Monday, 17 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - THE WOMAN WHO LEFT (LAV DIAZ)


How to describe The Woman Who Left? Even the briefest appraisal of a single strand of its inquiries would take as long to write as the film itself takes to watch. There are those constant features of Lav Diaz's technique that never cease to impress, to serve such powerful purpose in the expression of story, theme and emotion. They need referenced only to again stress their integrity and Diaz's brilliance in employing them - the hi-def digital photography revealing all, yet only ever what Diaz wants us to see, when he wants us to see it. A great naturalist with his actors, he's also a great formalist with the rest of his mise-en-scene, and continues to create stories that are ours to interpret, not his characters' to inhabit. Then there's the obsession with environment, the appreciation of the nature of a particular place's effect upon the particular psychology of each particular person, the breathtaking astuteness with which Diaz places his figures within their specific physical milieu. And the sympathetic, provocative dissection of social and historical practices and conventions, with a focus on the lives of the disenfranchised, society's rejects, those whose control over its standards is as limited as its impact on them is profound. Law is in perpetual combat with justice in Diaz's films, and the many ways in which humans seek to pervert their most essential qualities are revealed as a rot within our character. Then there are the facets unique to The Woman Who Left: a loosening of Diaz's style, a new purpose for his personal brand of rigorous lyricism - this is among his most overtly emotional and humorous films. Also the critique of institutional systems of religion and spirituality, with the bold and sensational alternative Diaz proposes placing those rejects at the top of his church, part of this film's integral reconfiguration of gender and sexual politics. If this is, indeed, the church of Lav Diaz, then I'm more than ready to be baptized.