Pascal Grenier for Cinetalk.net

Film director Lavrente Indico Diaz (born 1958) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival with his latest epic The Woman Who Left. The Filipino independent film maker was probably contemporary cinema’s best-kept secret. Until now. His body of work includes more than 25 films (including more than 15 features).

Since his debut in 1998,  Lav Diaz’s productions were rarely shown outside the film-festival circuit. One reason is the length. Some run over 10 hours, many running over 300 minutes long!  A multi-awarded versatile artist, (he is also a poet and musician) Diaz’s distinctive style is highly contemplative, with a dash of documentary-style approach and sometimes a heavy dose of experimentation.  His films are deeply-rooted into the Philippines’ history.

Lav Diaz may be on the verge of well deserved recognition as one of the most singular directors working today.

 

1 – The Criminal of Barrio Conception (Serafin Geronimo: Kriminal ng Barrio Concepcion-1998)

Lav Diaz’s feature debut is loosely based on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Seraphin, a poverty-stricken farmhand, takes part in a kidnapping job going bust. He meets a young investigative journalist to tell about the story. His tale is about unsolved crimes that shocked and plagued the country…

The Criminal of Barrio Conception plunges the audience at the heart of criminal activities. It is rugged with obvious technical deficiencies. Because of budget limitation the director did mostly one take shots. It would become his trade. But it is a bold and visceral story of crime and retribution and an interesting tribute to fellow countryman Lino Brocka’s political crime dramas of the 1970s.

 

2- Melancholia (Melagholia– 2008)

Three misfits struggle to make their way through the world. They fear the future and wander the desolate countryside. Their fear leads to  apocalypse as they begin to lose their grip on reality.

The story is divided into three distinct parts followed by an epilogue. The characters shift  personalities as they meet some drifting strangers along the way.

Winner of the Best Film of the Horizons program at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, this is a 7 hours and a half long experimental saga. For the average viewer it can be an endurance test. But if you’re into these one-of-a-kind experimental films that lingers on the cerebral and spiritual subtext it will certainly appeal to you.

Melancholia is a rewarding and unique movie experience in which Diaz tackles his own personal and obsessive themes of grief, loss and confusion.

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3- Norte, the End of History (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan – 2013)

Norte chronicles the life of three characters. One of  them commits a crime. As time passes, they all struggle with their daily life, searching for peace, while confronted to a miscarriage of justice…

Diaz goes Dostoevsky again with this haunting drama. More universal in its themes, more polished than his earlier films, this is a deeply emotional tale for art-house fans. While he doesn’t shy away from his usual long-take aesthetic, Diaz offers with Norte more “rhythm” than with  his previous experimental ventures.

Shot in gorgeous Cinemascope, Norte, the End of History, with its vivid colors, is a beautiful visual feast. Clocking in at the 4-hour mark, a “short” film for Diaz, it is a true masterpiece of contemporary cinema.

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