“Odie and his best friend Irene are two outsiders who find a second home in the Philippine underground music scene. The two decide to form a band and put together an unlikely crew that consists of the school bully, an ex-punk-turned-barista, and a former-childstar-turned-band-manager. The film follows their misadventures as they face satanic S&M bands, samurai swindlers, narcissistic rockstars, the pretentious Philippine art community and the freakiest music video auteur ever. Co-written by Diego Castillo, the guitarist of one of the Philippines’ biggest rock bands SANDWICH, and directed by multi-awarded music video director Quark Henares, Rakenrol is a heartfelt ode to the underground scene both filmmakers spent their formative years in.”
After two years of waiting (and a year of mentioning it in articles I wrote about Glaiza de Castro for my old job), I finally got to watch Rakenrol–and it was totally awesome.
And let’s get this out of the way:
Yes, Rakenrol is about a boy who falls in love with a girl. It’s about growing up and learning about the complexities of life. But when you watch Rakenrol, the one really clear thing is this: the movie is a love letter to Pinoy rock and roll.
My friends know that I don’t like staying up late. I’ve only been to a handful of gigs in my entire 26 years here on Earth, and all of them (save one) were to support friends who were launching their albums. The other one was a gig where friends in bands were supporting us to raise funds for our fine arts festival–where I didn’t even get to go to our thank-you gig because I was so exhausted. I heard there were fireworks. Which cost us five grand. But I digress, and that is a matter for another blog post.
Going back to Rakenrol, it seemed fitting that it would close Cinemalaya 7. And in true rock and roll fashion (if there is one), the bands involved (however indirectly) with the film staged a concert across the CCP after the film showing. I didn’t get to go as I was watching Zombadings at the time, but a friend said it was a great concert and a great sendoff for director Quark Henares. Imagine, having your friends stage a concert for your film, in the same night when your film was loved and applauded by the people you had in mind while making it. Quark must be in heaven right now–if he’s not sporting a hangover.
One of the things I loved about Rakenrol is its simplicity. The story never wavered from lead character Odie’s tale of his love for his best friend Irene. And while the story does branch out into the world of the Philippines’ local music scene, it never forgot that the main story it was telling was the one about Odie and Irene. Well, about Odie and his love for Irene.
I’ve only seen one other work of Jason Abalos, in 2008’s Endo, which had him portraying a similar character–or maybe it felt similar because he delivered the same kind of acting in both films. Which worked for both films. And he has the quiet sincerity and the unintentional comic down pat. Now, I wonder what else he can do.
Glaiza de Castro is, as always, a joy to watch. Even in 2009’s Astig, which didn’t really live up to expectations, would provide Glaiza with good scenes for her demo reel. She always has something different to show in her every project, and it was fun to see her be a kid and a girl in Rakenrol. Also, her love for the Filipino music scene really shows in the way she delivers her lines. There’s truth in them.
As for Ketchup Eusebio and Alwynn Uytingco… Well, you can’t really call them supporting players, as they also play majorly into the events of the story. True, they’re only supporting characters in the main Odie-Irene story thread, but they also brought their own A-game to the table–and matched the intensity that Glaiza and Jason gave their roles. As did Matet de Leon in her standout role as Matet, former child star.
I love how some local celebrities are now willing to play a fictional versions of themselves. Eugene Domingo in Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank was hilarious–as was Matet here in Rakenrol. There’s just something about breaking perceptions, even though fictional, that makes for intentional comedy.
I won’t get technical about the shots of the film, as we both know I’d just embarrass myself. But I do have to say this: it managed to do what it was supposed to do: which was tell the story the way the director intended it. There was one particular scene where I found the framing a bit odd, what with that one camera jerk that tried to include a departing character before just settling with the static one. But who knows? Maybe that was intentional too.
And I won’t get too lit-crit-y about the importance of music and their choices of songs in the story. It told the story it was supposed to tell, with the music that best fit scenes–especially the original ones that were, I’m guessing, written especially for the film. It figures that music plays an important part in the story, it is called Rakenrol after all–but while local music scene fans would love the nods the film gave to local greats (and the barbs targeted at the genre they dubbed a “pogi-rock”), I can’t wait to have non-fans discover the treasure trove of original Pinoy music that the film has provided.
I won’t be able to stop saying good things about Rakenrol, so instead of going on and on, I’ll just share this bit of information we gleaned from the concert that came after: Rakenrol will be hitting theaters come September 21. And the best thing, I feel, I can say about the move is this: watch it and you’ll love it as much as I did.