Sunday, May 27, 2007

Baliw (2007)

Baliw (Redd Ochoa, 2007)
English Title: Crazy

My biggest gripe with Redd Ochoa's Baliw (Crazy) is not that it's poorly made, but simply because it doesn't have a story worth telling; or more accurately, the film that it ambitioned itself to be is different from the one that was shown onscreen. In a way, it feels like the film is suffering from its own schizophrenia --- when it advertises itself as a story about second chances and redemption, what it really is is a confused little film about the cruelties of life, period; certainly nothing about redemption except disattached conversations that seemingly have nothing to do with where the story is going.

As mentioned, the film isn't poorly made. With a budget that is merely a fraction of the amount of money used to feed the cast and crew of a big budgeted pirates film, producer-writer-director Redd Ochoa was forced to rely on his own raw talent, and the talent that was provided to him. The film is actually quite well-edited. The cinematography is apt and aware of the visual disadvantages of the digital medium thus preventing the usual errors that accompany low-budget Filipino filmmaking.

There were some instances wherein Ochoa was able to maximize his resources and deliver sequences that show remarkable mastery of the film language, like the opening sequence which begins with a vivid portrayal of the usual hustle and bustle of ghetto Manila before turning into a high-octane foot chase between masked criminal elements and police officers. It ends quite violently, with the two cops violently murdered by the robbers inside an abandoned warehouse. At that instance, the film showed great promise --- there's an irreprehensible viciousness that is shown; can there be redemption for someone that animalistic, that cruel?

Then the film suddenly halted; busying itself by telling the story of a perfect family who crosses path with the titular psychopath (Ryan Eigenmann, who reprises the role he played in Peque Gallaga's Gangland (1998)). It talks about foundlings and how the church gives them second chances by taking them in and providing for them shelter and love. It also talks about moral choices in life; subjects, by themselves, are signals for a story of redemption.

And indeed, the film is a story of redemption, but not a very powerful one. Instead of focusing on the interesting character, the murderous psychopath, it concentrates on the lone survivor (Joshua Deocareza) of a massacre, who by a twist of fate, crosses path again with the psychopath. Instead of treating the psychopath as a human character, it is treated as a mere case study --- a cinematic example how the theory of 'nature and nurture' can bring about the worst in people.

Ochoa spends so much time in detailing things that aren't necessarily connected with the film's outcome --- did I really need to know why the psychopath turned up that way when it's not really his redemption story but another's; did I really have to be morally bothered by second chances and life choices when the film will end with nothing of absolute pertinence resolved. In the end, I was unaffected, annoyed, and severely shortchanged.


Tommy said...

Oggman, I think you're over analyzing the whole genre of BALIW. It is just a story of two people who had the same path, but different summit. In filmmaking, I believe that you have to have a bone marrow that makes the spine. Dialogue was there...setting was set...yet the schizoid that you had revealed in your sentiments got the best of you. All that was the meat of the story. Without it, as Bob Deniro would say, "You got nuthin'". I truly believe that without its proper direction and the meat of the story, this wouldn't be one of the best indie films that ever came out of PHilippine Cinema. I saw the movie a couple of days ago and, with all due respect, you might be just over reading the whole thing. It's not GANDHI nor THE ENGLISH PATIENT, it's just a simple thought that most of us in this country see day in and day out. Who gets a second chance? As simple as that. Mr. Ochoa put that out for us in a very "user friendly" kinda way. We are just not so used to it in this country. I am sick and tired of fantasy movies or teleseryes... It's time that we see an amazing filmmaker like that of BALIW'S to basically lay down a foundation to make this different from what is the norm in the Philippines. You have to take risks. And that he did....and that he succeeded. Everyone has their own opinion and I truly respect yours. These are just mine. Thanks.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks tommy,

I have to disagree about some of your statements though.

I don't think I'm over-analyzing. I'm actually taking the plot for what it is --- Crazy dude kills family except for the young kid. Young kid grows up to be a fine man. Young kid's favorite priest is killed by crazy dude. Young kid has had enough of crazy dude's killing everybody special to him and in turn, seeks vengeance. It's essentially young kid's film, not the crazy dude. Crazy dude is merely a curiosity for Ochoa, and as I've mentioned, a case study as to how psychotics come to be, very very simplistic at that. What about the young kid; his story doesn't work either --- he's a goody goody who doesn't need redemption whatsoever; there's basically no conflict in his personality except his traumatic past. It's a flat flat film, with lots of extraneous aspects that did not need to be there. There's no overanalysis there.

Lastly, please do not think lowly of genre films. Although I'm not saying Shake Rattle and Roll, Super Noypi or Mulawin are great films, they should not be set aside merely because they are genre films. It's actually more difficult to make a genre film that matters; some of the greatest films ever made are genre films: Tarkovsky's Solaris, Godard's Alphaville, Mike de Leon's Kisapmata.

Lastly, Baliw is no different from anything done before. It never set a standard. True, it's efficiently made but where is the innovation really? Because it's about a psychotic maniac? That's done before by Filipino directors. Because it's digital and independently made? Lav Diaz, Raya Martin, John Torres have used digital medium more innovatively than this.

Again, this is just my opinion and I'm glad you liked this; I didn't, not because I'm overanalyzing it but because it's just not a good film in my standards.

Cha15 said...

Wow, sounds like your standards are quite in the weird zone. Sorry oggs. i've seen the movie and i'm not going to say that its the best digital film around, but it sure was not as flat as you have described it. You need not drop names like Trakovsky and Godard... It's not even a proper comparison. And if you truly enjoyed Solaris and Alphaville, no wonder you didn't like BALIW. It's not in its realm. Not even close. You described it yourself. BALIW is just a simple story. No need to read between the lines. No need to work hard. That's art. Freedom of expression. You described BALIW as if you are dissecting a frog. Seeing it was as simple as day and night. BALIW can never be compared to movies like those mentioned. It's just a simple story that conveys a simple message. No need to let everyone know that you've seen those movies..because it cracks me up that you even compared them to BALIW. Super Noypi and Solaris...genre films?! Now that's a first. Anyhow, sorry you didn't like BALIW. I feel your sentiments, but I just don't understand them. As Clarence Miller said in "Talk To Me"..."Don't think too's all in front of you."

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks cha,

I'm actually quite glad that there are defenders to the film; it simply means that independent Filipino films are gaining an audience who are ready to support filmmakers.

But I still insist. I brought up Solaris and Alphaville and those other canonized films just to defend genre films --- NOT as a comparison to Baliw. I never compared Baliw to them.

A simple story with a simple message, you say. Again, I disagree. The story is long-winded that branched out in so many ways, the simple message got confused. That's basically MY problem with the film, it preoccupied itself with so many things that the message got lost.

Just to make myself clearer:
1) Why did I have to learn about Eigenmann's childhood?
2) Why did the priest have to lecture us about second chances and choices in life, when it seems that Eigenmann never had a choice (because he's terminally psychopathic) and he never had a second chance to redeem himself as he's evil through and through?
3) Oh wait, maybe the choice and the second chance refers to the survivor... But, there's no sense in redeeming the kid. True, he's a victim but he led life so properly and he's so utterly perfect that the ending felt flat.

Oh yeah, I've seen Solaris yet I haven't seen Alphaville. I never admitted seeing it. I just listed them as genre films that reached that canonized level.

Anonymous said...

Wow... It's impressive how you can analyze this film so much and have no idea what you're talking about the entire time. I'm truly impressed. Such a self-absorbed myopic point of view would only make you conclude that the most interesting character was the psychopath.

You never bothered putting yourself in the role of the main character and how difficult it would be to find redemption (in any form) from such a tragedy. You saw the eye-candy of the action sequence of at the beginning of the film (evidentially you're not familiar with character development) and with your A.D.D you never mentally stuck around for the rest of the film.

In short, I'm sure you sat there watching the movie while sending um-teen text messages and enjoying a nice refreshing latte instead of doing your job — WATCHING THE DAMN MOVIE!


Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks XOXO (in other words, anonymous), and yes, I'll remain civil despite you're lack of respect.

Were you there in the cinema while I was watching? So I guess everybody who's not going to like the film is a rabid texter and a latte drinker.

Character development... so tell me how did the psychopath's character developed, or even the main character...

The main character is a good religious kid, grew up, and is a good teenager, who wreaked vengeance but was prevented by the police.

The psychopath was a kid who got maltreated when he was a kid. Oh yeah, his dad's insane too so maybe it's in the genes. Anyway, he grows up, starts killing people including the nice priest until he is faced by good teenager and gets killed by the cops (who I guess were blatantly remiss in their duties). He dies evil.

So where's the character development there? or even redemption, or even the oft-told choices in life?

A.D.D? Let's go watch Lav Diaz's next film ok? The first guy who sleeps has A.D.D.

ZUZU said...

I respect your willingness to critique the film BALIW, but unfortunately, the only thing you might have succeeded in doing was to display grandiose delusions of yourself. Trakovsky? Godard? Seriously? I'm surprised you didn't quote Shakespeare to show everybody just how deep you can take this review. It's a simple film with a simple message. Who said BALIW was meant to set a standard? Is that what you look for in every film? If so, then you need to CHIIIILLL, my man.

Oggs Cruz said...

Ummm Zuzu,

I reviewed the film in the main page. Go there if you want to read my review which never mentioned Tarkovsky, Godard, or whoever. Am I delusional? I don't think so. I also don't think that voicing my opinion is symptom for delusional personality syndrome.

So why did Godard, Tarkovsky come about? Because Tommy was comparing the film to genre films that were released recently. I never COMPARED Baliw to those greats. What I did was to list them as examples of genre films that were revered. AGAIN, I never compared them to Baliw, nor am I giving them as examples to brag.

Who said Baliw was to set a standard? Read Tommy's comment or if you're too busy dissecting my simple messages... I quote:

"It's time that we see an amazing filmmaker like that of BALIW'S to basically lay down a foundation to make this different from what is the norm in the Philippines."

Oh yeah, I'm very CHIIIILL... It's not me who's having violent reactions over someone's thoughts on a film someone watched.

Anonymous said...

for such a simple film who wouldve thought such violent reactions could come out.

well anyway, having seen the film and having read oggs critique of it, its quite clear how the film might was flawed in a number of ways. but as much as Oggs feels he was shortchanged with how the film turned out, i still feel that his loss was a small amount to pay for the jobs this film created for people in our industry.

having heard about how this production went through i believe that we need more people like Ochoa to make more films for both the people working within the industry as well as his paying audience.

His debut film in the Philippines may not have turned out as well as he envisioned but i still commend ochoa for having the gutts to do his film here even thoug he could have easily made it in NY. I also give him credit for having the gutts to put himself out there not knowing anyone or much about how the industry here works.

Anonymous said...

WOW!! someone totally missed the whole movie. Did you watch this with you eyes closed?!?!

j Cannel said...

So why did we have to see Angelo's (not Eigenmann's) childhood? Pay attention. It’s to give the audience where he came from. why did the priest have to lecture about choices?...hmm well for starters, the character of the priest played in the movie was one who doesn't give up so easily. Even failing before. And no, Angelo was NOT and evil person through and through, he was a victim and I'll leave my discretion to up to you to figure out the message behind that. Seriously, if you can't figure that out, you shouldn't be starting blogs exclaiming your blindness. It's rather embarrassing. Really.
All in all, I feel the concept of the movie was to be thought provoking. And it did just that. Provoke thought. And again, I leave that up to you to figure what’s the underlying parallel connection we have to the theme. Unfortunately, some of us is just not equipped and to do so and I’m afraid to say you happened to fall in that category. Seriously.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks first anonymous (for those wise words) and second anonymous (for those immature allegations),

I'll repeat what I said in my review, I am not discrediting Redd Ochoa in any way. He's got talent; the fact that he made a film with whatever amount of money he has, and like you've mentioned, created jobs for many people, is commendible. A film, upon release, however, no longer becomes the creator's but is for the world to see, to interpret, to like, dislike, and so on. Seriously, I'm just one man and if there are people out there who are all out loving this, then it's done its purpose and I congratulate Redd. Such is life, you can't please everyone.

To second anonymous, to answer your question, no. Not having the same opinion as yours does not mean I missed the movie.

I'm actually quite fascinated that my review got a lot of reactions, violent or wise. To those who would still comment, here's a summary since I don't want to be misquoted again.

1) My review on Baliw is unfavorable.
2) Tommy's review claims that the film sets a new standard in Filipino cinema, while discrediting genre films.
3) I defend genre films by listing genre films that are masterpieces (never compared them to Baliw, take note). I also claimed that Baliw didn't make a new standard in Filipino cinema. I insist on my lukewarm review.
4) Lots of fans (or those closely-related to the making of the film) retaliated.
5) Very wise post by first anonymous.
6) Immature post by another anonymous.
7) to be continued... but seriously, if you're gonna comment, please have something substantial, academic or educated to say, and let yourselves be known.

Oggs Cruz said...

J. Cannel,

Thanks for your analysis on the film and I'm glad you got that out of it. I didn't but I will not concede to your accusations that I'm blind or ill-equipped to review. The film didn't work for me and that's that. As much as I respect your opinion, respect mine and let's not go into crude accusations, shall we? The film should speak for itself and sadly, it didn't speak to me.

Lisa10D said...

hi. saw the film yesterday. wow. it was good, but didn't realize it created a standoff at the "ok corral" hehehe. easy guys. i thought the movie created its own world. it didn't dominate what most can accept here in the philippines, because of a lot of crappy local movies that are being seen. it stood out on its own. it's in the right path to make philippine cinema history, but its not there yet. it's got some potential though. Nakakaloka! i guess that's the whole point. hehehe. thanks....

BizzyKtaco said...

Robinson's Galleria is a bad venue for a digital film. Bad sound. Bad speakers. Too cold. Movie was not bad. It wasn't the best thing out there, but Baliw overall was not bad. One comment though, the love story should've been more direct. I loved the transition from violence to its peaceful sequence of love and friendship, but for some reason it just didn't sink in for me, however, I'm glad that it ended where it did or else, anything longer than that, I would've shot myself in the mouth. Haha. (you have to see the movie to understand) Check it out. ain't like Solaris or Alphaville... It's more like ....BALIW.

CManndy said...

Unique introduction. Great music. Who knows who did the score on this? Nice photography and good direction. I don't think not many people are ready for this kind of violence here. I liked it. Then again, I'm a Tarantino fan. Chow!

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks lisa and bizzy,

Yes, it's not Solaris and Alphaville, it's Baliw. Tell that to the people who insist that I'm comparing them.

Also, I never said that the film is bad. The point I'm driving at is that it's ineffective. Whatever message or theme it has is drown by externalities that shouldn't have been there, or should've been more fleshed out (like the love story bizzy is saying).

I really don't get why people are going here in hordes just to defend the film BY discrediting the author of the review. I pointed out what I liked, and what didn't work for me --- there were no baseless insults or statements gathered from nowhere in my review.

Go watch the film and judge it for yourself. I am in no way imposing my likes or dislikes. Take my review as it is --- one man's opinion.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks cmanndy,

Yeah, the intro was definitely well-directed, the music was apt. Ochoa definitely has promise. The cinematography is also very nice --- made use of the digital medium very well.

CManndy said...

Hey Oggs. In the age of information technology and "blogs", you will always get hit with criticisms about your thoughts. It's not always going to be good. It's not always going to be bad. You said your thoughts, so be it. Let whoever else review those thoughts express their feelings. Violently, Nicely, Immaturely, Religously, Profoundly, or heck..even sexually! Can you imagine if this blog was in Unimaginable. You made waves about your views, so there. If some are against that, good. If some are not, good. Either way, you made your point. Atleast no one here is defending the movie, "WHITE CHICKS"! Or else I'd cause some trouble. Haha.
Keep on rockin' folks! That's the only way to keep the indie world alive!!

OGRE2by said...

You know why so many people have commented on your post? It's because, like myself, I just saw this movie and wanted to get online and get more information on it. Well, when you google search it...this is one of the topics that pop up immediately. Because its new I guess. I liked it. You didn't. Cool. Let's leave it at that. But, what most of you are missing out is that we are all the only handful that still respect and look forward to seeing an indie film, let alone a digital one. Yes, the movie industry is starting to come out with some good indie films like Kubrador, Maximo, and Baliw (for some), but I truly believe that there is still a long way for our society here in the PHilippines to gain that momentum back of good cinema quality and a proper reputation all over the world. Where do you start? Education. Educating what's the proper thing in this industry. Not whats right or wrong, but just the proper way. And this random 21st century rant about this independent film BALIW is a great example to start. Hey, atlest were expressing our views, right? Good thing for Google. Good thing for BALIW. Good thing for Oggs for startin' it. All is fair. I love it! And like Cmandy said, "keep on rockin' folks"!
By the way, I loved "WHITE CHICKS"! hehe...just kidding. Peace out!

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks cmanndy and ogre2by,

Really insightful remarks, and yes, let's support Philippine cinema (not only independent, but also those made by studios --- I would hate to see those big studios getting bankrupt and a lot of employees losing their jobs).

One point though, part and parcel of a healthy national cinema is independent and intelligent criticism. The internet has supplied us with independent critics who do not care if they don't get paid, as long as they can voice out their opinion. No art is perfect and let the imperfections be shown; that's the only way we can improve.

DrtStar said...

For being the only Filipino film out right now...BALIW...two thumbs up for me!

JENNIEdLO said...

Last night, went crazy for BALIW. Good film. Go see it.

Anonymous said...

whats wrong with white chicks?

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks everyone,

Yeah, do see it. Then, go watch Blackout tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I thought the movie did great. Sure, there were some glitches here and there, but overall, Baliw was a breath of fresh air from recent Filipino films in terms of production, and yes, in terms of storytelling. Maybe you should watch more French and European films. Sometimes stories don't need a moral ending, or a lesson. Sometimes a story is said as it is, and you need to read deeper into it, not just at the superficial details. Did you think about the story in terms of a satirical tone? That Philippine reality can be as crazy as the movie portrays?

Sorry for being rude, I just think that there's so much more to the movie, and that you failed to see it.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous,

I don't think you were rude in any way. If the film's a satire, then it sorely lacked humor. If it wants to show the present state of Philippine society, then it's not that very clear. Is it realist or metaphorical? Some defenders are saying that it's realist, you are saying it should be taken satirically. I'm taking it as that film I saw which was confused thematically. I didn't review the film in a moralistic point of view. I didn't expect to find a happy ending; but I didn't expect it to have a resolution that left me dry and wanting.

Rommel said...

J Cannel,
I think you’re into something there. After I left the screening, I was left with a question in my mind that the writer of this film was trying to tell us something. I saw it as a paradox at first but on the contrary it was just the opposite. Now, I’m a big fan of news television shows such as SAKSI or I-WITNESS It shows all the filth in this world that everyone just seems to turn a cold shoulder. Yes, some may find these shows repulsive or depressing at some level but I think the producers of these shows are actually calling for a change. Much like (from what I think) the writer of BALIW is trying to show us that we need to pay more attention to ourselves and just what can we do to make a change. (For a better world) Message was subtle but I think this film is taking the television show to the next level. The TV shows can be watch and may leave some of us with a feeling of “better him than me”. But movies have an uncanny effect on people. Like you said. It provokes thought. Thanks.

Noel Vera said...

Oggs: congrats--you made waves. Maybe you should enable comment moderation tho--not to filter out the negative responses (you seem to handle them pretty well anyway), but to have a ready brake on what's appearing on your blog while you think out your answer. Just a suggestion...

Still! Congrats.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks, Noel...

No worries. I think I can handle vicious comments without having to screen them. Once they get out of hand, at least I know a back-up plan. Thanks.

Olivia S. said...

Just saw this movie in Boston. Good flick. I truly enjoyed it. I'm glad good films are coming out of the neck o' the woods from the Philippines. I'm a Filipina and I miss it. Good or bad review it may get, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I did enjoy this piece however. Good direction and nice cinematography. Story reminds me of a case I just dealt with.. Can't wait for more.. Go Philippines!

Jayson Delapaz said...

This movie seems to be making its way to the east coast. I saw BALIW last Saturday. An exclusive screening here in New Jersey for the, I guess, Filipino community, but I sure only saw half of a Filipino audience and the rest were your typical Jersey loc's. I might say, I was quite proud to be a Filipino, especially when the credits roll due to the incredible applause it received from the audience. Well received. Me? I liked it. I'm not much into the violent stuff, but I guess it sorta worked. Great story and message. Makes you wonder how do kids like them end up in the society. Was it shot in film? It sure looked like it was. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Who would name their kid OGGS? Try some Viagra and Zoloft simultaneously. This may help you sort out some of these thoughts in your head and overcome a lot of your insecurity.