Leonor Will Never Die: If Being John Malkovich review is even weirder

Midway through Martika Ramirez Escobar’s reality-bending fantasy Leonor will never die, Leonor (Sheila Francisco), an aging action screenwriter, steps out for a smoke. Leonor denies the seriousness of her financial situation, and tensions over unpaid electricity bills have led to arguments between her and her son Rudy (Bong Cabrera), who have said told his mother that she needed to escape the clouds. But it was a twist in the romance that eventually brought the family together, after Leonor was thrown into a coma from the door by a TV – another cause of conflict in her family. neighbor’s window upstairs.

That animated script summarizes what’s thematically going on in the movie of this bent genre, an intro to Wizard of Oz through the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” video. The story begins in modern-day Manila, where protagonist Leonor, the lovable grandmother, spends her days immersed in old dramas and action movies. Leonor was a big name in cinema in the 80s and 90s, but she retired from filmmaking 10 years ago after an accident on set that killed her eldest son, Ronwaldo (Anthony Falcon). . She’s been holed up in her home ever since, arguing with Rudy and spending quiet afternoons sitting with Ronwaldo’s ghost.

Ronwaldo, who is long dead, is a character in the film, different from his living relatives only because he is a bit transparent. This also reveals something about Leonor will never die. The line between life and death can permeate Leonor’s world, and so can the line between imagination and reality. The film is crisscrossed with mock VHS action sequences, taken from an unfinished script that Leonor unearthed shortly before her accident. While her body was in a coma, her soul entered the world of her movie, and she became both the writer of the film and a character in her own story. (With a warm, fun touch, Leonor’s film characters all love her, but they can’t explain why.)

A curly-haired Filipino man, wearing a pink muscular shirt, is seen in low-resolution video through the view of a sniper during a scene from Leonor's film Will Never Die

Photo: Music Box Films

In spite of Leonor will never die expressed loving admiration for the ragtag violence of Filipino action cinema, it was equally influenced by quirky stand-up comedy. Leonor’s trip across the rainbow and into her script has a It’s John Malkovich quality — take, for example, the scene where Rudy dashes into the ceiling-mounted TV of a hospital waiting room, on a mission to save his mother. Sometimes, the film steps back even further to reveal its own production, incorporating behind-the-scenes footage into the story. At the end of the story, writer-director Escobar transforms herself into a character in her film about a filmmaker who becomes a character in her film, appearing in a prelude to a series of films. late-night editorial session, where she debated how to end the film. .

Escobar is a professional cinematographer, and she and her crew have a lot of fun playing with different types of cameras, shooting styles, and formats — action scenes shot for example. at 4:3 ratio. All are involved in creating the actual layers in this movie. The “real world” consists of deep colors and uninterrupted long, wide shots, while the reality of action movies is more gritty, grainy, and colorful. The action scenes use abrupt zooming and the action shots are repetitive, sometimes re-using a particularly gruesome punch three or four times. But the most interesting of these moments is when the film’s hero, also named Ronwaldo (Rocky Salumbides), reaches the end of Leonor’s unfinished script. In the middle of a chase scene, he stops and turns around with a confused expression, looking up at the sky for direction.

In addition to being just a fun aesthetic exercise, these action movie tributes embody a nostalgic yearning for a simpler world — a world where machine guns are plastic, where the good and the bad are easy. easily distinguishable from each other and any problem can be solved with a round kick. When the themes get heavy, the ridiculousness of the wig and the way the characters read the lines in the action movies keep the tone light. Even the simple fact that Leonor is a woman has an unfortunate quality: Escobar’s version of the Philippine film industry is a matriarchy controlled by powerful women, a virtual one. The dream is in stark contrast to the historical reality of super masculinity.

Leonor (Sheila Francisco), an elderly Filipino with a bloody bandage on his head, hides outside at night with a suspicious appearance in Leonor Will Never Die

Photo: Music Box Films

Leonor will never dieIts scrap has its downsides. The story revolves around each new plot point as it is presented, and combined with the multimedia cinematography, it has a loose collage-like quality. Viewers’ tolerance for the approach can vary. And while Escobar’s honesty is refreshing when she admits onscreen that she doesn’t know how to end the film, the musical’s ending do feel a bit settled on. However, Escobar’s open reception to the process only adds to the film’s appeal. An overwhelming sense of play and cooperation Leonor will never die, even when it involves serious issues of life, death and legacy. It reminds us that love, like creation, is a living being and both are shared.

Leonor will never die will launch in limited quantities on November 25, with a nationwide expansion throughout December.

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