Manila: In the claws of darkness (1975) has been reviewed by Antoine in the framework of the topic Reflections and Poetic.

After Insiang (1976), last June, it was the turn of another masterpiece, MANILA : IN THE CLAWS OF DARKNESS (1975), the film-maker, filipino Lino Brocka out in cinemas, via Carlotta Films. While Brillante Mendoza (Serbis, Kinatay, Ma Rosa) and Lav Diaz (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, The Woman Who Left) monopolize today the largest european festivals, the impressive filmography of Brocka (more than 60 films in a 23-year career !) discover the honours of the prestigious emerged. If we owe its discovery in the 1970s the critic Pierre Rissient (Insiang was shown at Cannes in 1978 !), the cinema of the philippines has long been relegated to the background behind the film industries of china, (with Hong-Kong and Taiwan) and japanese.

Often compared to Rainer Werner Fassbinder (for the importance of the color) and Luis Buñuel (for his power of dreaming and its social criticism), the cinema of Brocka compiles the approach of ” documentarisante “, with this constant desire to show, without fireworks, the conditions of life of filipinos (working in the shipyards, life in the slums) under the dictatorial regime of Ferdinand Marcos, and the melodrama in his bitterness, the most naked. Her movie agency and a form of reverie – rather of the order of nightmare – around this town, the world, and swarming that is Manila. Without an accurate mapping, the decor of Manila, the archetype of the metropolis in full economic boom, puts forward all kinds of injustices universal such as social deprivation, precarious working conditions, networks of prostitution, etc., But the representation of the city does not stop at this documentary realism. It is more on the warmth of dream that gives it its real power of evocation : its aesthetic greyish contrast with the green countryside of the islands of paradise, present in the flashbacks of Julio (Bembol Roco), the young hero of the story. Its color and density is gradually transforming into a place of evil, where the fury of the sounds and the constant displacement of Julio gives him this character labyrinthine. The fiction about it – the young Julio, seeking at all costs to his first love, Ligaya (Hilda Koronel) – fits perfectly in that space to high-sounding mythological. The passage aesthetic of a black-and-white to color, moreover, is symptomatic of this effect ” documentarisant “, how neo-realism, to a reverie, the more personal and disturbing, to the depths of the spirit of the city, the true character of the film.

“In the end, Manila : in the Claws of Darkness appears as a plea for faith to be that you love.”

The intelligence story is of Julio, a character-relay. Julio is almost never fleshed out “psychologically” by Brocka. It is his journey that, in the stoneware of its meetings, shaping a course anthropological within this city. There he encountered a whole bunch of different characters, portraits-types (boss, student, prostitute, father, family…) that reveal the great diversity of this abundant universe. Each of these brief portraits worthy almost of its own history, its own narrative development. Brocka does not hesitate, moreover, not to dwell on certain looks, talks or gestures to signify their presence (Brocka is not afraid to shoot people in their work). Julio acts as a passing of the baton ; each of its meetings arising on a new relationship, sometimes friendly, sometimes confrontational, enriching and enriched his quest, which is nothing other than a questioning of their religious values. In the end, MANILA : IN THE CLAWS OF DARKNESS appears as a plea for the faith to be as one likes. The city turns out to be the ultimate test for Julio, to prove his love in every moment, in every encounter. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the famous reunion between Julio and Ligaya are in a Church…

The form of the film builds masterfully on this long descent into hell, of which Julio is the victim of a tragic (see the various sub-titles of the movie). This loss of innocence, Brocka filmed in different ways : it oscillates between a film that may seem extremely brutal in its mounting but which is in contrast with the very great delicacy of her dolly. The clash of opposites, like this last amazing plan, gives MANILA : IN THE CLAWS OF DARKNESS this aspect of the film revolted, indignant that recalls at moments the Taxi Driver of Martin Scorsese, or even some Samuel Fuller. Its tragic dimension – Julio has the dimension enigmatic of these tragic heroes – it conjures up a spectral form, that of the archetype of the lovers lovers and their tragic fate, how Romeo and Juliet or Orpheus and Eurydice). A true masterpiece of world cinema, whose subtle mix between a dreamlike intoxicating, realism, and biting will immerse you in the depths of a culture absolutely fascinating.

Antoine Gaudé

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