Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 9th, 2017
Theatrical Release Dates: Philippines, 1975 (Manila in the Claws of Light), Philippines, 1976 (Insiang)
Director: Lino Brocka
Writers: Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. (Manila in the Claws of Light), Mario O’Hara, Lamberto E. Antonio (Insiang)
Cast: Hilda Koronel, Bembol Roco, Lou Salvador Jr., Joonee Gamboa, Pio De Castro III, Danilo Posadas, Joe Jardy, Spanky Manikan (Manila in the Claws of Light), Hilda Koronel, Mona Lisa, Ruel Vernal, Rez Cortez, Marlon Ramirez, Nina Lorenzo, Mely Mallari, Carpi Asturias (Insiang)
BluRay released: March 20th, 2017
Approximate running times: 126 minutes (Manila in the Claws of Light), 94 minutes (Insiang)
Aspect Ratios: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Manila in the Claws of Light), 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Insiang)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono Filipino / Tagalog / English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English (Both Films)
BluRay Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region B / Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £29.99 (UK)
This fish out of water story features a protagonist whose morality is challenged when he goes to the big city to look for the women he loves. And once he arrives he is confronted with a myriad of decisions which are in district contrast to the live he once knew. With his breaking point, finally being reached during this film’s moment of truth.
This film’s narrative is meticulously constructed and each new relationship is given an ample amount of time to resonate. And at just over two hours this film’s narrative moves along at a forceful momentum. Another strength of this film is its well-defined characters and the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being Bembol Roco in the role of this film’s protagonist Julio Madiaga. There is honesty to his performance which makes his journey all the more potent. Another standout performance is Hilda Koronel in the role of Ligaya Paraiso, the woman that Julio has gone to Manila to find.
Not to be overlooked are this film’s visuals which does great job reinforcing the mood of the film. Another strength of this film’s production are its locations and these locations are fully exploited by the visuals. And when it comes to the visuals, the look of the film is very reminiscent of Italian Neorealism.
Insiang: Tired of her abusive mother, a young woman trapped in the slums uses her mother’s boyfriend as means to exact revenge against her mother and those who have done her wrong.
Content wise, here are many elements that this film has in common with Manila in the Claws of Light, most notably how both protagonists are ultimately driven by vengeance. At the heart of Insiang is a story about a young woman named Insiang who world is dominated by an abusive mother who blames her for her father abandoning the family. And when her mother moves in a new much younger boyfriend, her torment riches a fever pitch.
This revenge themed melodrama’s narrative is perfectly constructed and pacing is never an issues as key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. The characters are well defined and actors are all good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout role being Hilda Koronel in the role of this film’s protagonist Insiang. She delivers a heart-breaking performance that is utterly convincing. Other standout performances include, Mona Lisa (The Rites of May) in the role of Insiang’s mother and Ruel Vernal (The Black Dragon) in the role of Insiang’s mother’s boyfriend Dado, it is his violation of Insiang that pushes her over the edge.
From a production stand point, there is not a single area where this film does not excel. And when it comes to the visuals they do a superb job reinforcing the mood. With key moments being a scene where Insiang reluctantly agrees to give up her virginity to her boyfriend Bebot. Other standout moments include, the scene where Dado rapes Insiang and the film’s finale where Insiang perfectly lays out a trap for all of those who have violated her.
Each film comes on their own 50 GB dual layer BluRay and both films are presented in a 1080 progressive that preserves their intended aspects ratios. The transfers for each film are sourced from brand new 4k restorations. Colors are nicely saturated, black and contrast levels remain strong throughout, details look crisp, grain looks healthy and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Filipino ad included with this release are removable English subtitles. Both audio mixes are in great shape, dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release include, Manila stills and collections gallery, a making-of documentary featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage titled Manila… A Filipino Film (23 minutes 1 second, in Filipino with English subtitles), a documentary where Tony Rayns interviews Lino Brocka and other prominent Filipino directors titled Visions Cinema: Film in the Philippines (40 minutes 12 seconds, in Filipino and English with English subtitles), a documentary titled Signed: Lino Brocka that explores the director’s life and work (83 minutes 30 seconds, in English) and The Guardian Lecture: Lino Brocka in conversation with Tony Rayns (62 minutes, in English).
Topics discussed in Lino Brocka’s conversation with Tony Rayns include, how economics plays a large role in why many of films do not get release outside of the Philippines, the advantages of directing for television, the Filipino box office and the difficulties in trying make your money back, government funding for cinema in the Philippines, film censorship in the Philippines and he also talks in-depth about various films that he has directed.
The extra titled The Guardian Lecture: Lino Brocka in conversation with Tony Rayns is an audio extra that plays like an audio commentary and this extra is on the disc that contains Insiang.
A thirty-page booklet with an essay titled Light in the Darkness: Lino Brocka and Filipino Cinema Under Martial Law written by Cathy Landicho Clark, an interview with Lino Brocka by Michael Ciment, an essay titled Manila in the Claws of Light Reviewed written by Jo Imeson, cast & crew information and information about the transfers / extras. Included with this release are two DVD’s which contains the film’s and extras that are on their two Blu-Ray’s counterparts. Overall this is an excellent release from BFI that gives two Filipino masterpieces their definitive presentations, highly recommended.