Lav Diaz portrays a violent cop contaminated by the Filipino dictatorship


It starts in a police academy, a real one, in the presence of criminology students. Lieutenant Hermes Papauran (John Lloyd Cruz) tells the students about one of his feats of arms, a story of disappearance that haunted him for years. One day, a couple who had won a lot of money at horse races vanished without being heard from again, as did the taxi driver who was driving them that morning. All we know is that a jeep blocked their way. The lieutenant ended up finding the charred attackers’ vehicle in a garage, he concluded in front of the audience, who applauded him like a hero.

Read the picture: Article reserved for our subscribers At the Center Pompidou, the torrential images of filmmaker Lav Diaz

Thus opens When the waves recede, by the Filipino Lav Diaz, unveiled at the Venice Film Festival in 2022, with this brilliant lesson from the investigator Papauran, reputed to be the most gifted in the Philippines. But the next lesson, when he returns to the classroom, a sentence written on the board hits him in the face: “A policeman who beats his wife. » Unmasked, the investigator recognizes his wrongs and announces his resignation – with a speed to make the associations fighting against domestic violence green with envy. In two scenes, the Filipino filmmaker reveals the dark and complex character he is about to follow for three hours.

Born in 1958, also a musician, poet, author of short stories and comic strips, Lav Diaz is one of those filmmakers who are archivists of memory – such as Rithy Panh in Cambodia or Wang Bing in China – whose work has won awards at festivals. He received a Golden Leopard in Locarno with From What Is Before (2014), a Silver Bear in Berlin with A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (2016) then a Golden Lion in Venice with The Woman Who Left (2016).

Black and white enthusiast

In the Filipino’s extraordinary films (about thirty in total), some of which are around nine or eleven hours long, politics is lodged in the length of the shots, in the dialogues connected to the traumas of the country, in the splendor of nature so often battered by storms and eruptions. Follower of black and white, the esthete director opts here for a gray tone, powdered by 16 mm.

Marks appear on the face and body of Hermes Papauran, who suffers from a curious skin disease. Metaphor of the trouble that seizes this man with a tortured mind? It is capable of unprecedented violence and seems contaminated by the horrors committed under the dictatorship of President Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022) – which gives rise to archetypal scenes of film noir.

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