Brillante Mendoza's Newest, Tirador, Is Feverishly Absorbing
With its frenzied depiction of a desperate economic climate, its turbulent handheld camerawork that sticks close to the cluttered streets of Manila, and its insistence that the audio track is every bit as important as the visuals, 2007's Tirador articulates the aesthetic of Brillante Mendoza, the Filipino director whose breakthrough film of the following year, Serbis, imagined a dilapidated porn theater as a capitalist microcosm. That film's two follow-ups were glimpsed but briefly in New York on the festival circuit, but Tirador is now getting a short run at the city's brand-new Indiehouse theater. Though one misses cinematographer Oydssey Flores's camerawork that played such an important role on the three subsequent films—at once more chaotic and more expressive than the digital shooting here—Mendoza's look at the illicit activity of a group of marginal Filipinos is no less feverishly absorbing. Beginning with a police raid of shattering intensity and set against a citywide plague of corrupt political campaigning, the film follows Manila's young shack dwellers as they plan their next scam or purse snatching. It's all in good voyeuristic fun, even if Tirador's economic (and political/religious) critique plays a tad crudely, lacking the imaginative framework that made the film's outstanding follow-up so fascinating.
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