Moreover, the issue regarding the title change (and the attendant decentralization of the “princess” theme to suit a young male audience) irked me: the decision seemed too commercial. If Disney hopes to recapture its former glory, then I say that it is trying to do so in the wrong way. The Lion King (the first movie, at any rate) worked because it found the delicate balance between adults and children, reality and fantasy. True, there was fun and singing and “Hakuna Matata”, but it also represented very real tragedies, such as death and loss of innocence. Perhaps this delicate balance was Disney’s true magic, that which was the source of the whimsical beauty of its heyday films–and this is what Tangled lacks.

This is not to say, however, that Tangled does not have its moments of brilliance. Amid the parade of good (as in good enough) episodes was the scene where Rapunzel and Flynn were together in a boat even as the King and Queen, their hearts heavy, set the first lantern off–and then the courtyard, then the castle, and then the entire kingdom glowed in light as people expressed their sympathy for the parents who have lost their princess. That scene brought together the perfect song, the perfect colors, and the perfect mood to create the perfect scene, and as Rapunzel saw the lanterns literally fill the night I must admit that I was moved. Really moved.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Tangled could have been a magnificent story if it focused more on that magic, that which I cannot name and yet brought a tear into my eye, instead of the unnecessary swashbuckling and pub confessions. On the flip side, perhaps this is me saying that there is hope still for Disney, after all.

Also, have I already said that awesome Mandy Moore music was awesome?

Rating: 6/10 (Fun and Enjoyable)

Les Misérables (1998)

Posted in Film, Review on February 12, 2011 by theburningpulpit

These past days I have been looking for a movie–the movie to match my finals-month mood. The 1998 film adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables wasn’t that movie. I have yet to find this movie.

But it must be said: Les Misérables had come close.

This all-cast film, starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes (aka That Girl Every Girl is Measured Against*), was my first full encounter of the story: I haven’t watched the musical, and I have only read the abridged version of the novel. (And that was only after I have watched the film.) And yet, even in spite of the liberties it took with the details, I believe that the movie was a faithful rendering of the original story, which is first and foremost a tale of moral force and emotions.

Les Misérables centers on Jean Valjean (Neeson), a convict who seeks to pursue the freedom denied him for nineteen long years. An encounter with the Bishop Myriel instills in him the desire to be a “new man,” and as mayor of Vigau he uses his newfound fortune to develop the town and improve people’s lives. However, he is relentlessly pursued by the inflexible police officer Javert (Rush) who takes a personal interest in his case. At the same time, Valjean takes under his wing the terminally ill Fantine (Thurman), a worker who had turned to prostitution to meet the upkeep for the Thenadiérs’ raising her daughter, Cosette. With Fantine’s death, Valjean takes custody of Cosette, who blooms into a lovely young woman (Danes). Valjean’s interaction with the characters throughout the movie challenge him to further explore and live out what it means to be be moral, to be free, and to love.

The film really delivers emotionally. In the court scene, I really feel the tension as Valjean watches a simpleton being condemned by the testimony of his one-time inmates. The constant repetition of the court officer’s warning (that the testimony can ruin a man’s life), the audience’s derisive laughter, and the false Valjean’s striking simplicity all highlight the inner conflict going through the real convict’s soul. In the barricade scene, the terrible death of the child Gavroche strikes both the viewer and Marius, depicted in the movie as an eloquent and fashionable Republican–and the grim reality of death shakes him. And most interesting is the portrayal of Javert, played by the talented Rush. Cold and exact, Javert nonetheless captures a certain command of sympathy even as he denounces himself in front of Valjean (whom he thought he had wrongly accused of being the convict), and especially as he wrote his memo on the banks of the Seine, about to commit the first legally wrong yet morally right act in his entire life.

All in all, I believe this movie to be as poignant as the poster claims. Despite the absence of elements such as Eponine and Marius’ affinity with the Thenadiérs, Les Misérables focuses on what is essential. And in the end, as we watch Neeson smiling as he walks briskly, almost running, along the riverbank, we breathe in relief, we smile a little, even in spite of the many tragedies that has occurred, and we leave with the certainty that a man can be “decent in an indecent time,” that man can still be free.

 
*although, perhaps, the more accurate epithet is “That Girl Always Measured Against Every Other Girl,” as evidenced by the usual question, “What does Claire Danes have that (the other girl) doesn’t?”

Everything is Illuminated

Posted in Film, Review on February 1, 2011 by theburningpulpit

A supremely premium film by Liev Schreiber

I chose to review the movie because, first, I watched it before I read it, and second, because the movie can and does stand on its legs. In fact, and despite the risk of uttering blasphemy, I liked the movie a little better for its unity and focus. And its excellent soundtrack.

The movie begins with the act of writing. We are introduced to Alexander “Alex” Perchov (Eugene Hütz), the Ukranian writer with a distressing but impossibly funny not-first-rate command of the English language. Starting off as an aspiring American with a fascination for hip-hop, African Americans (he uses the ‘N- word’), famous dance clubs, disseminating currency and the year 1969, Alex’s life turns around and around when he, his ‘blind’ grandfather (Boris Leskin), and his grandfather’s officious seeing-eye bitch Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. take the Jewish American client, Jonathan S. Foer (Elijah Wood), and search for the small shetl of Trachimbrod and Augustine, the girl who saved Jonathan’s grandfather.

Alex, Jonfen, Grandfather …and Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

While the movie is supposedly about Jonathan’s search for his his roots and his grandfather’s story, we find that the film is also very much about Alex and his grandfather’s. Spiced with terrible English, outrageous humor, and genuinely touching moments, Everything is Illuminated is a story of alienation, of query, of unity, of identity, and of discovery–and indeed, “everything is illuminated in the light of the past.” In the end, we, like Alex, find ourselves enlightened, and we understand that the past is not there for us to find, but rather, we are here so that the past and its treasure trove of memories can be passed, can live on, can be told into a story.

Gogol Bordello

I believe the movie works very well partly because of its wonderful soundtrack. Ranging from the lighthearted and playful to the calm and melancholic, the music by Paul Cantelon and the bands such as Leningrad and Gogol Bordello (whose members include Hütz) beautifully portray the wide range of emotions in the film. The use of Eastern European musical strings and strains provide a unique cultural authenticity to the story, so much so that even until now, whenever I hear guitars and balalaikas I recall sunflowers, falling in love in Odessa, and Anastasia. Okay, so the last one is probably some other movie’s fault.

Of course, it’s a downright shame that this movie never even got an Oscar. But perhaps the people behind Everything is Illuminated (and let’s not forget the author, J. S. Foer) can be satisfied knowing that someone out there thinks it is right up there with other first-rate films like Before Sunrise, before Sunset, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and that, in its own right, it is considered by this someone as the best Holocaust film yet.

(My thanks to Ms. Jackie Jacinto for introducing us this movie in her Philo class, and to my mom and sisters, who commenced a very rigid search in America just to disseminate a DVD copy to me.)