The glam and the gore
(REFLECTIONS ON THE VISUALS AND STORYTELLING IN “GOYO: ANG BATANG GENERAL”)
IN THIS pretty as a picture portrayal of a not too pretty tale of the boy general, whatever good intentions the director of “Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral” had were outwrestled by the cinematography, which in near comic-book jargon, romanticized the spectrum of glam and gore the way a progressive Japanese movie would play up the tension between noise and silence.
For though the words of Mabini, the paralytic who was the conscience of the revolution, continues to ring on in the minds of movie goers after the movie is over, for oglers and the visually inclined they fade away when recalling how impossibly beautiful Empress Schuck and Gwen Zamora are when they seamlessly glide in and out of the frame. Just how were these actresses kept from shining in the Philippine cinema for so long? The scene where they were exchanging sharp words while buying mangoes summons to mind the Spanish movie, “Belle Epoque.” Thank God there were no over the top insane abuse of close-ups that one can see from the local soap “Ang Probinsyano.” This despite that everybody looks pretty in this movie, save perhaps, those who played the Americans who were supposed to be the villains anyway. In a funny way this predicament brings to mind how the beautiful Joss Stone was made to look ugly in the TV series “The Tudors.” Needless to say, “Goyo” has theatrical sensibilities and inclinations. In fact, it felt like watching a play where your eyes can zoom in from as far as the balcony. And because of this, for better or for worse, the cinematography took over and swept us into dreamland taking away much of the grit of the movie’s conflicts and tensions.
As for its storytelling devices we have director Jerrold Tarog’s use of Mabini’s dialogues with revolutionary leaders give the movie some depth. Then there is his use of the photographer’s assistant’s perspective which reminds us of the character that the director himself played in his early indie movie “Confessional”–that of a videographer who gets to mingle with shady characters.
In the end one can say all movie-makers have an agenda. Jorge Estregan’s “El Presidente,” was an apologist of a movie who tried to put Emilio Aguinaldo in good light.
Tarog’s “Goyo” was made to make us aware of the pitfalls of cronyism, hero worship and blind loyalty. All told in a vehicle that was about the life of a bratty, charismatic, emotionally troubled young playboy general who also happened to have some raw military genius. We get the message, all right. But somehow don’t quite feel it all because of the dreamlike beauty of the scenes that fails to jar us out of reverie.
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