Taste is a short film following Bassley, a Nigerian football player in the Vietnamese football league. After breaking his leg, he is let off and in desperation, finds work in a sex parlour to provide for his wife and son back home. Vietnamese director Le Bao has a very strong sense of atmosphere in Taste, bringing out the dark, seedy aspects of a sex parlour and the rural lifestyle of its inhabitants. In the 17 minutes spent sitting in the cinema, the camera managed to capture the desire, desperation and other raw emotions of the characters. Taste ultimately delivers a strong narrative about how easy it is to fall from grace in this dog-eat-dog world, and how for every successful person, there’s at least a handful of people struggling to make it.
When a schoolgirl is murdered and her companion goes missing, the entire town of Matangtubig is sent into a frenzy, and a search for the culprits begins. Amidst memorial vigils and the massive media coverage, one witness has the potential to reveal all, at the risk of changing the lives of everyone in the town, leading to potentially fatal consequences.
Jet Leyco portrays small town life spectacularly and highlights how a small community deals with tragedy with aplomb. An extremely dark piece, Town In A Lake also deals with very real issues such as rampant political corruption and media sensationalism. Leyco masterfully plays with colour and lighting here, contrasting the innocent daylight with all manner of sin awakening under cover of darkness. One particularly strong scene encapsulates the subtle black humour seen throughout the film, where at a cross-junction, we see the contrasting images of a group mourning the child’s death while on the other side, another group celebrates a festival, seemingly unconcerned with the tragedy at hand.
As the film reaches its climax and the level of dread rises higher still, Leyco proves his filmmaking prowess by artfully bringing noir elements to a rural setting, amping up the fearful and uncertain atmosphere, bringing things to a crashing finale with a terrifying act of God. Town In A Lake is proof that cinema in the Philippines is well and alive.