Saturday, March 18, 2006

Ate Vi For Vendetta

It’s amazing that given the political climate in Manila right now, they allowed the showing of the film V For Vendetta.

V is about a man who, after being tortured and altered by a megalomaniac, decides to bring down Totalitarian England. He shakes the general populace out of their fear of government by blowing up buildings, executing public officials and other acts of terrorism. Fight the powers! Defy the ruling order! In the end people are roused out of their apathy, fights are done in slow-mo ala-The Matrix and fireworks abound.

In Marcos’ time, even posters of such a movie wouldn’t see the light of day. Maybe someone in MTRCB was sleeping on the job, or he’s anti-GMA.

PGMA is often compared to legendary Superstar and intrigue-and-drug magnet Nora Aunor due to their vertically challenged similarities. La Aunor’s chief showbiz rival for many years is the erstwhile mayor of Lipa, Vilma Santos, or as she’s fondly called, Mayor Vi (behind her back she’s Ms. You-Can-Never-Can-Tell). How ironic then that in the movie the main opponent of government is a person named V. He wears a Guy Fawkes mask and wears a bob-cut wig, the kind Vilma’s character might wear in Burlesk Queen.

But is the movie seditious given these times? Will it rouse apathetic Pinoys to wear little La Aunor masks and start playing “Superstar” on public address systems? Doubtful, but it may make them consider a new costume come Halloween this year.

You see, the movie’s premise is very clear: England is now a totalitarian state; government controls everything that comes out in the media, and the citizenry live in fear of their government. So far that is not yet the case here in the Philippines today. So far. So while we actually end up sympathizing with V’s character, we won’t necessarily feel by the end of the movie the need to strap a gazillion tons of dynamite on LRT-2 and drive it straight to Malacanang. It’s a warning call, and we should all take heed.

I can understand too why the movie might turn off viewers. It is quite a talkie; worse, they discuss Really Important Ideas and Concepts. Like freedom and fear, justice and revenge, and why Natalie Portman needs to speak with an affected English accent. Actually she does a pretty decent job portraying Evey, the girl whom V rescues and ends up siding with him. She even does the Shinave O’Connor thing with her hair. Thankfully she refrained from belting out “Mandinka” or “Nothing Compares 2 U” (but tearing a photo of the Pope would fit in nicely in this movie). Where she fails though is her accent. Sometimes it’s not there. Sometimes it’s so thick I half expect her to turn around and bark a command, “Off with Jar Jar Binks’ bloody head!”

But the movie really belongs to Hugo Weaving. He came in to replace James Purefoy, the actor originally hired to play V. Yup, same here: who the f**k is James Purefoy? At least he’s got a smart agent: “James, your face won’t be seen behind the mask! The moviegoers don’t know you that well yet for you to go hiding behind a mask! Drop the project—now!” Hugo though is already a familiar face and voice, thanks to a couple of obscure trilogies called The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. His character wears a non-moving mask the whole time. When an actor is stripped of a very important acting tool—his facial expression—then the challenge is to show emotion using his remaining tools. Hugo’s performance is a triumph of voice acting and mime. I must admit his overly enunciated Mr. Smith sounded grating to my ear, but in V’s case it works. He wraps his mouth around the words and rolls them out so joyously deliberate, it’s music to hear him talk. It also helps that while his monologues are quite didactic, the Wachowski brothers have written a script that is delicious to say out loud (watch out for that long alliterating first monologue of V; you can hear the giddy joy in Hugo’s delivery).

The adaptation is quite faithful to the spirit of the graphic novel source, but there were enough significant changes for cinematic purposes that I can see why Alan Moore, the author, insisted his name be stricken off the credits. I think the Wachowski brothers and director James McTeigue managed to make an action movie with enough Big Ideas to elevate it from the usual wham-bam-thank-you-now-die-you-scumbag movie. Now, if you’re really not a big fan of Big Ideas, go watch Date Movie instead and feel your brain lose a few IQ points. But if you like your mind to be challenged—and expect all fireworks from hereon to be scored to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture—then go watch this moo-V.

Quick, before PGMA and friends get wise and have it pulled out of the theaters.

wheee! we're seeing that today!
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