Sunday, October 17, 2010

Your mother is wise to know a simple tribute is more powerful than the giant monuments of our civilization

This film, Perfumed Nightmare (1977), is directed by and stars Kidlat Tahimik, a Phillipines born director who released this film with the help of Francis Ford Coppola. Although it will be shown as part of a documentary film festival in Taizhong at the end of October, the film does not follow the style of the conventional documentary, and incorporates what could be called performance art, or a performative rendition of memory, experience and emotion.

The director, in what seem to be fictionalized sequences traces his memory of setting out from the Phillipines to France and then the US. The director seems to attempt an experiential or sensous recreation of the trip. First setting out from his imagination of the West, a kind of Occidentalist structure with its foundation in Voice of America broadcasts and dealings with American soldiers. The film employs a lot of surrealist imagery to fragment the logic of the narrative, the events on screen quite often happen in contradiction to the narrative voice of the film.

The film seemed to be countering the notion that modernization in the guise of progress is a good blueprint for what in the West is referred to as "The Third World". The protagonist who had been eager for progress to occur rescinds his membership from a fan club of an immigrant to America who helped to build the Apollo space shuttle. The signals his realisation that the American dream is not the path to happiness. At first heis awed by France but as he grows accustomed to life there he realizes that technological progress does not endow places or things with the meanings and emotions that places and things are endowed with in his hometown. The faceless encroach of the supermarket on the 4 seasons market confirms for him this absence of meaning that he comes upon in the West.

Some excellent bits of the film include the Phillipino cast "whiting up" in a scene where they act as the white guests at a farewell party that make Kidlat feel small, prompting him to say:

I am Kidlat Tahimik, I'm not as small as you think, nothing can stop me from crossing my bridge.

Another scene, earlier on in the film, is where religious self flagellation is portrayed, and Kidlat goes to pray to the Virgin Mary, who speaks to him in a very crude manner, revealing the snideness of an icon who demands the pain of self-flaggelation. Mary describes Kidlat in the garb of self-flaggelation as "sexy".

The final quote I want to mention is the following:

The white carabao is rare, it is born against nature. The white carabao is beautiful but inside its cold and aggressive. One day, Kidlat, you will understand that the beauty of the white carabao is like the sweetness of the chewing gum the American soldiers gave you.
This seems to me to indicate the illusion created by Eastern imagination of the Occident.

Film rating: 5/5

The picture above is from a painful scene of circumcision - village style.

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