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Manila in the Claws of Light

The Criterion Collection // Unrated // June 12, 2018
List Price: $27.37 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 21, 2018 | E-mail the Author



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Manilla in the Claws of Light Criterion Blu-ray Review


Manila in the
Claws of Light
is
a often bleak and harrowing drama with romantic undertones. Directed
by the acclaimed filmmaker Lino Brocka (Experience, Now)
and produced by Mike De Leon (Citizen Jake) and
Severino
Manotok Jr. (The Rites of May), this adaptation of
the novel
by Edgardo focuses upon the love-sick Julio (Bembol Roco) as he
searches for his love, Ligaya (Hilda Koronel), whose family arranged
for her to leave their town with the promise of having a better
future.


Julio traverses across
towns in search
of his love Ligaya Paraiso (Hilda Koronel). He soon discovers that
she may not be in as good of a situation as was first mentioned to
her: he realizes she may have been sold into a life of prostitution.
Determined to find her and become reunited with his love, he becomes
employed with a labor company which underpays its employees: each
employee, trying merely to survive on wages that keep them
impoverished, struggles in the bleakest sense. Julio struggles to
support himself while looking for Ligaya and decides he must find
other work.


Julio meets a male gigolo
who befriends
him and offers him residency. Before long, Julio finds himself being
swayed into becoming a male prostitute for the wealthy. Although he
isn't homosexual, Julio decides this is his best option in the art of
getting by. It becomes a more reliable means of surviving in this
impoverished environment. He uses this to help fuel his search for
Ligaya. Can he become reunited with his lost love and leave behind
this seedy world?


This film is a bleak and
depressing
experience in many regards. For one thing, it portrays a very dark
underworld environment that these characters are tossed into during
the story. The landscape itself is also incredibly barren and
impoverished (with homes that are barely functional for truly living)
and with laborers at Julio's first job being paid such poor wages
many sleep in the streets without even a blanket to cover them. The
depressing nature of the film is imbued into every crevice of the
story. Yet the film finds some solace in its romantic storytelling
between Julio and Ligaya. This is where the film finds its heart and
really works wonders.


The screenplay by Clodualdo
Del Mundo
Jr. (Flight of an Angel, Kisapmata)
is particularly
strong for exploring themes of poverty and labor issues. The film has
many notable sequences which explore the ways in which poverty can
damage individuals and society at large. The labor division and
unfair below-poverty-level wages is something which puts hard-working
people into difficult lives and situations they should not have even
been placed in. For a large portion of the film, this is the big
thematic aspect which is explored.


The music score composed by
Max Jocson
(The Rites of May, Cain and Abel)
is haunting and
melancholic. This is one of the film's greatest attributes. The score
befits the story-line. The cinematography by Mike De Leon (3rd
World Hero
) feels raw and visceral (almost like a
documentary).


Lino Brocka makes the film
a intriguing
character-study and romantic-drama. The filmmaking feels highly
sensitive and personal. Brocka, who witnessed much poverty and
devastation in the Philippines, explores these topics with a unique
approach. While Manila in the Claws of Light is not
a film
that is easily absorbed, its an engaging story well told and it is
worthy of consideration.


The Blu-ray:




Video:


Criterion has done a fantastic job with this release. The film
has
received an excellent 4K restoration presented in the original
theatrical 1.85:1
widescreen aspect ratio. The 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition
presentation is remarkably clean (without distracting print debris or
damage) and
has great color depth. The film's cinematography is exquisitely
preserved on this release.


Audio:


The audio is presented in uncompressed mono 1.0 audio. This
preserves the original sound design of the film. The dialogue
reproduction is excellent given the source elements and sounds crisp,
clean, and well defined. The music score has good fidelity. For a
mono presentation, it's surprisingly effective.


English subtitles are included.




Extras:


Inside the case is a leaflet featuring an essay on the film.


On disc supplements include:


Introduction by
Martin Scorsese
(HD,
2 min.) about the importance of the film and it's restoration


Signed: Lino
Brocka
(1987) (1
Hr. 24 min.) is a feature-length documentary about the filmmaker by
director Christian Blackwood. It's a exploration of the filmmaker's
career and legacy.


Though the film has some interesting insights into the
filmmaker's
career, this documentary also has some disturbing newsreel footage.
Please take note of this information. A warning should have been
provided by Criterion for this release.


Manila: A Filipino Film (23 min.) is a
short 1975
documentary about the making of the film.


Challenging the Viewer (19 min.) is an
interview with film
critic and filmmaker Tony Rayns discussing the film and director style="font-style: normal;"> style="font-weight: normal;">Lino
Brocka's provocative style.


Final Thoughts:


Manila
in the
Claws of Light
,
which filmmaker
Martin Scorsese helped to restore with his film project, is
considered an important classic from the prolific filmmaker Lino
Brocka. Criterion has done a good job with this 4K restoration. The
film is often bleak and disturbing but the story is well told. It's
not an easy watch, by any means, but it's still a rewarding
experience.


Recommended.



Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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