Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Kinatay & Lovers of Hate

I watched two films of interest in the past week or so. Kinatay at the YBCA and Lovers of Hate at the Roxie.

Kinatay; directed by Brillante Mendoza; Tagalog with subtitles; (2009)
Lovers of Hate; directed by Bryan Poyser; (2010) - Official Website


Kinatay which translates to butchered or slaughtered in English, was nominated for the highly prestigious Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It's pretty gritty film; kind of a cross between Training Day and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

The film follows Peping, a rookie cop or maybe he's a rookie CSI technician; I'm not sure. He lives in a area of Manila that is just this side of a slum. He has just gotten married although he and wife already have a child. He needs a little extra money so he falls in with some criminal muscle. They seem to be ex soldiers or cops who collect on illegal loans or drug money. They collect from a 30something prostitute/stripper but when she doesn't have the full amount, they take her for a bumpy ride. They beat and bind the woman while Peping looks on in horror. It's not what he signed on for but there's no turning back now.

They drive her out of town to a remote house. The film is told in real-time. After 30 to 45 minutes, they get their orders so they rape, kill & mutilate her. I say that matter-of-factly because Mendoza tells the story in a clinical manner and at an almost languid pace. We see the woman's horror and Peping growing unease but everyone else seems like they are just doing a job like an accountant or something. Mendoza uses the time between abduction and kinatay to build up suspense. We wonder if the woman will live. Actually, given the title of the film, I didn't think she would. More importantly from Mendoza's perspective is how far Peping will go with his accomplices. At the end, I wasn't shocked or sickened by the woman's on-screen death or the behavior exhibited by her killers. Instead, I wondered how Peping would be affected by this one night. Mendoza shows Peping's wife holding their toddler and making breakfast while Peping makes his way home.

There were strong performances from Coco Martin as Peping, Maria Isabel Lopez as the doomed prostitute and John Regala as Sarge, the #2 man in the gang.

The English title of the film on IMDB is The Execution of P.


Lovers of Hate also has an impressive pedigree. It screened at this year's Sundance and SxSW Film Festivals. The premise is a contrived but the performance and some restraint save the film. Rudy is a wretched loser. His wife has separated from him, he is homeless and jobless. Actually, at the beginning of the film, he is working as a census taker (which says more about our view of census takers than Rudy). Not having bathed in several days (the opening scene is of him attempting to shower at a public car wash) and interviewing an elderly, near-deaf woman, he decides to sneak in a quick shower in her bathroom. Predictably, that gets him fired.

Rudy's younger brother Paul is a successful children's fiction author who writes Harry Potteresque books. This galls Rudy as he thinks Paul's novels are schlock and besides, Paul is basing the stories on bedtime stories Rudy used to tell when they were children. Paul is in town for a book reading and invites Rudy to the reading. Rudy begs his reluctant wife to attend the book reading and pretend they are happily married. The three of them have an awkward evening together.

Not everything is at it seems. Paul picks up on the tension between Rudy and Diane and Paul breaks one of the commandmants with regards to Diane...and Rudy senses Paul has intentions. After some harsh emotional confrontations, Rudy decides to pay a surprise visit to Paul who is staying at a large house in Park City, Utah (home of the Sundance Film Festival). Quickly, Rudy discovers the surprise is on him. Paul is not alone but rather having a rendezvous with Diane. After some creepy voyeurism and the initial shock has worn off, Rudy decides to keep his presence a secret from Paul & Diane.

With extra help from Rudy, we begin to see Paul & Diane in more unflattering terms and his situation, although still pathetic, is given more context. Paul's faux brotherly kindness and Diane's shrillness take on new meanings. I won't give away the ending but the film never becomes too outrageous; Rudy doesn't kill anyone or anything like that. However, as Paul begins to suspect Rudy's presence, the whole situation becomes disturbing because of it plausibility; it is a big house afterall.

I recommend Lovers of Hate (great title) as an entertaining dark comedy.

No comments: