Brilliante Mendoza’s ‘Kinatay,’ a Critical Flop in Cannes?

Among 20 films competing for the prestigious Palm d'Or, Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" and Brilliante Mendoza's "Kinatay" both received a thumbs down from the critics.

Aside from Kinatay and Taking Woodstock, competing films that were booed by the critics include “Spring Fever” by Lou Ye from China, “Enter the Void” by Gaspar Noe and “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” by Isabel Coixet. Even the well-hyped “Inglorious Basterds” by the Academy Award-winning Quentin Tarantino starring Brad Pitt received mixed reviews from the audience.

Although there are clear “losers”, there are no clear winner this year that may be considered as the front runner for the Best Picture. But among those who received positive reviews are the prison drama “The Prophet” from France, Michael Haneke‘s “White Ribbon” from Austria, Jane Campion‘s “Bright Star” from New Zealand and Pedro Almodovar‘s “Broken Embraces” from Spain. Also considered as contenders are “Vincere” from Italy, “Looking for Eric” and “Wild Grass.”

It is interesting to note that Jane Campion won the Palm d’Or in 1993 for the movie “The Piano”, the film which was rated X by the MTRCB in the Philippines.

Here’s what Variety has to say about the Philippine entry “Kinatay” by Brillante Mendoza:

Acolytes convinced Brillante Mendoza is ready for his second Cannes competish slot will dwindle following “Kinatay,” an unpleasant journey into a brutal heart of darkness. Mendoza strengthens his gift for describing space with inquisitive cameras, but as the helmer’s star rises, his subtlety wanes, resulting in obvious statements made banal by heavy-handed ironies. This noirish tale of an innocent guy drawn into a dark world of torture and dismemberment understands that an unwilling accomplice is still tarred by fate, but the pic’s graphic nature does realism no favors. Fest life may linger, but theatrical won’t survive long.

But the Daily Telegraph and Screen International have something nice to say about “Kinatay”.

Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph said:

Frankly, most people will find Kinatay either unremittingly tedious, harrowing or vile. Possibly all three. Mendoza is no gore-hound. He’s more serious than Noe. This is a fiercely moral and horribly unforgettable denunciation of societal corruption.

The Daily Telegraph, a British news website, gave an above average score of 4 stars for Kinatay (Butchered).

And Mike Goodridge of Screen International said:

Showing the kidnap, beating, humiliation, rape, murder and dismemberment of a young prostitute, Brillante Mendoza’s new film Kinatay (which means “butchered” in Tagalog) is a nerve-shredding exploration of crime which is both repellent and grimly compelling. Offering audiences no relief or redemption, it is perhaps most notable for its daring in attempting to capture the moment a young man crosses the line into irrevocable evil.

Kinatay revolves around the story of Peping (Coco Martin), a freshly-married policy-academy student who helps a drug-gang acquaintance to collect outstanding payments. He only wants to help his family, but his first operation involves an unforgivingly protracted and wicked assault on a prostitute.

Kinatay is the third Filipino film to have entered the main competition of the most prestigious film festival in the world. The first was “Jaguar” by Lino Brocka in 1979. The second was “Serbis” by Brillante Mendoza last year.

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