Sunday, October 14, 2018

C1 ORIGINALS 2018: Review of PAGLISAN: Rough Renditions, Raw Reactions

October 14, 2018

Animated feature films are not commonly seen in the Filipino film scene. Mostly, they are indies. I have seen "RPG Metanoia" (2010, MY REVIEW), "Saving Sally" (2016, MY REVIEW), and "Manang Biring" (2015, MY REVIEW). That last film was actually the big winner of C1 Originals 2015, Best Picture and the Champion Bughaw award for director Carl Joseph Papa. This year, Papa is back with another animated film, simply entitled "Paglisan."

Crisanto (Cris for short) and Dolores (Oreng for short) are a middle-aged couple. Cris was a noted composer and singer in stage musicals. Oreng was also a theater performer but gave it up when she got married to Cris and was raising their family. Their only son Ian had left home to work in Singapore, and was now involved with a gay partner Paul. 

Cris was stricken with early onset Alzheimer's disease which rendered him unable to function as he would normally. His fragile condition turned their home life upside down with his forgetfulness and unreliability, which led to him to withdraw from public interactions. One day, Cris was invited to perform in the anniversary of their theater group. Will he accept? 

The renditions of the human figures and the background items were very rough, as if they were mere sketches only that still need further refinement. The colors were not within the lines and would actually lag behind when the figures moved in slow motion. You can even see through the colors of the human figures to see what was behind them. Despite these observations about the artwork, there were some very dramatic blocking of the characters in the scenes that made you not nitpick too much. 

During the final act of the film, it looked like another artist did the artwork with the different boldness of the brushstrokes and less detailed character coloration. I wonder if this was purposefully done because of the corresponding shift in plot in that part of the film. Anyhow, it felt as if either the drawing or the animation processes were being rushed to beat the deadline. If that was really the case, I wish that the art of the final scenes could still be corrected to look like the rest of the film. 

Ian Veneracion gave Cris a youthful and hopeful voice, even if we knew that his condition is going to be progressive. His delivery of those dementia-afflicted lines were very affecting, especially in that song where Cris was being tested by his doctor ("Ten Past Eleven"). Eula Vasquez played the exhausted and harassed wife, Oreng, with inner strength and unwavering dedication despite the obvious difficulties. With her smoking, drinking and sagging breasts, she had obviously neglected herself to care for her husband.  

Khalil Ramos played the dutiful son Ian, while Junjun Quintana played Ian's partner Paul. Thanks to video calls, Ian remained close with his parents despite working abroad, and his interactions with them were moving and tear-jerking. Writer-director Carl Papa himself voiced the role of Cris's doctor who provided the exposition about early onset Alzheimer's. To his credit, Papa's voice sounded very good, as cool and clear as doctor should sound.

I was pleasantly surprised that this was a musical. All the songs were beautifully written, melodious to the ear, and winningly sung by the voice actors themselves.  In the upbeat first song "Hari ng Kuwento," Cris tells us about his past glory as a theater artist. In "Naalala Ko Pa," Cris tells a sleeping Oreng about how he will always remember her and the easy, simple, happy life they had together. This song had a fantasy dance scene on a pure white background, so the white subtitles could not be seen. 

In "Pagod Na," Oreng tells us about her travails ever since her husband suffered his unwelcome affliction. In the duet "Paglisan," both Cris and Oreng express their apologies to each other, ending with a wish that they will remain with each other even if one partner would leave. The most memorable song number would have to be a rendition of "I Can" (from the 1996 musical film "Do-Re-Mi" starring Regine Velasquez, Donna Cruz and Mikee Cojuanco) by Cris and Oreng, together with Ian and Paul.

Papa's previous film "Manang Biring" used rotoscope animation and was rendered in black and white. In contrast, the animation used in "Paglisan" was painted in pastel watercolors with a basic 2D animation style. However, the whole look was so atypical in its seemingly haphazard artistic style, as un-Disney-like as it could get. The visuals certainly needed getting used to at first, but as the film went on, the rawness of the art greatly added to the rawness of the story. 8/10. 

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