Film Comment on "Critic After Dark"

A short review of Critic After Dark: A Review of Philippine Cinema:


There isn't exactly a surplus of literature on the output of Southeast Asia's most important national cinema [Finally, someone outside of the Philippines said it!--NV], whether it be in English, Tagalog, or any of the 80-plus other languages of the Philippine archipelago. That this latest entry wasn't even published there but abroad in Singapore is fitting for a writer whose sometimes wry and acidic comments have pissed off many a self-important hack with family connections to the powers that be. (Did I say Carlos Siguion-Reyna?)

Critic After Dark is a testament to Noel Vera's 1994-2004 run as a newspaper critic and his concurrent battles with a film culture he regards as dominated by bad taste, riddled with corruption and guilty of a general under-appreciation of director Mario O'Hara in particular. It all adds up to a pretty accurate overview of what was going on in Philippine feature filmmaking over the last decade. Interspersed are pieces dealing with more general subjects, ranging from skeptical musings over the true value of Carlos Vander Tolosa's repatriated not-quite-classic Giliw Ko (My Love, '39) to reconsiderations of such masters as Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, and Mike de Leon, to comparative contemplations on sub-genre-wave phenomena such as Rizal or OCW (overseas contract worker) films.

Vera, like all of us, has his pantheon as well as a long and lovingly cultivated shit list--and he makes no secret of either. He'll do anything to find something good in a film by his hero O'Hara while it would take the third degree to make him say anythingkindabout Erik Matti (or the above-mentioned power-elite scion). And that's basically okay, not because he's right (who ever is?), but because it all amounts to a transparent theory of cinema and a critical practice that enables discerning readers--both aficionados and neophytes--to draw their own conclusions.--Olaf Moller

Film Comment, September-October 2005


The book, incidentally, is also available at  Datelines Bookstore Cubao; Cultural Center of the Philippines Bookstore, Manila; Fully Booked, Powerplant Mall, Makati;and Booktopia, Libis, QC.

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