Sought this out because Martin is one of Cinema Scope’s 50 Under 50. Reminds of the fake 4:3 history of Tabu, but even more artificial, and with more leaves and fronds than Sternberg would’ve thought possible for his Anatahan. Percussive music when needed, never rising higher than the sound of wind.
There’s a family fighting hunger and frigid rain. Little birds (finches?) flutter around as if tossed into frame, landing in a kid’s hair at one point. Americans collect the kid but apparently not out of goodwill, since they start shooting when he runs off.
The subtitles don’t seem trustworthy, and my copy is too muddy and low-res. And I don’t really understand. But the photography is very nice, and different from anything else today. Turns to color for a Germany Year Zero ending. Must rewatch when blu-ray comes out.
Not unlike South American and other Third World writers employing magic realism in their works, Martin harnesses the inherently surreal/fantastical aspects of our folklore in order to mirror the under-emphasized and misrepresented aspects of our culture. Circulated in the deep of the night, circulated during meals, the stories exchanged in the depths of the forest are a kind of nourishment, a defense mechanism that both diverts and fortifies.
D. Kasman (who also mentioned Anatahan):
His minute little saga, which begins with a mother and son in the late 1890s fleeing the American invasion of the Philippines by hiding out in the forest, and ends with the son having a son all his own, still hiding from the encroaching Yanks, is shot in homage to old Hollywood films.
Visually, Martin reflects this process of cultural imperialism in the images of supplanted native identity that bookend the film: from the opening shot of Filipinos in figuratively handed down Spanish clothing .. to the ominous tincture of color suffusing the horizon against a Mount Fuji-esque scenic landscape (reminiscent of scroll work) that augurs the arrival of the Japanese.