Director as World-Builder

I once had a conversation with an Advertising Director. Before he began directing, he was a copywriter for an agency.

Usually, it is the art director, not the copywriter that chooses directing as his next life. Being a writer myself, I asked him, “Is it true that Art Direction is the better jumping point into directing? Does it have anything to do with the mastery of visuals?”

I remember we were drinking, and some of our friends were singing on the videoke. So in between the birits and the cheers, he said that yes, the art director’s very visual background truly helped. But that doesn’t mean the writer can’t be a director.

Here’s the more memorable part: What’s important, he said, is that as a director, you see the scenes in your head. It is precise in your imagination. And that is how you lead people to that vision.

Well, I didn’t become a director after that conversation, but this weekend, I proved his theory true. I saw three movies: Hugo (yes, I finally got to see it — through my laptop, through a torrent file), Les Miserables, and The Life of Pi. And in all three – it was clear: a director is a world-builder.

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Scorsese photographed a la George Melies

The movie Hugo allowed us to see the world through the eyes of a child. The magic of tinkering with mechanical stuff. The magic of discoveries in a train station. The magic to be had with just peering from within the faces of clocks. The magic of movies. The color and characters were so real you can almost smell their world. The old pages of books. The rust of old machines. The smell of bread and flowers. The delight of a kid. The heartbreak of lost dreams. It was so palpable that it seems like a place you’ve visited before and at the same time a new land to explore. Because of the right balance of surreal and reality, Scorsese was able to allow us journey with Hugo, on a ride that was believable and memorable.

Les Mis, in turn, was set in France. However, that was just the physical world Tom Hooper successfully created. On another level, he had to create the world of the musical and make it believable on a different medium. How can people sing on and on and on and still be credible?

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Hooper on Set

He had to merge those two worlds and come up with a Les Mis that was its own. What is more difficult is that his material had a following sometimes stronger than cults. He was able to get outstanding performances from his cast, got them to work together, and the result: a Les Mis that not just respects the book and the musical, but one that is able to stand as its own work of art.

 

Ang Lee instructing his lead actor

Ang Lee instructing his lead actor

In the Life of Pi, India was intricately gorgeous. And the sea – as terrifying as how it would be when I let my imagination run wild when I swim in the sea. In such a surreal setting, the challenge is how to be able to let the humanity – terror, pain, glory and grime – be palpable. This meshes with one of the movie’s themes – can you believe? Not just in the story, but in yourself. In God. In what no one else has seen or can see. At the very least, Ang Lee made me believe in his talent – not least because of the gorgeous visual work.

When you get into a movie you like – as in get into it body and spirit – the movie becomes a country you’ve visited before. It’s in photographs both printed and in your mind’s eye. And yes, you want to visit them again.

If I may add to my director friend’s words, the director isn’t just able to see the world he wants to create in his own mind. He is not only able to communicate this to everyone on his crew. He is not only able to make millions see it as well. He is able to make us all believe – not just that it exists, but that we are also invited.

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all photos from google searching. no intention to infringe on any rights.

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Why we need to save Enteng Kabisote

He has saved the world (and Enkantasya) from various villains, monsters, menaces, the evil Luka (reference: Okay Ka Fairy Ko The Movie 1 and 2), and even from his own occasional misadventures.

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D’ Original Movie (from retropilipinas.com)

He entered our lives through the TV set, and we found ourselves wanting to be part of his fictional neighborhood. We wanted the Butingting shop to be next door. We wanted to be able to say “hi” to him on our way to the MRT station.

To some of us, he wasn’t just some character on a TV show. We grew up with him – and Pipoy and Bale and Amy and Aiza and Faye and Ina and Prinsipe K. For better or worse, he has shaped our generation.

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Enteng and Okay Ka Fairy Ko through the years, from entengkabisote.wikia.com

OK, at the very least, Enteng, every Thursday night, would save us from TV boredom and stupidity.

Now, he is the one who needs saving — from us.

From the grimy clutches of our own culture’s commercialism.

Allow me to justify this call for a crusade.

Enteng Kabisote has earned a spot on the pantheon of Philippine Heroes – a space among Panday, Captain Barbel, Bernardo Carpio, and Darna. Fiction has transcended to Myth. He can cross over from pop-culture icon to a research paper topic.  In a way, he can be understood as who the Filipino Father aspires to be: “simpleng tao,” mapagmahal sa pamilya, may maganda at maarugang asawa, works hard through an honest living (The Butingting Shop), kind to his neighbors, humorous, brave when needed, once in a while he saves the world, and – he can balance his own will against his mother-in-law’s powers.

He can also be seen as the Triumph of the Tagalupa (as he is so “lovingly” called by Ina Magenta). The powerless stopping all powers-that-be.

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naks. (also from enteng’s wikia)

Those, and many other angles, I think, can explain why he have cheered for him. That’s why we watched him for so long. That’s why we went in droves to watch the original Okay Ka Fairy Ko Movies (Parts 1 and 2). That’s why we watched the first Enteng Kabisote Movie and swooned in nostalgia in some parts. That’s why we probably even forgave the second movie. That’s why it probably topped the box office charts. But came the the third. The tie-ups with other Metro Manila Filmfest winners. Then it became weirder and weirder (that’s a lot considering it’s already about fairies and such). Then it finally ran into a wall and ceased being number 1 at the box office.

 

Maybe it’s because somewhere along the way, we felt like some Encantada was dragooning us into buying a cookie-cutter movie. Something you’ve seen and laughed at before, but never mind, pay for it again. The story lost its sparkle. Its quality lost its luster. Even its humor was getting stale.

I am concerned because it’s starting to feel as if he never meant anything to us.

True – he is a product of commercial entertainment, and that remains to be his purpose. But is that all he is to us?

I’m not asking that we go all-Tolkien on something that is so accessible to everyone. The last thing we need is to overcomplicate Enteng. I guess all I’m asking for is that we treat Enteng, his story, and our audience, with a bit more respect. Let’s realize that he belongs to the entire nation now. Let’s also realize that our people is smart enough to recognize canned goods on movie screens. I hear some highly-esteemed movie producer muttering in the background…”Pero yan ang gusto ng masa, iho…” Save it. If you really had the people in mind, you would have made better movies in the first place. You would not have condensed Enteng into a mere formula, subjected to several trials like a lab experiment, combined him with different formula (the confusing plots with Agimat and Tanging Ina and now with an environmentalist), and made Frankensteined movies. You would have given Pinoys something to really laugh about and enjoy and talk about with their families during the holiday.

In this latest Enteng iteration, the enemy was a giant alien octopus (don’t ask why). It wanted to destroy everything in sight. It had a foul stench. At the movie’s climax, it had Enteng Kabisote, the hero of multiple worlds, coiled in its grimy tentacle.

That is where Enteng Kabisote is today.

We are that Octopus.