On elegance



Seated in the end-most seat at the back part of the auditorium of Insituto Cervantes in Manila, I had a clearer, albeit the small cinema in the Instituto was unlighted as in all other self-respecting cinemas, glimpses of people who were seated in front of me. I went there earlier, catching a 5:30 pm LRT1 ride from Gil Puyat to United Nations amid a heavy afternoon downpour.

On Wednesday of last week, I got hold of an announcement, printed in the Business Mirror, on the Spanish Embassy’s annual El Dia Espanol (Day of the Spanish Language). Piqued by the activities lined up by the Instituto, I braved the impending rain which later fell into an itinerant early monsoon rainfall. I arrived at the Instituto soaked and a bit disorientated because of drippings from umbrellas of other less careful commuters and the usual slaughter house-like scene inside these crammed coaches.

The perceived very intellectual atmosphere in the Instituto, several meters away from the UN Avenue train station, gave me a warm welcoming.

Several groups of Filipinos, mostly students and young professionals and some tourist-looking Caucasians were conversing with each other in Spanish and English and occasional Tagalog in a small cafe a few steps from the metal-detecting machine. I do not speak Spanish neither do I understand the language, which is just too bad.

At first, I thought the place was reeking with heat coming from the usual European (specifically Parisian) coffee shop debates on semiotic, critique of post-structuralism or the discussion on metaphor and the primacy of irony over other devices in chapter 4 of Aristotle’s Poetics. Overhearing their small chit-chats, my impressions fell flat on their faces and mine, and the supposed intellectual atmosphere collapsed into heaps of commonplace subjects of small talks. The topics of their discussion were of unlofty kind, mostly mundane concerns about the heralding of a new brand of politics that comes with the election of Mr. Aquino to the highest seat in the land, the recovery of the national economy vis-a-vis the ‘rigged’ figures proudly claimed by the Arroyo administration, the sorry state of Philippine education system, and some students from, I gathered, St Benilde, who were exchanging banalities about the rigor and excitement of their college life.

I sipped my coffee fast and escaped immediately from the very heavy atmosphere in the lobby. I ran to the small auditorium and chose the most isolated location because I wanted to enjoy my movie, Galatasaray – Depor. I half suspected it was going to be in Spanish (of course!) and that subtitles, if there were any, would be in Spanish. I was right.

I trusted that motion picture is an art of universal value that transcends cultural boundaries. And that for somebody who studied and teaches communication, my education prepared me to tackle kinesics head on, understanding the story based on the actions, the varying tones of the characters’ voices in delivering their lines, and the subtleties of their interactions. Or so I thought.

Until a group of people, the same group I tried to escape from in the cafeteria came in and joined in communal experience of film-viewing. One of them, the most brazen, blurted “Ay, walang English subtitles.” I do not see why people in this country have the penchant of stating, and stating out loud, what is obvious.

But the fact that these people have the audacity to advertise their stupidity like a badge of honor is even more horrifying.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people, whom I assume to be impeccably conversant in Spanish, made it sure that people like me who understand no Spanish word except pronto, puerta, or puta knew where to locate ourselves in the greater scheme of things. These people who have studied Spanish, the younger, over-eager undergraduate, especially, who were part of that group in question, laughed twice as hard and as loudly as one would normally laugh when faced with a funny scene or line in the film.

Their stylized way of laughing signified the void that separates the Spanish literate and the non-literate, which was fine with me. They were more than willing to announce their extensive knowledge of the Spanish language, complete with understanding of the subtle idioms and irony.

But this is an act that leaves a bad aftertaste. It’s inelegant.

The 11 people you [don’t want to] meet in cinema

The cinematic experience of a budding cineaste in the Philippines can be quite disappointing and traumatic if he has not prepared himself for the drudgery caused by other people whose ultimate objectives in going to the cinema are to be entertained, to feed their carnal fantasies, to be humored by the supposed comedy, or to escape from the harsh realities of this world.

movie house

But of course, a cineaste also wants his theater experience to be corporeal, to appeal to his primitive senses, just like ordinary viewers. He is an avid fan of melodramas and he also finds slapstick comedy quite amusing from time to time; but unlike ordinary cinema goers, he wants to extract substantive spiritual material from the film that will complete his ‘cinematic experience’. Without this, he leaves the theater as empty as when he entered lacking this spiritual or, let’s call it intellectual, adventure that leads him to feel dejected, deceived, robbed, or worst, sodomized.

The following is a list of 11 people a cineaste will meet in a cinema that he should try to avoid by all means.

Aiko Takamori Sleeping Man

1. The sleeper. This person goes to the cinema to enjoy an afternoon nap. He’s not at all annoying if all he does is sleep, but often times this act is accompanied by sleep talking, somnambulism, and snoring coupled with an abundant stream of saliva from his open mouth. Aside from the disturbing noise, the bodily discharge is gross and supports the spread of diseases.

2. The Telephone Operator. The first telephone ring. He’ll ignore it or cancel the call. Another telephone ring. Cancel. He’ll say, “I’m sorry” with an apologetic look on his face as if you can see his lame attempt on acting. Third ring, and this time the sound of the ring becomes so difficult for him to bear that he’ll succumb to the temptation and answer the call. From here, he’ll start to forget that he’s in a cinema. He’ll occasionally laugh until he’s carried away by the conversation with the person on the other line. The talk, regardless of the importance, is now imposed on the cineaste.

3. The Businessman. He can be a telephone operator at the same time doing anything that is traditionally done in an office, say, working on a balance sheet in his laptop, replying to emails, or booking plane tickets for his next business trip; but these activities can cause overly conspicuous glare that is too distracting for those sitting behind him. So, like the Telephone Operator, he’ll transact business on the phone while following the plot of the movie, after all he is good in multi-tasking. Ignoring the fact that the cineaste is incapacitated by his exaggeratedly focused mind to do multi-tasking such as watching a movie while holding back an urge to pour his iced-cold soft drink onto the businessman’s balding temple.

Prima Donna

4. The Prima Donna. She is somebody who thinks that the cinema is her home theater. She asks the cineaste to transfer seat as she wants to have that seat where she can have the best angle. She may answer and make calls; walk around the theater at whim; scold the attendant who failed to show her the way; and make complaints that the sound is not good, that it’s too soft or too loud, that adjustment has to be made. She’ll even ask the manager why the cinema is too dark, or why there are people around watching the movie with her, because all the while she thought that the reservation she made was a reservation for the entire cinema complex.

5. The Lovers. They think that the dark will hide their clandestine love affair, hide them from the prosecution caused their forbidden love. They find refuge in the anonymity cloaked by darkness inside the cinema. They think that only darkness can comprehend the love they have for each other, that the world outside is just too dumb to understand their undying devotion for each other. And so they embrace, kiss, torridly kiss again and again resting only to gasp oxygen, neck, pet, pinch, and caress each other with complete abandonment. For them, only the other person exists. They both ignore the better judgment of their minds that they are watching a box-office hit on a full house. Much to the chagrin of our cineaste, the display of love in such lavish scale took away his concentration that he totally forgets the thematic realities of the movie he is watching.

6. The Exhibitionists. They are like lovers in the first place, but for Exhibitionists, kissing, torridly kissing again and again resting only to breathe, petting, necking, pinching, and caressing each other are for teenagers who are just starting to experiment on and to realize the blissfulness of love. This kind of cinema goers has raised the ante a long time ago. This list will not anymore delve into the acts done by Exhibitionists inside the cinema (which are already a public knowledge) and which our cineaste can only describe as prurient, unhinging, perturbing, and salacious.

7. The Frustrated Director/Film Critic. He has watched the film several times, researched on the motivation of the director and his previous works, analyzed the film using Marxist-Post-structuralist approach with a focus on Neo-colonialism specifically the methodologies of Gayatri Spivak. He knows all the characters in the film including the names of all the 732 extras used in the concluding battle scene. Commendable. That is, if he keeps these information to himself. But the problem is he delights in hearing his intelligent and witty self talk.

Hard Candies

8. The Candy Man. He’s a chain smoker, definitely, but since he is sensitive enough not to smoke inside a theater with a central air conditioning system he resorts to sucking hard menthol candy. Sucking hard candy will not suffice to dull his craving for nicotine; he then compulsively crumples the plastic wrapper to ease the tension. Without realizing it, he has produced a rhythmic sound that can be soothing for him but not for the rest of the viewers, especially not for our cineaste.

9. The Big Foot. This kind is endemic in the Philippines, a result of an utter lack of sense of culture. He’s a cross between the Prima Donna and/or any of the other kinds. There’s only one observable act that he does that gives him the name – he places his feet on the seat in front of him unmindful whether somebody is sitting.

Feet

10. The Excursionists. They come in groups, and this sense of a group dehumanizes and camouflages the individual members. They laugh to their lungs’ content; they make running commentaries about the film; they throw pop corn. Individually, each can even act like a cineaste, but the spirit of the group inebriates them to a point that they become nuisance who think that a cinema is a perfect place for a retreat, a class reunion, or even worst, an excursion.

11. Another Cineaste. He is the worst kind. He keeps quiet all the time inside the cinema, maintaining that air of superiority while sneering at the humble cinema goers thinking that this group of faceless and uncultured proletariats is incapable of any intellectual acuity necessary in understanding the spiritual dimensions of the film.

He is suspicious of anyone that acts like the way he does, so he ends up writing a list that categorizes movie goers into eleven kinds and leaving the worst category solely for that person who acts like the way he does the entire time while inside the cinema.

Cryptic language and a problématique of the hypothalamus

In literary criticism, cryptic language became popular with the emergence of deconstructionism and post structuralism; although the method has been employed ever since language began so as to protect vital information which if divulged could imperil members of a tribe, its popularity and functionality (or the lack thereof) surged when the subaltern (the term as explained by Gayatri Spivak) or some other entities belonging to the periphery started to speak and demand a place in the center of discourse.

Simply said, cryptic language means the use of ambiguous terminologies that allows the reading of a critique of a text to have as many interpretations as there are readers.

In writing, it is of utmost importance to be able to deliver thoughts clearly using simple language where reader response is expected to follow. However, with the use of cryptic language, something akin to the use of jargon, thought responses are slowed down and ambiguous (which often times is intended). This explains why some members of the academia shuns the use of cryptic language as it is a sign of sloppy thinking. To some, nonetheless, it is the pinnacle of intellectualism which could even lead to elitism and snobbery.

hypothalamus

As a point of reference, I am presenting here a problematique, a devise in literary criticism that presents that presents social and economic issues as they are presented in texts, albeit here the term is extended beyond the confines of criticism.

One of the components of the problematique I am presenting here is the tendency of the involved parties to commence with the union in such a hurried fashion with little scrutiny of the obvious given for according to most of them such whirlwind encounters are the best representations of this glandular process, if not the only best way it can be expressed. I’m calling it as a primal reaction because logic is not all employed, or if employed at all, is used in such a haphazard manner that leave the intellect totally inutile.

Nonetheless, I must concede that such social contracts are too effective in finding a broad mass base because we’re more carried away by melodrama than the more rational stiff-upper-lip approach to our affairs, have more affinity to empiricism than abstraction. Such is the human dilemma most of us have already unraveled and demystified. But for a small portion, including the author, this dilemma is maintained.

The author, a few days ago, met somebody who seemed to have caused this sense of contradiction and stirred up what was supposed to be a routine existence, reversing the entire process of demystification and placed the scenarios in the author’s life back to where it has been several months ago – an almost-eternity of flux.