May 18, 2008

Cannes. Serbis.

"Taking place mostly in a porno theater ironically, yet fittingly, named Family, Serbis is part homage to cinema, part intimate domestic drama that vividly details the tangled relations and all-too human frailties of an extended family running a theater in the provincial Philippines."


Maggie Lee in the Hollywood Reporter: "Director Brillante Mendoza continues the neo-realist vein of Foster Child and Sling Shot in Serbis, but displays marked improvement - both the grunge aesthetic and film language now bear his personal handwriting. To this, he adds some bristling sexuality, both gay and straight."

"Since he shifted from production design to directing with The Masseur (2005), a static misfire about a gay massage parlor in the provinces of his native Philippines, Mendoza has made up for lost time by cranking out four films since (including one documentary), all low-budget, showing mastery in a variety of genres," writes Howard Feinstein in Screen Daily. "With Serbis (Service), his first feature with foreign (French) backing, he has taken a giant step in the wrong direction, even if The Masseur's numbing stasis has been supplanted by an unpleasant, ADD-like dynamism."

"Explicit fellatio, blocked toilets and a crudely exploded ass-cheek boil form some of the more unsavory elements of “Service,” Brillante Mendoza’s latest opus that revels in shock value," warns Variety's Jay Weissberg. "Moving into pseudo-Tsai Ming-liang territory is unlikely to win the prolific helmer further converts."


Update, 5/19: "As an environmental experience, Serbis has a peculiar voyeuristic draw, and that noisy soundtrack turns into a drone that has a near-trance effect," writes Glenn Kenny. "The hypnotic tedium of a life lived in underdevelopment and sensory overload and most likely oppressive humidity is, finally, effectively evoked. Beyond that, the viewer is out of luck."

Updates, 5/23: "For me, Brillante Mendoza's depiction of 24 hours in the life of a struggling porn cinema in Manila was one of the highlights of the festival," writes the Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu. "Shooting inside a beautiful Art Deco theatre, Mendoza not only shows a flair for evoking its strange and glamorous interiors, but offers high-end soap opera, at once nuanced, funny and melancholic, about this religion-soaked, sexually ambiguous world governed by sad-eyed matriarchs."

"I pulled my first D'Angelo of the festival by walking out of this miserable slog, which has been racking up the most universally vicious reviews of the festival," writes Matt Noller at the House Next Door.

Update, 6/1: Online viewing tip. Noel Vera points to clips in which Mendoza "talks about the source material for the film (the porn theaters that inspired his premise), and the sound problems noted by some critics, which he maintains is actually an immersive statement, and how surprised he was to have shocked the Cannes audience."

Coverage of the coverage: Cannes 08.

Last year: Cannes @ 60. And Cannes 06.

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Posted by dwhudson at May 18, 2008 10:14 AM