On Joseph Israel Laban's "Baconaua"

by Richard Bolisay


▶︎ There is a feeling of having fallen asleep while watching Baconaua despite being able to sit through it with eyes wide open. This is not a poetic compliment, nor a suggestion of its being dreamlike or captivating, but a problem of clarity, of the film’s confusion of what to be clear about and what to be ambiguous about, and so it winds up lacking not only in thought and reason but also in depth and impact. It needs more cooking, more boiling, and more braising, but it’s too busy fueling the fire and not putting in the ingredients. There are attempts, of course: The visuals seem to imagine a fishing town that does not experience daylight (it’s always dark, for some reason). The issues are rooted in social mores and differences, from the death in the family to the smuggling of illegal goods. The conflict between the sisters of being courted by the same man is a reflection of its geography and a ripe subject for commentary on moral precepts. And the sea is a character as much as the people. But none of these are fleshed out because it seems (again, everything is wrapped in this aura of seeming) that the film is pursuing something else all along — The sea serpent in the title? The allegory? The buff Chinese outsider representing something? The apples? So much mystery, so little sense. ***


Richard Bolisay is a film critic. This piece was published on his site Lilok Pelikula under "Dispatches from Cinemalaya 2017 (Part 1)," August 8 2017.

EMAIL: gaslightph@gmail.com.

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