Thursday, October 22, 2015

600. Maynila: sa mga Kuko ng Liwang/Manila In the Claws of Brightness (1975)

Running Time: 125 minutes
Directed By: Lino Brocka
Written By: Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr.
Main Cast: Bembol Roca, Hilda Koronel, Lou Salvador Jr., Tommy Abuel, Pio de Castro


So I'm contemplating heading out to the theater on Monday night to check out Steve Jobs. I've recently started reading the Walter Isaacson biography and I dig Danny Boyle and Michael Fassbender enough to think that this movie is going to be something special. However, I don't usually respond well to the theater setting and my opinions on movies usually suffers when I see them at the cinema. We'll see...

Last night I managed to find the time to check out Manila in the Claws of Brightness, a movie that's intrigued me since I first bought THE BOOK, if only for it's unique title. The film is tells of a young man named Julio (Roca), who comes to Manila in search of his girlfriend. The story goes that Julio and his girlfriend Ligaya (Koronel) were living happily ever after, until a woman named Mrs. Cruz came to town and convinced Ligaya's mother to let her come and work in the city of Manila. Since Ligaya's mom didn't like Julio anyway, she obliged Mrs. Cruz. After writing a handful of letters, however, Ligaya stopped corresponding with both Julio and her mother and so, Julio comes to Manila to try and track her down. When we first meet him, he's been living in the city for months, with little to no money, working construction jobs to try and get by. The movie opens with him applying, in person, to yet another construction job, which he gets. It is here that he learns that life isn't fair, as he's exposed to things like unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices - which includes unfair wages being paid. We follow Julio on his day to day routine, as he makes friends in Manila and as his innocence starts to burn off and his naivety is exposed. After a while and after losing his job, Julio becomes involved in a male prostitution ring and comes closer & closer to tracking down Ligaya.


On paper and for about the first hour, this film seemed like it was going to be great. The cherry on top was the fact that it was a piece of Filipino cinema, something I went into as knowing nothing about, ready to have a taste of their cinematic cuisine. I was impressed at first, as I was expecting something a lot more rustic & refined and something that presented much more of a culture clash than this film did. Instead, what I got was a mix of detective story and social commentary, about a young man who enters an unknown city, is slammed in the face by the hard realities of life, all the while trying to find his long lost love. Like I said - on paper, there was nothing wrong here.

However, maybe the movie was just a tad on the long side, because by the time Julio found Ligaya, I was over it. Or maybe it was how the discovery of Ligaya by Julio was so anticlimactic. One minute he couldn't find her anywhere and then the next minute he just saw her, followed her and they were reunited. It lacked a certain buildup that could've made it this great, feel good moment and gave me more of an "oh, so that's it?" reaction. Plus, I kind of suspected that Ligaya was sold off into prostitution, so when that's exactly what the answer turned out to be, I think I was disappointed that it was something more unpredictable. The rest of the film was fine, I guess. Nothing too significant to complain about, but on the other hand and unfortunately, nothing particularly significant worth praise. What started out as something I'd want to recommend, ended up being something I'd say to "see if you happen upon it, otherwise don't go out of your way" and that's exactly what I'm saying.

RATING: 6/10  And that's that. Keeping it short & sweet today kids, because I'm tired and I'm going to try and sneak in another movie. Moving right along...


October 22, 2015  5:01pm


  1. I'm afraid this will be another reply that does little more than says 'Hi Andrew, I have at least read what you say'... but I've little to add.


SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...