Catherine Deneuve as an ageing film diva

The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda won the Cannes Palme d'or in 2018 with his film "Shoplifters" about a family of thieves. The following year, the master of family drama made his first film outside of Japan: "La Vérité" with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke. I was immediately impressed by the first appearance of… Continue reading Catherine Deneuve as an ageing film diva

Brief notes on Teddy Roosevelt’s statue being removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History

In the New York Times today: the equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, the former president of the United States who declared the end of the Philippine-American War in 1902, will be removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History. The Museum maintains that it is removing the statue not because of Theodore Roosevelt's… Continue reading Brief notes on Teddy Roosevelt’s statue being removed from the steps of the Museum of Natural History

Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

Copy of a stone stele written in Kawi script, then kept in the Museum of Culture Batavia The media of writing and images correspond to two different forms of reception: words are read, images are recognized. While the code that makes writing legible first has to be learned formally, what is shown in images can… Continue reading Kawi and Baybayin, ancient writing scripts of Southeast Asia

The Hidden Lore of Baybayin

Panitik Silangan was a Baybayin publication published in 1963. Photos: Stanley Baldwin O. See http://images.gmanews.tv/webpics/2016/08/3_2016_08_15_17_46_42.JPG All languages are languages of power: the power to impose meaning and thereby give order to the world. Most writing scripts are imposed from above by a state, or the beginnings of one, in a literate society. However, before a writing… Continue reading The Hidden Lore of Baybayin

Dog cage quarantine

  An officer of the neighborhood night-watch with five young men locked inside a dog cage after breaking community quarantine rules in Laguna province, the Philippines on March 20, 2020 (Eric Panisan Ambrocio via Facebook/Human Rights Watch)   When my sister told me not to make plans to come home to the Philippines over the… Continue reading Dog cage quarantine

Mythological tricksters in Indonesia and the Philippines 

There, tricksters tend to come in a paunchy and less nimble guise, as either apes or tortoises. In one such tale, an ape is said to have befriended a heron, and they engaged in the common practice, at least among the humans who told these tales, of delousing one another. The heron went first and picked off every last bit of the ape's lice. The ape returned the favor, at least after a fashion. Pick, pick, he proceeded. Ouch, ouch, shouted the heron. "You're hurting me!" "No, I am only picking off the lice," replied the ape. As it happened, the ape was plucking off all of the heron's feathers. "I am done," he said when he had finished. "Fly away." But when the poor heron tried, he could only stumble, and the ape laughed. 

Rage against the image

  On the night of February 25, 1986, the Filipino people took to the streets to celebrate the downfall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Around ten thousand protesters held a vigil to retake Malacanang, the presidential palace originally built by the Spaniards for the Governor-General of the former colony. The plaza which was once open… Continue reading Rage against the image

The decollage we live in

It’s hard to explain, even to myself, why an artwork from more than fifty years ago can speak to our time without resorting to clichéd notions of the timelessness and universality of artistic language. I try to think of concrete experiences that can constitute a right mindset to write about Jacques Villegle, a Parisian artist… Continue reading The decollage we live in

Kung ako’y mahal mo (Gregorio Fernandez, 1960)

Kung Ako’y Mahal Mo (If You Love Me) is a charming romance melodrama with an incredulous narrative plot. I know all melodramas require some stretching of your suspension of disbelief but this one takes the prize. Ramon (Nestor de Villa) is a car mechanic who hears a cry for help from Lydia (Charito Solis). Ramon… Continue reading Kung ako’y mahal mo (Gregorio Fernandez, 1960)

Azimat (Rolf Bayer, 1958)

I discovered a wonderful website that archives film locations in Singapore called http://www.sgfilmlocations.com. Browsing through the copious material, I found a rarely-seen 1958 movie called Azimat or Seal of Solomon, written and directed by Rolf Bayer, who did the screenplay for iconic postwar Filipino film, Anak Dalita. The movie stars Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran… Continue reading Azimat (Rolf Bayer, 1958)

The Magic Kiss of Death

Pope Francis kisses the feet of South Sudan President Salva Kiir April 11, 2019 at the conclusion of a two-day retreat at the Vatican for the political leaders of African nations. The pope begged the leaders to give peace a chance. At right is Vice President Riek Machar. (Photo Catholic News Service/Vatican Media via Reuters)… Continue reading The Magic Kiss of Death

Meaning over spectacle: Gerhard Richter retrospective online

The abrupt closing of Gerhard Richter’s retrospective at the Met Breuer, among other art world events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has refocused the energies of its curators to use online platforms. While it serves its purpose well of extending the reach and lifespan of art exhibitions, the Met Museum’s website is not… Continue reading Meaning over spectacle: Gerhard Richter retrospective online

Sulat galing sa Praga (Angga Dwimas Sasongko, 2016)

Nasa kalagitnaan ng magastos na diborsyo si Larasati (Julie Estelle) at kailangan niyang makipag-ayos sa naghihingalo niyang ina, si Sulastri (Widyawati). Bagama't hindi naging maganda ang kanilang relasyon mag-ina, ipinamana nito sa kanya ang lahat ng kanyang ari-arian sa kondisyon na ideliber niya ang kahon ng mga sulat kay Jaya (Tio Pakusadewo), isang matandang janitor… Continue reading Sulat galing sa Praga (Angga Dwimas Sasongko, 2016)

Admiring hell from a distance

William Blake's drawings for Dante's "Divina Commedia" as a dialogue with the written word In 1824, The comeback wave of the Dante craze had just reached the shores of England and the artist John Linnell asked the perpetually penniless William Blake to make a series of illustrations based on the Divine Comedy. William Blake had… Continue reading Admiring hell from a distance

Portrait of a lady on fire (Celine Sciamma, 2019)

Marianne must cross the rough seas when she is summoned by a countess (Valeria Golino) who would like to have a portrait of her daughter, Heloise. The portrait will be sent to Heloise's fiancé, an Italian aristocrat, as a confirmation of their arranged marriage. Hoping to save their crumbling estate or move back to an… Continue reading Portrait of a lady on fire (Celine Sciamma, 2019)

Crash Landing on You (Lee Jeong-hyo, 2020)

Over the spring break I was able to catch up with trends on social media and watched smash-hit K-drama Crash Landing on You (CLOY), a Netflix series directed by Lee Jeong-hyo, starring Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, and Seo Ji-hye. The hilarious plot begins with Seri, a South Korean chaebol heiress and influencer (think… Continue reading Crash Landing on You (Lee Jeong-hyo, 2020)

Villem Flusser on Artistic Freedom

With his statements in Towards a Philosophy of Photography, Vilém Flusser opened a new understanding of photography, and gave the term a new meaning. While he describes the photograph as a “flyer-like image distributed by the apparatus,” the Photographer for Flusser was a critic; a gadfly: “a person who attempts to place within the image,… Continue reading Villem Flusser on Artistic Freedom

Outlaws (Javier Cercas, 2014)

The fifty-eight-year-old Javier Cercas made his latest breakthrough outside of Spain with his novel "Anatomy of a Moment", which the most important Spanish daily newspaper "El Pais" named Book of the Year in 2009. The well-known Argentinian author Albert Manguel had praised this novel, which revolves around the failed military coup in 1981. It received… Continue reading Outlaws (Javier Cercas, 2014)