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Sisyphus’ Lament

‘Saving Sally’: must see before you die

The animated rom-com “Saving Sally” heralds a new generation of Filipino cinema. Missing it on the big screen would be like sitting out the Edsa Revolution or an Eraserheads reunion.

It weaves an immensely rich universe around the promised “Very Typical Love Story.”

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“Artist. Inventor. Mercenary” reads Sally’s calling card. Simultaneously self-assured and mysteriously troubled, she washes dishes with a powered arm and a car battery strapped to her waist, sends codes by hanging her striped stockings on a clothesline and locks herself in her secret lab.

She burps after wolfing down squid balls and hangs from the back of a jeepney, never mind poise.

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Marty is an aspiring comic book artist who fills his bedroom wall with sketches of Sally but cannot confess his feelings. Roughly drawn monsters round out the world, and humans Marty dislikes appear as monsters.

Children of the ’80s cheer “Batibot’s” Kuya Bodjie as Marty’s dad and the invocation of the “Transformers” movie—the animated one!

The film evokes “500 Days of Summer” and “The Little Prince.” Its animation is as distinctive as “April and the Extraordinary World’s,” the French cartoon voiced by Marion Cotillard. Coarse finishes seem intentional, not forced by a 12-year, budget-constrained gestation.

All these combine into a world-class movie that brandishes its identity with the University of the Philippines’ facade, pancit and how Marty’s mom gushes about puppy love.

I also loved “Sunday Beauty Queen,” the documentary on domestic workers in Hong Kong, through the lens of beauty pageants on their days off. I had to see it after glowing reviews by documentarist god Howie Severino and OFW advocate Toots Ople.

It vividly captures walking through Central subway tunnels and cramped apartment blocks. It vents frustrations without being patronizing. One woman stares at the harbor sunset and calls her son to explain she has to watch her employers’ dog while they are on Christmas vacation.

Subtitles present each domestic worker’s college degree along with her name, as if to ask why these articulate, confident women are raising another nation’s children.

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The film sprinkles lighthearted moments, such as the Caucasian jowa (beau) cameo. The pacing is masterful. The 94 minutes zip past.

Former Metro Manila Development Authority chair Emerson Carlos’ team successfully pivoted the Metro Manila Film Festival criteria to artistic quality and audience growth.

But the sad truth, I heard, is that cinema sales dropped 80 percent compared to the 2015 MMFF.

Much remains to be done. Mother Lily, Vice Ganda and theater owners must be enlisted, not demonized.

Beyond the MMFF, my favorite critic Oggs Cruz bewails how our movies open on Wednesdays. An indie not backed by TV ads can have a weak first three days.

John Paul Su, 2015 Best New Wave Film Director for “Toto,” stresses recommendations from friends, more than awareness, fill seats. But word of mouth builds after a weekend, long after a Wednesday opening.

Perhaps we can fund stronger MMFF marketing and previews, beyond floats and sharing trailers on the Mocha Uson Blog.

Education is the permanent solution.

Alemberg Ang, award-winning producer of “English Only, Please,” hopes students are formally exposed to cultural treasures by Lino Brocka, Mike de Leon and Ishmael Bernal. School is the easiest venue for sampling more intimidating works, from Lav Diaz’s four-hour “Norte” to documentaries.

My Xavier class fondly remembers Filipino teacher Enrico Rosales playing “Scorpio Nights” and “Virgin People” for wide-eyed 15-year-olds without fast forwarding the bold scenes. Years later, I am grateful to instinctively benchmark new movies against the immortal camera work in “Oro, Plata, Mata,” and recall scenes from “Batch ’81” and “Sister Stella L” when we debate martial law.

But where De Leon and Brocka once metaphorized this dark period, recent youth protests against the Marcos state burial were left to draw from the vocabulary of “Harry Potter,” “Game of Thrones” and “Star Wars.” Perhaps a “Sally” will one day save us from such damning cultural bankruptcy.

React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: “Toto”, Alemberg Ang, Avid Liongoren, Edsa Revolution, Eraserheads reunion, Indie films, John Paul Su, Metro Manila Film Festival, MMFF, MMFF 2016, Movies, Saving Sally, Sunday Beauty Queen
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