Yes, I do. And not just because of all the trouble I went through for a pair of red shoes to wear to the movie premiere, either.
I rarely, if ever, watch Filipino movies. Well, because one, I don’t want to spend my hard-earned money on the mainstream ones which either rehash the same old tired formulae or are such predictable romantic / comedy / sexy / suspense / horror / action movies, and two, with my tight schedule I never get to catch the screenings of the indies which are so much more worth watching but have such limited runs. I’ve said this before and I’ll say this again: I wish Filipino filmmakers would make better movies that explore more than just the conventional formulae. I know our indie filmmakers make great movies, which ironically get more recognition abroad but are either ignored, even censored, in this country, or are seen only by a limited, specific class of people in Metro Manila—students, critics, people who know enough about film to want more than the usual crap. The rest of the country gets the Metro Manila Film Festival movies (my family, myself not included, once spent a whole week watching all the MMFF movies in the cinema).
I’d been curious about The Red Shoes when I first heard buzz about it, but I was too buried in work to do more than see what the movie was about. At first I thought it was a foreign-made movie, especially when I saw the beautiful graphic, but then realized it was local. The premise piqued my interest: A little boy was among the people who entered Malacanang during those last giddy moments of the EDSA Revolution when the Marcoses left the country, and he stole a pair of red shoes from Imelda’s famous collection. He gave a shoe each to the two people who meant the most to him, and it is around this pair of shoes that the movie revolves.
The movie is entitled The Red Shoes: A Love Story; and I fell in love with it. From its opening sequence on, the cinematography evoked memories of old Hollywood movies I’d seen in the dimly remembered past, when in my childhood my dad used to bring home VHS tapes of classic movies, most of them Oscar and Golden Globe awardees, which he wanted us to watch and critique. I’m not going to discuss the movie’s plot in detail here, aside from that which is already posted on the movie’s website, because I want you guys to watch it and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that the movie is lyrical without being overdone or overdramatic, and I found myself laughing, holding my breath, and even crying at certain places in the film. Get this: A movie rarely, if ever, makes me cry. Not even those sad dramas that make other people blubber make me cry. Only La Vita E Bella (Life is Beautiful) and Bagong Buwan have elicited tears from me, the former for its delicate balance of emotions, and the latter because it struck too close to home for this child of Mindanao.
There are moments in The Red Shoes that strike me, a photography enthusiast, as still photographs come to life. Photography does play a huge part in the movie, as both Lucas (Marvin Agustin) and Bettina (Nikki Gil) love to take photographs. Certain shots made me think to myself, oh yes, just so, beautiful! Even the gritty scenes, the sad parts, the sensual parts, are treated with a delicacy of feeling that blends with the entire movie’s lyric feel. Each thing, each character, each scene in the movie is piled with symbolism and imagery. There are metaphors upon metaphors the realization of which burst upon you suddenly. I found myself tweeting halfway through: #theredshoes, pang-Oscar. Seriously. I may not be a credentialed film critic, but I’ve watched most of the award winners over the decades, even those that won even before I was born. There is this fluttering in my gut, these hairs rising at my nape, these chills running down my back, these goosebumps that I’ve come to associate with the really good movies. The Red Shoes, as we say in Filipino, has a certain “kurot sa puso,” literally “pinching the heart.” I totally forgot to eat my popcorn!
In one way, The Red Shoes is an allegory of ourselves as post-EDSA Filipinos: who we are, what we are now, what we can be. There is one point in the movie where Lucas says that Filipinos could probably hold another world record, that we are either the most forgiving people in the world, or the most forgetful.
I say, I hope that more Filipino filmmakers make more movies like The Red Shoes. I don’t mean imitate it, as that sort of thing gives rise to those awful spinoffs, imitations, and “local versions” (shakes fist angrily at) that have been glutting the local entertainment scene—I mean make more movies which are original, intelligent, thought-provoking, and distinctly and unabashedly Filipino. And someone please nominate this movie for the Philippines’ next entry to the Academy Awards!
Everyone, watch this movie. Keep your minds open; the popcorn is optional, but don’t forget to bring a hanky.