JOSÉ RIZAL (Marilou Diaz-Abaya, 1998)

Tedious, superficial biography of José Rizal Mercado y Alonso, the national hero of the Republic of Philippines whose novels about Spanish injustice, show trial and execution by Spain for political agitation (though he advocated education, not violence) inspired revolution and the achievement of independence. Rizal was, principally, a medical doctor. Apart from flashbacks, most of the action takes place in the last years of the nineteenth century.
     One interesting aspect is the interruption of the narrative with snippets of scenes from Rizal’s books. These appear in black and white whereas the rest of the film is in color. The eventual payoff of this alternation is the confrontation within the same scene, in color, of Rizal and his novelistic revolutionary alter ego: a crackling passage conjoining dream and life, fiction and history. Indeed, the film’s entire final movement, including the execution of Rizal, is very moving. The shot of the murdered hero’s hat upside down on the beach is excellent—although not quite so haunting as filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya wants it to be.
     And it takes three hours to get to it!


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