DVD - 2010
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Filipino director Brillante Mendoza brings a frank, gritty immediacy to SERBIS, a multi-character, day-in-the-life portrait of a family-run movie house in the Philippines. The Pineda family operates and lives in a run-down adult movie house. Preoccupied with their own personal demons, the family is unmindful that inside their movie theater, their customers are engaging in another kind of business.
Publisher: [s.l.] : E1 Entertainment, 2010
Description: 1 videodiscs (86 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in
ISBN: 9781417233168
Branch Call Number: DVD Serv


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Dec 27, 2014

The Pinedas live in a series of dingy apartments atop the porn theatre which is their main source of income. The ironically named “Family” cinema specializes in zero-budget softcore films but the majority of patrons consists of hustlers and their clients. While matriarch Nanay is out suing her husband for bigamy the rest of the clan are busy with their own intrigues. Meanwhile the theatre itself is falling apart around them. Mendoza’s caustic look at the trials and tribulations of one particularly dysfunctional family lends itself to more than one interpretation. It’s a sad look at the breakdown of the family unit which reflects a greater social disorder; it’s also a darkly humorous satire on religious hypocrisy and consumer culture. Nanay fills her apartment with Catholic paraphernalia and condemns immorality and “queers” even though she ekes out a living peddling smut and turns a blind eye to the promiscuous sex occuring a few floors below her. In one segment reminiscent of the fish scene in “La Dolce Vita” a goat runs onstage during the screening of a “religious” skin flick (St. Michael is about to bag a babe) and causes mass pandemonium. Mendoza avoids a musical soundtrack and instead uses the various street noises as a constant background cacophony....honking horns, people yelling, and the muted prayers of the occasional religious procession all go unheeded. The sets are an interesting mixture of sacred and hedonistic with lurid depictions of women vying with crucifixes and statues of the Virgin. Unfortunately “Serbis” suffers from a lack of directorial discipline. Many scenes spin out of control and the episodic structure of the film is sloppily edited. Furthermore all those handheld shots of people running up and down stairs become nauseating after a while. I did enjoy myself, but I can’t say I’d recommend it.

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