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One of the most caustic and personal essay films ever made, Werner Schroeter's account of the 1983 Manila Film Festival presided over by devilish diva Imelda Marcos chronicles the legacy of American and Spanish imperialism as it presents a "kaleidoscope of a ravaged country."
Schroeter directed one of the most caustic and personal essay films ever in The Laughing Star, his account of the 1983 Manila Film Festival presided over by Imelda Marcos, which he described as "a kaleidoscope of a ravaged country." Intercutting military pageantry and religious processions, ethnographic films and Fritz Lang's American Guerrilla in the Philippines with interviews with Rex Reed, an extra from Apocalypse Now, a cultural historian who insists "the golden-brown perfect race" of Filipinos was created in an oven by a master baker, and anti-government student activists, The Laughing Star chronicles American and Spanish imperialism in the country, its connection to other disasters (e.g., Pinochet's putsch in Chile, the war in El Salvador), and its culmination in Marcos' brutal martial law. The characteristically dense soundtrack features Elvis, Montgomery Clift delivering the final monologue from The Glass Menagerie, and, of course, devilish diva Imelda, who declares that "art liberates man" and then demonstrates her contention by warbling "Feelings" to a captive audience. "Splendidly eccentric . . . a true film maudit" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice).