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The Perfumed Nightmare

“Kidlat Tahimik (the nom de cinema of Eric de Guia) was born in the Philippines in 1942, and, in his own words, slept ‘in a cocoon of Americanised dream' for his first 33 years. The Perfumed Nightmare is a quasi-autobiographical film that marks his ‘rebirth' as a film-maker. De Guia plays Kidlat, a village taxi-driver, faithful listener to the Voice of America, founder and self-appointed president of the Werner von Braun Fan Club. Kidlat's fantasies about travelling to the ‘New World' seem on the point of being realised when an American offers to employ him in Paris - with the promise of a move to America later. In Paris, however, Kidlat's job turns out to be replenishing the stocks of vending machines for chewing gum, and his only friend is Lola, an egg-seller worried about the cheap battery-hen eggs that are flooding the market. Gradually, Kidlat begins to learn that the modern world is not necessarily paradise....

“The Perfumed Nightmare is one of the rarest things in international cinema: a true original, indebted to no particular cinema tradition, to no particular film-maker's style. Tahimik... abandoned his career in economics and simply began making it, learning techniques as he went along, and resolving the overall shape and structure only when he reached the editing table. As a result, what the film lacks in technical finesse it more than makes up in sheer cinematic invention: it moves from a gentle home-movie portrait of life in Kidlat's village to a bizarre fantasy climax, involving some charmingly unsophisticated special effects. The film's tone sustains a subtle balance between the ingenuous, the knowing and the faux-naif, but its denunciation of America's colonisation of Filipino dreams and aspirations is all the more effective for being understated.”

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