Wretched Lives

One has to wonder whether the American critics who've called Joel Lamangan's intense, provocative 2001 film “crude” and “heavy-handed” have ever been in a third world ghetto—or even an American slum. Lamangan sets his film in the Philippines, intercutting the story of two orphaned sisters— the older unable to control the sexually precocious and emotionally infantile younger—with the political chaos of early 2001. It isn't analysis, but it does suggest, far more effectively than more sober efforts, the daily struggles, the lack of privacy (even the rain intrudes), and the emotional chaos in the lives of the homeless and near homeless. Vivid colors and unstable and shifting rhythms give this melodrama a hysteria worthy of Hollywood's classics, and Lamangan's blunt, almost brutal intertwining of the personal and the political hits the viewer right in the gut. In Tagalog with subtitles. 97 min.

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