PRESA (Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr.)
PRESA is filmmaker Adolfo Alix Jr's 16th feature film, the second in a tribute trilogy about former entertainment industry workers, and maybe his most ambitious and star-studded film to date.
Featuring a who's who of Philippine cinema's veteran as well as young actresses, all in memorable characters, Alix and co-writer Agnes De Guzman craft a compelling story that highlights the role of women in society, and pretty much deconstructs people's prejudice regarding incarceration.
We have the ever-illuminating Anita Linda as a former movie star who has been imprisoned for a long time due to drug trafficking; Then there's Perla Bautista who plays a fellow inmate at odds with Anita Linda's irritable character; Rosanna Roces is convicted of killing her live-in partner, and now acts as the squad leader inside the Correctional Facility, and; Daria Ramirez, who is a woman about to be freed in a few days.
There's also the legendary Liza Lorena, who acts as the mobster inside the Correctional. Under her wing are young inmates, played by indie regulars Angeli Bayani and Ina Feleo. There's also the joyous Jodi Sta. Maria who is brimming with hope, worlds apart from her somber character in CHASSIS, another Alix film.
Every woman has a story. Every one of them has a level of enigma, and the most fun of them all is Tetchie Agbayani who is an illegal recruiter on a vow of silence.
The story itself is gripping- each of the characters are alive, memorable, and dynamic. The picture of the prison that Alix paints is that of a humanistic one; We get a slice life of what Correctional environment feels like, and we get to sympathize with each character.
Alix compliments his story with a keen eye on visual composition. Frames are neatly edited, effective blocking is utilized, and his shots as usual are immersive. Adolf Alix knows his depth of field.
When you watch an Adolf Alix film, you always do not know how the story will end, or the exact moment where Alix will fade to black. Enigma exists in Alix's films, and for me any film that can constructively deliver an enigma, and a subsequent chilling after effect is a cinematic success.
The film is highly-relevant as well, as we see snippets how politics and society play a role in the lives of imprisoned individuals, especially women. Nevertheless, the film refuses to be a head-on issues debacle, focusing on human relationships instead.
The swimming pool scene, where the inmates get few hours of recreation preludes the films's unexpected ending. In that scene, Agbayani's character falls into the pool. I am suddenly reminded of the role of water in the film INCEPTION. Water as a release.
Acting is topnotch. Anita Linda is just too breathtaking. She can make you smile and she can make you cry in one paragraph of dialogue.
Using clever literary references to properly conclude the film, PRESA ends pretty much like ADELA, Alix's film which also featured Anita Linda. Nope, Anita Linda did not have a picnic by herself here, but she might have had as well.
Even Alessandra De Rossi's cameo is a surprise. Snappy and right on the mark.
You might remember that Anita Linda and Perla Bautista also shared screen time in ADELA, as friends discussing their lives. In PRESA, they act as critics of one another- they expose one another's strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, Perla Bautista has her tense moments, especially when Anita Linda's character breaks the radio that belongs to her (Bautista).
That radio represents hope, for Bautista at least. Take away that hope, and some people won't have anything left to live for.
The radio gets repaired, by the way.