Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Malamaya (The Color of Ash)


Nora (Sunshine Cruz) is a gifted painter. At 45 she is single and devoted to her art, although she does mess around with ceramics sculptor Jim (Raymond Bagatsing) from time to time. Being cold to him despite wanting a possible relationship, she is okay when he calls it quits. Later on she meets millennial photographer Migs (Enzo Pineda) at an art gallery. After some flirting here and there they start sleeping with each other. Being a graduate of art school, her high standards usually do not sit well with Migs‘ more exploratory type of photography. Their age gap and personalities also begin to clash. She is independent and brutally frank. He is a bit clingy and in need of constant approbation. When she gets an opportunity to go to Canada at the bidding of her niece, she must decide on what she really wants to do with her life.

Just to be clear, this is not a love triangle. If it were a mainstream Star Cinema flick then it would be, but this is an indie film. The focus is more on what it means to be a woman in your 40’s and how you should live your life trying to balance your quest for happiness and society’s expectations of someone your age. The May-December angle draws comparisons with Belle Douleur, which is also in competition for full length feature this year. Despite the similarities in theme, the two have enough differences to be distinguishable from one another.

While both films are anchored on the concept of relationships with huge age gaps, the style of storytelling and overall feel tend to vary. Belle Douleur is more pedestrian and sprinkled with some bits of comedy here and there. Malamaya is a more unapologetic version with dialogues that are more raw and life realities that are more in your face. Between these two features, Malamaya feels more indie perhaps as it appears less palatable to mainstream audiences and is more layered in its interpretation like the art it often alludes to.

This is perhaps not the proper venue and not that it’s any of our business, but something is off with Cruz’s face. The first time she appears on camera, I thought it was Carmi Martin. I just brought it up because it was distracting at times, like it was a different actress. In any case, this may or may not be a good film to watch if you are looking for fitspirations. Cruz is in her 40’s and Bagatsing is in his 50’s, yet they are just so fit that they make you want to run to the nearest gym, or wallow in self-pity, whichever you find more convenient for you.

Perhaps an interesting thing to note, however, is how obvious it is when the director helming the film in such sub-genre is a woman. They love butts. Pineda’s should have been given its own billing the way Thompson’s should have gotten its own in Belle Douleur. It does not affect the sensuality of the scenes, though. We are just seeing it from another gender’s perspective. As always, let women tell their story the way they see fit. If men can profess their love for cleavage in film, then let the women do the same when it comes to butt cheeks.

What I really admire about Malamaya, though, is its tribute to art, which serves as a point of cohesion for every part of its storytelling process. The splash of vivid colors, even the way their outfits complement the background regardless if it’s a painting or a moving parade, is just so cool to the eyes. Had the cinematography been better, this would have been an undeniably beautiful moving piece of art. This is its advantage over Belle Douleur which relies more on plot to evoke a response.

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