Manila in the Claws of Light ★★★★

First thing's first: the first DCP I’ve seen that I thought could have been almost film. Kent Jones noted that they worked with Lino Brocka’s DP for this restoration, and he compared the film’s digital 4K transfer from a positive print. It shows—this is not an easy type of film to transfer, given it’s sort of a gritty on the ground portrayal of Manila, and they really worked their butts off to make those colors have that feeling of closer to documentary footage than something artificial. Bravo, World Cinema Foundation.

An extremely strong melodrama, made all the more touching by the film’s seemingly authentic view of an impoverished life. NYFF made it an easy comparison to Brocka successor Lav Diaz, but a better comparison would be to Jia’s A Touch of Sin, a tale of capitalism building a new future while its workers fall to their death. Brocka is a humanist at heart, and you can tell how much he cares for his protagonist through what almost feels like various circles of hell as he travels to save his love. Beautifully composed throughout—the use of the sun soaked idyllic memories of the past provide a great contrast to the hard edged life of today. Every moment of hope undercut by a future—a possible romance burned by fire, a final moment of repose and reunification leading to violence. Never overtly political till its final moments, almost reminiscent of the ending of Antonioni’s Il Grido but much more aptly handled. A gem of a film worth necessary rediscovery—I look forward to more from Brocka.