Up to my ears in the Fabulous Baker Boys

One more once.
These three words were spoken by Count Basie when he sought to repeat a chorus from April in Paris, moments after it was just played by his renonwed orchestra.
From all appearances, Basie enjoyed listening and playing the chorus so much that he wanted to do it again, prolonging the song — and his enjoyment — further.*
These same words express my sentiments, days after seeing the Fabulous Baker Boys for the second time in my life early this week.
Which explains why I am writing about the movie once more with feeling, as it were.
Ever since I secured a digital copy of the movie — a romantic drama starring Jeff and Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer — I have played and replayed the film’s opening scene.
It shows Jeff Bridges as Jack Baker, putting his coat on while preparing to leave his naked female companion, still in bed.
“Will I see you again?” she asks.
“No,” he replies and proceeds to leave.
As if on cue, the theme song plays a few bars on the piano, followed by heavy riffs from the trumpet and the saxophone.
Entitled Jack’s Theme**, the tune perfectly captures the film’s mood, emphasizing the contradicting possibilities offered by the city — vice and virtue, hope and despair, success and failure.
Although the opening scene is just two minutes long, it remains potent enough to strike a chord, ring a bell, pop a vein, develop a tic similar to the one gotten by a schoolmate who got it by accidentally drinking gasoline.
But seriously, when I saw the same scene the second time around, I was swept away, the very same sensation I felt when I saw it for the very first time as a pimply-faced teenager, rejected by girls, ostracized by friends, occasionally drunk on cheap gin, and dreaming about living a better life.
And so, here’s the opening scene, one more once:

*No actual research was undertaken to come up with this observation.
**Go get the soundtrack. Or you can send a request (wink, wink).
From the Grammar Dept. Grammar Police Patrol slept on the job early this morning when it failed to spot an error which has now been corrected. Earlier title of this piece is Up to my ears with Fabulous Baker Boys. The correct preposition should have been in, as what is seen now. Apologies, fans of William Safire, E. B. White, et. al.

Movie Review: Engkwentro

Engkwentro is Filipino film noir and social commentary rolled into one.
But instead of hard-drinking gumshoes and peroxide blondes, the film features two brothers, Richard (Felix Roco), a drug-dealing gang leader on the run from a vigilante death squad, and Raymond (Daniel Medrana), a truant schoolboy turned neophyte of a rival gang.
With his life at risk, Richard is determined to join his mother in Manila and perhaps even stay there for a few months, if only to cool off.
While plying his drug route – a move to raise cash for his trip – Richard encounters Raymond and learns that he has joined the Batang Dilim (Kids of the Dark), instead of going to school.
As part of his initiation, Raymond is instructed by the gang leader, Tomas (Zyrus Desamparado) to fetch a gun, which Richard later confiscates and returns to its previous owner for a price.
Tension mounts between the two gang leaders, eventually forcing Raymond to make a choice between his new master or his brother.
These complications end up foiling Richard’s plans, emphasizing the hopelessness, even the inability, of those who seek to leave the slums for arguably better lives.

A downscaled poster of Engkwentro as found in its multiply site. To visit said site, please click on pic.

A downscaled poster of Engkwentro as found in its multiply site. To visit said site, please click on pic.

With its quick narrative pace, Engkwentro is able to dive right into its characters’ motivations and moral ambiguities, doing away with the easy, formulaic dichotomies between good and evil, victims and suspects, masters and slaves.
To complement this steely realism, Engkwentro offers unflattering portrayals of dingy alleys and clapboard shacks located in a Davao City slum, the movie’s setting. The images are so sharp and biting you could almost smell the stench of squalor.
But at the same time, Engkwentro has no qualms about baring its political agenda.
Barely a minute or two into the production, on-screen text about the prevalence of extra-judicial murders in the country give viewers a foretaste of what to expect.
Unlike other productions that serve generous helpings of propaganda, Engkwentro manages to stay on message by focusing on elements that help move the story along.
Take the opening sequence, which is already worth more than the price of the ticket.
With the screen rendered pitch black, viewers hear someone gasping for breath. Seconds later, through flickers of light, Richard is seen running for his life.
Similar chase scenes would later be repeated, emphasizing that everyone who is anyone in the film is more or less on the run from someone – cruel cops and crooked creditors, jilted suitors and jaded friends, envious enemies and evil parents.
Meanwhile, providing an auditory backdrop to the whole film is the city mayor’s disembodied voice from a radio broadcast.
Although he continues to deny involvement in the extrajudicial murders of known criminals, the mayor – played by Celso Ad. Castillo – implicitly supports the death squad’s activities.
Unfortunately, the mayor’s spiel is too strong and too confident to be taken seriously, turning his character into a caricature.
But this inconsistency fails to distract from the overall qualities of the movie, which is a winner.
Engkwentro is dirty, gritty, and real, however anyone looks at it.
It is just about the right film to show in a country that could use a little shock therapy to jolt it back to its senses.


Engkwentro is directed by Pepe Diokno