Thursday, August 13, 2009

And I Love You So (2009)



And I Love You So
(Laurenti Dyogi, 2009)

It is interesting how the subject of grief of losing a loved one is explored in recent local cinema. Since Mark Meily's Crying Ladies (2003), grief has been tackled with much humor (there is Gil Portes' Mourning Girls (2006) and Soxie Topacio's Ded na si Lolo (Grandpa is Dead, 2009)), primarily concentrating on the absurdity of the customs and procedures related to grieving, with the ridiculousness of the ceremonies overtaking the subject of grief itself. More maverick filmmakers would tackle grief, concentrating on its paralytic effects on the person suffering. There is Lav Diaz who, in Melancholia (2008), explores the extent a wife would undergo (transforming into a prostitute in a faraway resort town) to cure herself of the consuming melancholy of losing her husband, not knowing whether he is dead or alive. And I Love You So director Laurenti Dyogi, and his team of writers and producers, would not go as far as Diaz’s outrageous proposal. First of all, Melancholia primarily uses grief to humanize its loftier ambitions, from the political, to the moral, to the philosophical. And I Love You So, the attempt of Star Cinema, one of the Philippines' few active mainstream film studios, to tackle grief or its audience-friendly fantastical impression of it, takes such anguish as a mere conflict in its overly familiar plot to challenge two would-be lovers from realizing a romance already predestined by formula.

And I Love You So centers on Lara (Bea Alonzo), a pre-school teacher whose perfect husband Oliver (Derek Ramsey) dies after only a few months of marital bliss. Dyogi, schmaltz-conjurer par excellence, accompanies Oliver's tragic death (which conveniently happens on Lara's birthday, while the two are dancing under a perfectly starry night sky and in a beach that is ornamented by a birthday cake made out of sand and candles) with swelling dramatic music and frenetic cuts to slow-motioned footage of Oliver falling on his sand castle and Lara crying and screaming on the top of her lungs for help. Thereafter, Lara spends her days and nights in concealed misery, that is until she meets Chris (Sam Milby), a club DJ who also has his own marital problems but nevertheless, falls in love with Lara. Problems arise: a new relationship, after only a few months since Oliver's death, for Lara seems inappropriate; Chris, on the other hand, is sick and tired of falling for women who can't entirely fall in love with him (after having a wife who cheated on him with her ex-boyfriend), and it is quite obvious that Lara is still deeply in love with her dead husband, enough to conjure him from thin air for advices and comfort.

Of course, the inevitable fate of Chris and Lara is to be together in perpetual bliss that we can assuredly conjure after their long-awaited kiss gives way to the film's end credits. Knowing that, the middle part, which consists mostly of the two lovebirds flirting with, and fawning for, and later on, fighting with each other, is negligible, just a tool to enunciate the fantasy that Star Cinema has been perpetuating with their non-stop onslaught of hugely commercial romances: that love trumps everything, whether it be class difference (Cathy Garcia-Molina's A Very Special Love (2008) and You Changed My Life (2009)), environmental advocacy (Jose Javier Reyes' When Love Begins (2008)), the American Dream (Garcia-Molina's You Are the One (2006)), a highly careless and promiscuous past (Joyce Bernal's For the First Time (2008)), obesity (Jade Castro's My Big Love (2008)), racial stereotyping (Reyes' Can This Be Love (2005)), familial meddling (Lino Cayetano's I've Fallen For You (2007)), and with And I Love You So, devastating grief.

The previous litany of conflicts and the corresponding Star Cinema movie that makes use of the conflict does not only expose the studio's lack of ingenuity in determining titles for its romantic films (most of which adopt song titles or famous verses from famous songs as their title), but also the creative void, the inability to take risks, and the unforgivable laziness that undoubtedly infest the studio's filmmaking process. The retort is predictable: filmmaking is a business and the movie going public pays to be elated and entertained, not to feel more depressed or reminded of the problems that hound their lives outside the theater. I agree to a certain degree. If anything, the fact that the films that these mainstream film studios produce earn profits, despite the fact that reliance to formula has overtaken any form of creative freedom from any of the artists involved in the production and has turned these movies into mere clones, is telling of the moribund state of this contemporary culture, where what is popular is entertainment that draws its audience farthest from reality.

It is therefore not surprising that the greatest accolade a Filipino artist would ever dream of is now being bestowed upon Carlo J. Caparas, a hack who made himself filthy rich from peddling the misfortunes of others in the most sensationalist yet artistically inept way possible. During the time when Caparas' movies were drawing people to the theaters, Filipinos were clamoring for movies that depict misfortune worse than theirs (not even the poorest living Filipino would want to trade places with the numerous massacre victims that also became victims of Caparas' talentless movie-making). That is exactly my problem with Caparas' reasoning that his ability to communicate with the masses makes him a worthy National Artist. While his films may have communicated very well with most Filipinos, it only does so because it speaks to their misfortune of being too poor to be authentically happy of their lot. Caparas' films, like the formulaic films that Star Cinema has been producing for the sake of profit, exploit the country's malaise, and it behooves me why anyone would even consider Caparas, or any maker of movies who thrive with such parasitic mentality whether consciously or not, an artist.

Forgive my digression. Now, let me give this review of And I Love You So its proper conclusion. The film's cinematography, musical score, editing, acting, scripting, and direction are all wondrously orchestrated to momentarily transport you to an fantasy universe where good husbands die young, divorces are easy, renting out your condo can land you a platonic relationship, lack of parking skills can turn that platonic relationship into a romantic one, and running around Cubao barefooted will win you a second chance at a happily ever after, without even the threat of having your feet covered with soot. For that and the plenty of times Star Cinema has made us forget our problems for the price of a movie ticket, let's give the studio its National Artist Award. Oh wait, studios, being juridical persons, are not eligible to be awarded. What the heck, I'm sure President Arroyo can do something about that too.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow....

very nice conclusion......i love it....ahaha

i dont even know why people still waste their time watching these shitty movies....i mean star cinema?????Seriously????with their cheesy lines and over reacting actors......no way

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous...

We watch these movies because it satisfies, although temporarily, a fantasy, that everything can be fixed by reciting a cheesy line and the everybody looks like they have money to get a face lift from Belo.

I don't have any qualms regarding the existence of these films. I have qualms about these films and filmmakers getting acclaim for essentially feeding on a fantasy. It is art. It's just a low form of art, right above pornography.

ShatterShards said...

Bravo! On your take on this negligible movie, and more so on your take to the Caparas brouhaha. Satisfying the lowest common denominator does not make one an artist. I just hope that more people would realize that.

Moises said...

just like what robert greene said in the laws of power; there is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses. They are like the oases in the desert.

so why complain with the romantic formula thing if this is indeed what the masses want in the first place? and the studio is vocal with their intention.. so anonymous, why do you think the people watch these kinds of movies? or why should people bow to your standards? but first, you have to consider what is wrong with the story. in fact, you were not able to see it for you to criticise the film for its shortcomings. you you're such a hater and you're not even helping out. you just complain that its sh*tty and they are over-reacting and so crap and so on.

maybe its not really the formula that is wrong.. of course they will say uber cheesy lines as the genre implies soo. or get into the story maybe there's something wrong in there or maybe you need to understand the basic emotions of the people or of the nation. then start criticising on that level since you could now assert your the proper way of loving.
this is for anonymous not for you oggs. haha. but oggs, why naman say its just a step above pornography..

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Shatteredshards and Moises,

Moises: Fine, I was exaggerating about it being just a step above pornography, but if you think about it, there are more similarities than dissimilarities, as both feed fantasies. By the way, I'm generalizing here. I do not mean to belittle an entire genre, since there are gems to be found in these formulaic films, the same way there are crappy films that have lofty ideals. It just so happens, all of Caparas' films are crappy and pornographic.

Anonymous said...

i loved the way you digressed from And I Love You So to Caparas as National Artist! Haha!

Btw, i don't think there's anything wrong with formulas. they're formulas, because they work. unfortunately for some, they use formulas that don't exactly work. at least, in my opinion. star cinema focuses on formula but rarely gets there. for me, the best star cinema movie i've seen in recent years (although i haven't seen much) is One More Chance. although it didn't need the happy ending. if they cut the standard last scene where the lovers see each other again, it would have been 10 times better. but knowing star cinema, that was a definite no-no. so i was more forgiving. however, i was pleasantly surprised at how they tackled the story. it was witty, and if not for the cheesy ending, it wasn't as "happily ever after" escapist treat. it was very formula, but it did show a lot of truths. in short, sobra kong naka-relate and at the same time, it made me look back on past relationships. or maybe it was just me.

but i digress.

i generally don't watch star cinema films. when i do, it's only because im looking for no-brainer movies that would entertain. even for just a few hours. unfortunately for most pinoys, they do this too often because the harsh realities exist everyday in their lives. para siyang droga. and star cinema is the pusher. hehe. trying drugs once in a while is okay (ahehe, bad), pero doing it too often is bad for your health. :)

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks anonymous,

I love how you digressed from Star Cinema films to drug addiction.

Anonymous said...

yes, boto rin ako sa national artists awards para sa star cinema... they deserves it... isama na rin siguro si laurenti dyogi... pumupukaw kasi ang mga pelikula nya e... un bang me sense... parang me sense...

sandali, me contribution din ba ang starcinema sa pagkapanalo ni gloria?


bwahahahaha

-juan

nashcowmoo said...

Hi Oggs! It was great to finally meet you! :) Hinahanap ko pa si Hannah Montana. Will most likely borrow the dvd from my niece. I added you to my blogroll: www.toynbeeconvector.wordpress.com Hope that's okay? Keep in touch!

-Nash

new blogger said...

Hi.

I don't think that the film was able to transport its viewers to a fantasy universe. The films fails exactly because of this.

Films like this are made to make people cry or to make them feel kilig and maybe even to make them laugh a little. I think that other Star Cinema films, such as Milan and the two John Lloyd-Sarah movies (to name a few), were successful because the fantasies that they employed were realistic. In these films, I feel that they were able to ground the fantasy to reality and make their audience think that such a fate is indeed achievable and possible. Not everyday does a Laida Magtalas end up with a Sir Miggy. But their film made it appear possible and even bound to happen, such that there can't be a thing more real.

But in And I Love You So, everything is just so far-fetched. I was rolling my eyes instead of crying or being kilig. I didn't care anymore when Sam was crying inside the church. I don't care what Kris Aquino says. I found myself so disconnected to their so-called reality because everything was too fake. Everything was just too contrived.


And that's what makes And I Love You So such a failure for me. They bombard you with an interesting trailer and you go into the theater expecting that the film will strike your emotions. But this one just doesn't.

I think that any such film must first connect to its audience on a level of reality and from there, pull them into that universe of fantasy.

PS. Hi Oggs. I hope you don't mind this: I have decided to set-up a blog where I can write about film and films. I was thinking if maybe you could give me advice on what to write or how to write. I mean, maybe you can tell me how you approach your work or something to that effect.

Thanks!

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi new blogger,

Just write, that's all I can say. You don't need any pointers on how to write because it should come from yourself, and that's what makes your writing special.

Put up that blog, and write about the films you want to write about. Don't care if you might hurt anyone with your honesty or if you get bombarded with nasty comments because you decided to make public what you think of a film. But of course, and if there's one thing that we should learn from Alexis Tioseco, write because you love. That doesn't necessarily mean you should write only about the films you love, but write because you love cinema and that momentary feeling of seeing a work that moved you to anger, to cry, to laugh, to frustration, should be immortalized in words.

You'll grow. I'd look back at how I wrote before and I'd be embarrassed as to how shallow I was. A year from now, I'd probably read whatever I wrote and see all the syntax, spelling, grammatical errors and get embarrassed once again, but why should we care? At least we wrote; at least when all these films have been forgotten by time, there's something out there to remember them by.

Good luck, and keep me updated.

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Nash,

It was great seeing you, too! Till our next meeting, and hopefully you've seen that revolving door scene that I found nice. Haha. Chard and Dodo... There, its out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Oggs. I'm a fan of your blog especially this entry. Its like you wrote the exact same thing that was running through my mind when i was watching this film. Haha! :)

-k

Anonymous said...

Yung Carlo Caparas is about high brow low brow. Hindi naman porque't tinatangkilik ng masa yung tao di na dapat maging National Artist. Mas kilala naman ng masa si Carlo kaysa si Lumbera.

Wala ka bang writing assignments sa law firm niyo at may oras kang magsayang ng pera sa Star Cinema movies? Di ka ba naleleyt sa pleadings mo? Yun na lang ang gandahan mo. Sayang lang ang oras mo sa Star Cinema basura.