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Best movies ever made, the Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Buy This Dream

Written by Raymond Santos Estrella on Sunday, 01 August 2004. Posted in 2004

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

—Douglas Adams, Last Chance to See

Look at this. As of today, I’ve watched 46 out of The 1000 Best Movies Ever Made according to the New York Times. God, I have a lot of catching up to do. The list gave me quite a few movies I’d like to watch when school work lets up which will probably be during the semestral break in October. Among them are Amelie, Apollo 13 (yes, I haven’t watched it yet), Beetlejuice, Being John Malkovich, Boogie Nights, Born on the Fourth of July, Breakfast Club, Bride on the River Kwai, The Cider House Rules, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Clockwork Orange, Close Encounters of a Third Kind, Dead Ringers, Dial M for Murder, Hamlet (1948 and 2000 versions), Howards End, It’s a Wonderful Life (yes, the Christmas movie), Jailhouse Rock, L.A. Confidential, Like Water for Chocolate, Malcolm X, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The People vs. Larry Flint, The Piano, The Pillow Book, Psycho, Roman Holiday, Singin in the Rain, The Sound of Music, Stalag 17, The Usual Suspects, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Yellow Submarine.

Whew! I have no idea where I’m going to find a copy of some of those movies, though. I doubt I can find a fake copy off a tiangge but then Quiapo is always full of surprises. More importantly, when will I ever find the time to watch them? Oh well.

* * * * *

I didn’t feel in the mood to study just yet so I dropped by Coastal Mall this morning to get a DVD to while away the time and possibly wash away my procrastinating habit. As I was leafing through the merchandise, a title caught my eye: The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I couldn’t believe there was a movie based on the book of the same title, much less that they were selling bootleg copies of it in such an uncultured environment as a tiangge. I forked over the P80 and rushed home to watch. Two hours later, I was on the verge of tears.

From what I’ve gathered on the internet, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the perhaps the most underrated American film of the past 25 years. Though it received good reviews and a nod from the Academy, the film rarely turns up in discussions of “great” films. But by turning the loosely connected ideas of Kundera’s novel into a linear story, Philip Kaufman has created an intelligent, emotional masterpiece. And a very sensual one. ULOB displays a rare intelligence and compassion regarding sex.

ULOB is also the best film ever about the 60s, mostly becuase it isn’t about the sixties at all. ULOB gets to the heart of the decade by displaying the paradox of freedom: Thomas chooses political silence to protect his political choice, then surrenders the “lightness” of his personal life for the confining/liberating force of love. More important, ULOB is an exquisite film experience, gorgeously filmed and scored, soaked with a palpable melancholy. Late in the film, the oppressive blanket of totalitarianism is conveyed in a simple scene of eerie beauty—a car moving through the lifeless streets of Prauge. ULOB is a great love story, though the movie is not about love, and it is a great political drama, though it is not political or especially dramatic. Like a great novel, ULOB tells a simple story about three memorable characters living out the consequences of their choices. You can’t ask for more from fiction, and certainly not from cinema.

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I had dinner with Pia last night to get updated on her project and was surprised to see an old friend Mikkel Gutierrez as well. It turns out that Mikkel is doing a documentary on Pia’s Buy This Dream phenomena and has been tagging along on her errands for the past few days. I didn’t realize Mikkel was the film-maker type of person. He seemed to be more of the laid-back tambay kind of guy back in college. I guess a year in Batanes can do that to a person. I guess seeing Pia’s crazy idea actually work can bring out a different side to all of us.

I’m holding a bottle of San Mig Light right now so here’s a toast to you Mikkel!

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Raymond Santos Estrella

I guess I should really make a proper writeup here. Something witty or maybe a joke to add some levity. I’ll come back to this when I have time. If you have any suggested copy that I can insert here, drop me a line.

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