The Philippines’ Brillante Mendoza has made an astounding seven films in three years; his most recent, the assured, raunchy Serbis, bowed as a Competition title at Cannes and will receive a proper theatrical release in January. As a warm-up, viewers have a chance to acquaint themselves with Mendoza’s bumptious, chaotic style in Tirador, his penultimate effort.
Set in the slums of Manila with a local election and a religious procession as nominal backdrops, Tirador commences its nonstop frenzy with a late-night police raid, during which het and homo coitus is interrupted, a baby shrieks and two women fight over the same man. Someone appears to be running, crying, stealing, getting beaten up or delivering the blows in every scene, while the cameras seemingly operate themselves. Yet Tirador isn’t a gratuitous tour of the abject: Mendoza lightens the tumult with funny bits, including a lost set of dentures and an unfortunate incident with a zipper, and expresses a nonpatronizing admiration for the film’s hustlers and thieves. But one can maintain the energy and patience for donnybrooks and general insanity only so long before craving a grounding through line, as in Serbis. Mendoza’s talents and instincts are unassailable but are most evident when he tempers his tempests.