Has youthful energy aplenty and a great jazz-pop soundtrack, but won't find many prospects offshore.

Paying tribute to masterpieces of Filipino neorealism “City After Dark” by Ishmael Bernal and “Jaguar” by Lino Brocka, experimental two-parter “Manila” from leading indie helmers Raya Martin (“Independencia”) and Adolfo Alix Jr. (“Adela”) makes one yearn to see the originals. Comprised of two evocatively shot black-and-white segments separated by digitally colorized footage from a romantic feature being lensed by Lav Diaz, the pic’s got youthful energy aplenty and a great jazz-pop soundtrack, but won’t find many prospects offshore apart from festivals and speciality situations.

Up first, Martin’s edgy musicvid approach to Bernal’s story of lust, drugs, prostitution and rebellion against family and tradition plays like camp. Junkie William (producer Piolo Jose Pascual) wanders the mean streets of the eponymous capital looking for a fix, and crosses paths with some gossipy transvestites and a blind masseuse. In contrast, Alix’s contribution more smoothly captures Brocka’s style. Slum dweller Philip (Pascual again) works as a bodyguard for dissolute playboy Barry (Jay Manalo) and is attracted to his g.f. Amy (Alessandra De Rossi) before meeting a tragic end. Another five minutes of Lav Diaz footage plays after the end credits.

Manila

Philippines

Production

A Star Cinema release (in the Philippines) of an MJM Prods., Bicycle Pictures Production. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Arleen C. Cuevas. Executive producers, Piolo Jose Pascual, Edgar Mangahas, Adolfo B. Alix Jr. Co-producer, Albert Banzon. Directed by Raya Martin, Adolfo B. Alix Jr. Screenplay, Alix Jr., Ramon Sarmiento.

Crew

Camera (B&W, color, 16mm-to-35mm) Albert Banzon; editor, Jay Halili, Aleks Castaneda; music, Radioactive Sago Project; production designer, Digo Ricio; sound (stereo) Ditoy Aguila, Junel Valencia. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 18, 2009. Tagalog, English dialogue. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Piolo Jose Pascual, Rosanna Roces, Jay Manalo, Alessandra De Rossi, Anita Linda.
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