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James William Guercio
Billy Green Bush,
A reminder of what independent film is supposed to be...
Okay, is that overselling it? Perfumed Nightmare blew away all my expectations. Understandably, there's not a lot of expectations for Filipino cinema, and there's not a lot of expectations for independent film anymore (today, independent is anybody without studio money, and some with, making any kind of movie). But this film was a learning experience for me.
Instead of another gritty soap opera, the filmmaker presents a story about a guy from a one-bridge town who dreams of becoming an American astronaut. Instead of trying to ape a Hollywood film, he took advantage of his technical limitations: there's no dolly shots or zooms, and the audio track's perpetually out of sync. So, instead of a strictly linear narrative, Perfumed Nightmare unfolds like the browsing of a scrapbook, while the director narrates. It helps that even the disintegrating scenery is photographed beautifully, and the narration is sharp and succinctly funny. I'm still chewing on the symbolism and politics of the film, but it's heartening that the film recognizes the contradictions of the situation. And it's heartening to see tricks from directors like Spike Lee, Sodebergh, and Von Trier in a film made over twenty years prior (apparently, this film's director knew Herzog). Of course, that may be a personal bias (I'm half-Pinoy and an aspiring filmmaker). But mostly, it's nice to see a film that could surprise me every couple of minutes. It's not a perfect film, but it's one I'll never forget.
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