Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light, 1975)

A young man comes to the big city to track down his girlfriend, gets sucked in, spat out: the classic narrative. I can’t really speak to the subtext here: presumably there is some level of allegory about the Marcos regime at work (Mrs Cruz, abducting village girls into prostitution rings, looks a bit like Imelda). But then again a lot of the social criticism is fairly clear: this is a film about poor people, those marginalised within a crumbling, exploitative, venal, corrupt system. There are no protections for workers, no safeguard against crime, and the rising anger our hero feels — towards the dehumanising effects of his disenfranchisement, and those who would exploit him — propel him towards the film’s (withheld, but evidently bleak) conclusion. This is all heady stuff — violence, underworld criminality, gay sex rings (touched upon in a way that’s barely sensational, more a weary expectation of normality) — but done with empathy towards the suffering.

Manila in the Claws of Light film posterCREDITS
Director Lino Brocka; Writer Clodualdo del Mundo, Jr (based on the novel Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag by Edgardo M. Reyes); Cinematographer Miguel de Leon; Starring Bembol Roca [as “Rafael Roco, Jr”], Hilda Koronel; Length 125 minutes.
Seen at BFI Southbank (NFT2), London, Monday 30 January 2017.

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