October 20, 2008
NYFF. Serbis."To my knowledge, Serbis is the first film to equate third-world life in the late capitalist era to squatting in a rundown porn palace," writes Kevin B Lee in Slant. "Mike Judge, who predicted in Idiocracy that Starbucks will one day sell handjobs, would feel thoroughly validated to see the goings on in the Family Theater, the last of a Filipino theater chain run by a family that's as defunct as its business.... Absurdly comic and harrowingly explicit, Serbis feels too surreal and conceptual to be taken as docu-verisimilitude, but it needn't settle for such conventions when every frame is alive, breathing dank sweat and sighing desperation. This house of sin and cinema runs by its own rules." Updated. "When craft fails and a script is mostly a shamble of ideas, it is the details of a film that can catch fire," writes Daniel Kasman in the Auteurs' Notebook. "Why does this pornography theater also have an unadvertised restaurant-in-miniature working out of the family's own kitchen table? I have no idea, but it's the kind of information - random, strangely gratifying, and rooted in the small things of life - that makes a film like Serbis tolerable." "I found it to be a bore and longed for a William T Vollmann book," writes Ed Champion. "The film's problem is not just that we have nobody to really care about, but that there is simply no contextual investigation into the realities that keep these characters toiling in a porn theater." Not so for Jürgen Fauth: "Through some emphatic magic of cinema, what should be sordid and revolting (and apparently shocked critics in Cannes) somehow becomes inviting. Like the streets that surround the theater, Serbis teems with life." Earlier: Reviews from Cannes. Update: "Revolving around the titular theme of service - from city's past history of entertaining locally stationed American servicemen (an idea that is reinforced in the appearance of biracial characters in the film), to the Pineda family's continued dedication to the movie house despite personal conflicts and petty jealousies, to young men hustling gay patrons in its dark aisles - [director Brillante] Mendoza parallels the plight of the Pineda family with the dilapidated movie theater," writes Acquarello. "Framed against recurring images of interconnected, labyrinthine stairs, the juxtaposition reflects the constant struggle between old world values and harsh economic reality, dignity and survival, culture and commercialism."
Posted by dwhudson at October 20, 2008 2:30 AM