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BLISS (Starring Iza Calzado, directed by Jerrold Tarog)

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  • Review: ‘Bliss’ reveals the entertainment industry’s cycle of abuse


    The seductive mysteries of “Bliss” unfold seamlessly. Tarog is a very precise director. He knows when exactly the film’s primary revelations should happen. He acknowledges that while his film might be more of an intellectual experience because of its complex structure, it cannot just ignore the function of emotions. The film is appropriately funny, brimming with the right amount of sarcasm and irony to keep its observations about the film industry afloat without being too overbearing.

    It is in the horror department that the film falls short. Mind you, “Bliss” is still a terrifying film, but the terror it imposes is not sourced from the supposedly scary sequences that Tarog crafts from the oppressive and narrow corridors of the enigmatic house where Calzado’s character has been conveniently trapped. It comes from what the film is about, from what it tells about us as human beings, from what it reveals about the milieu that it so fascinatingly recreates and exaggerates.

    See, “Bliss” houses this world where abuse is both flagrant but tolerated within a narrative that puts the spotlight on a celebrity whose life revolves around routine and repetition.

    Tarog carves his characters equally from stereotypes and real lives. Jane Ciego’s story is recognizable. She is Rita Gomez from Ishmael Bernal’s “Pagdating sa Dulo” (1971), the star who has experienced everything from humbling auditions to being in the limelight while being treated by adoring fans like an emotionless commodity. She is every child star who has matured in an industry that does not allow her to mature beyond products that sell. She is every big name whose outward glamor hides the fact that she needs to feed mouths belonging to family members who are sitting comfortably on talents that aren’t theirs.
    Then there are the equally familiar supports. Vergara’s nurse seems to be molded from nightmares yet her background story is one lifted from every little girl who has had the misfortune of being too trustworthy of adults who turn out to be predators. Audie Gemora’s ambitious soap director-turned-arthouse filmmaker is a composite of every monstrosity the country’s film festival-addicted film scene has engendered from its devoted artists. “Bliss” simply pits all of these characters and more in a cycle where they relate to each other in an effort to exploit, for influence, for cash, for fame, or pleasure. Tarog is most effective and unflinching when he withdraws from the film’s genre elements to further paint a milieu that is at once realistic and nightmarish.

    This isn’t to say that “Bliss” is a film whose intentions outweigh its cinematic merits. The film is handsome, a work that is so meticulously pieced together. There is a certain elegance in Mackie Galvez’s delicate cinematography that keeps the film from drowning in all its genre excesses. Tarog’s own music isn’t too overpowering. All of the performances are worth noting. Calzado’s turn as the embattled actress is sublime. She allows herself the vulnerability and defiance that a character in the middle of a tug-of-war needs to invoke. Vergara shape-shifts astoundingly, playing both victim and victimizer with hardly any effort. Gemora is a joy to watch. Shamaine Buencamino, who plays Calzado’s possessive mother, gives just the right amount of slight warmth to grant her character a certain semblance of humanity notwithstanding all the cruelty a
    nd indifference. It really is quite a well-crafted film, one that even outshines “Heneral Luna” in terms of consistency, and heck, even ambition.
    “Bliss” is a film whose pleasures aren’t immediate. It isn’t as emotionally rousing as “Heneral Luna” or “Sana Dati,” whose themes of nationalism or romantic love, respectively, are things that provoke effortlessly. “Bliss” seems to be more cerebral, a work that forces its viewers to think before they feel. It is a commentary veiled as a horror, a critique of the onerous world of art and entertainment whose abusive behavior towards its workers is akin to the ones committed by sex offenders, where routine and repetition are keys to tolerance, to acceptance, and to further and perhaps more prevalent abuse. The nightmare simply cycles. We either wake up or die, or go to the nearest Family Mart for that much-needed respite.
  • Forbidden desire
    There are two things the MTRCB’s X-rating could do to Jerrold Tarog’s new film and current locus of debate, Bliss. On the one hand, it could act as a death sentence, effectively depriving a potentially large audience of a well-directed thriller. On the other hand, it could act as a badge of sorts, indicating a film so dark and messed up it forced a freaking governing body to play savior and protect the Filipino moviegoing public from pissing themselves, as they must have during their review.

    Sitting in the theater of the UP Film Center, it seems the latter case is most true. The place is packed; the air of the venue is filled with whispers of intrigue, nervous chuckles, and excitement to watch a film that may not see the light of day. The X-rating did the opposite of scaring people off — it could be that the MTRCB really shot themselves in the foot with this one. Simply put: those people wanted to see Bliss. And from the feedback that’s been going around, we know that those people want other people to see this film, too.

    I can’t say much without totally giving away the plot — beware now: minor thematic spoilers ahead — but in the interest of supporting local film, I’m going to try to prove why Bliss deserves to be shown, and why people deserve the choice to see it.

    The film follows Jane Ciego (played by Iza Calzado), an actress disillusioned by the trappings of celebrity and the people she thought she could trust. Jane decides to be the executive producer of a film. It’s different from her usual teleserye work, the kind of movie that would take her career to the elusive heights of critical acclaim. A serious on-set injury, however, puts her out of commission, forcing her to recover in a house seemingly designed to drive her insane, with an extremely effed-in-the-head nurse (played by Adrienne Vergara) to keep her company. It is unclear to her what kinds of forces surround her, but they do not mean well.

    Before the screening, Jerrold described his film as a “mindf***,” which is partially true. Bliss is a film that plays tricks on its audience, leaving viewers as confused as Jane is with her predicament. Part of why this works is that Bliss’s story is a film within a film. To watch the narratives of each weave into each other, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between reality and fiction. An Inception reference is easy to make, but don’t take that as a diss — any adult (and I’m pretty sure most teenagers) can handle the mind-twisting that Bliss brings to the table, even if that cinematic trickery is fueled by an atmosphere of fear. At the very least, Bliss is a brainy change of pace, something different from the kind of hugot-driven entertainment I assume the MTRCB finds much easier to peddle.

    The artistic merits of the film alone should be enough to validate this film’s existence — both Iza and Adrienne shine in their roles, with the latter so terrifying she makes the maid from Get Out look like Winnie the Pooh. But when it comes to what makes the film so frightening, the themes that aid Bliss in its goal to mess with your head — that’s where it gets a little tricky. The film deals with a lot of uncomfortable realities such as (minor thematic spoiler alert and trigger warning) ***** and psychological abuse, and it’s so unrelenting in its portrayal of these themes I found myself wondering what the difference is between a thriller and a horror movie. (I’m still not sure.) It’s understandable that MTRCB’s show of mercy would manifest in the slightly less damaging rating of R-18.

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    However, we also have to keep in mind that it is the ability of good art — one could say its responsibility — to grapple with discomforting, hard-to-accept realities in order to tell the story of greater truths. This is something that Bliss does to great effect, employing shock and violence and trauma to portray how the human mind can be driven to craziness or despair, and how these states of mind can perhaps be conquered and overcome. The film illustrates a world fueled by deception, and through it, a character that displays an impressive amount of willpower to shatter the illusions surrounding her. How is that not relevant now, to us, living in a time in which lies and fake news conspire to rule the way we see the world?

    Here is a truth: the only thing more insane than Bliss is the MTRCB’s previous attempts to censor it. We’re not saying it’s a perfect film. We are saying, though, that you’re more entitled to judge for yourself. You deserve that choice.

    * * *

    Bliss is scheduled to be released on May 10 in theaters nationwide
  • cerbral movie! puzzle !!
  • Film review: Bliss
    MANILA, Philippines - Everything about Jerrold Tarog’s Bliss is rarely explored territory in Philippine cinema. It is not an easy film to digest as the scenes shift from reality to long dream sequences that reveal quite a lot about Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado) in her childhood, her struggles and the thing she had long wanted to conquer in her struggling movie career.
    Unable to find fulfillment in her blockbuster films, the character aims for respectability by doing an indie film using her own resources.

    But on her way to wrapping up her masterpiece, she goes through a cerebral journey into her past and present.

    The character’s descent into endless nightmares and with strange faces and strange noises hounding her leads us into the pathetic state of her mind.
    The men who play her husband(s) — TJ Trinidad and Ian Veneracion — are seen perennially asking her to sign blank checks for assorted bills and expenses.
    If they were such in her mind, then she is indeed in deep trouble. Which means her worth is measured by the checks she signs and magnified by the manner in which her arms are practically twisted for her to act fast before her complete descent into madness.
    Like it or not, this is an ambitious project. The screenplay took months to write and it took weeks to score.
    In the mind-boggling film, the filmmaker wore three hats — as director, writer and musical scorer.
    From the outset, it is clear that this is Calzado’s film from beginning to end. Her acting prowess has taken a good turn and here she is no less than brilliant. Her focus and consistency are at once impressive and beyond this, it is obvious she was ready for the unconventional character.
    But the other members of the supporting cast are equally impressive. Adrienne Vergara (as Lilibeth/Rose) delineates a role that is at once multi-layered and that most-talked about scene came through without any sense of lasciviousness identified with the act.
    Veneracion and Trinidad alternating as Carlo the husband added to the deepening mystery of the strange case of Jane Ciego.
    Audie Gemora as the director gave his part a new level of obsession and the long hours of shooting were opportunities for the writer to make a statement on the working conditions of directors in this country. Through it all, Gemora left his mark. His character is obsessed with Cannes and the awards that go with it. His flamboyance and the comic timing with which he drops lines are memorable moments in the film.
    In Bliss, Shamaine Centenera drops her image as caring and martyr mother in a popular teleserye and carves a shocking portrait of a stage mother in the movie world. How she has made the part as obnoxious and reprehensible without too many lines is indeed a tribute to the power of her acting.
    On the whole, Bliss reflects a director who is not afraid to try new things. Obviously, his kind of fulfillment doesn’t lie on blockbusters (his Heneral Luna was a box-office triumph) and here he leads moviegoers to explore a new turf in filmmaking that is at once engrossing as it is mystifying.
    Asked by The STAR how a director with solid background in music gets along as musical scorer, Tarog replied: “I treat film characters and their lines as notes in a musical score. How they end up in the story is a challenge for me to do some counterpoints, which is what I enjoy as a musician.”
    Bliss opens on May 10 in cinemas.
  • MasterVaderMasterVader PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    A twisted version of Inception (the Nolan flick was even referenced midway through the movie) without the James Bond-esque action scenes and locations. The story was twisted for my liking but it was directed brilliantly, as expected, by Heneral Luna's Jerrold Tarog. And while I keep repeating the word 'twisted', the fact that the twisted part could actually happen in real life was what makes it scary. So, beware of hospitals, I think?

    (And if Fernando Ortigas cameos is Tarog's response to Marvel's Stan Lee cameos, then so be it!)

    Recommended if you like psycho-thriller mystery films.
  • 05musicbox05musicbox PEx Veteran ⭐⭐
    Watched it over the weekend.
    Sad but mga 10 lang kami sa cinema sa 6pm showing sa lucky chinatown.

    Twisted movie.
    Ang galing ni iza.
    Ending is kinda predictable.

  • ihcahiehihcahieh PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Bliss is a good psychological thriller. It does delve into paranormal domain once in a while but it is completely aware of what it aims to be, and sticks to that objective. The sound effects and imagery are effectively utilized to establish a sinister and tense atmosphere, but it is the psychological aspect itself that provides most of the thrill. After all, a tortured human psyche is way worse an enemy than any overpowdered ghost you might see lurking in your living room at one in the morning. Reality is scary. Losing your grip of it? Even more so...
    Read More: http://www.ihcahieh.com/2017/05/bliss.html
  • xtian1224xtian1224 PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    uy, maganda sya! sana mapanood nyo this weekend!!!! husay ni te iza.
  • JeSuisBillyJeSuisBilly Pursuing My True Passions SOON PEx Moderator
    Now streaming on Netflix!
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