ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
Maryo J. de los Reyess Laman (Flesh; 2002) is his latest
sex flick, and - surprise, surprise - its pretty good. Well,
maybe not so much of a surprise - de los Reyes has always been a
competent craftsman and Ive always thought that given good
material (or at least material thats solid, without any embarrassing
flaws), he can come up with a solid genre job.
In this case
the job he comes up with is solidly in the genre of erotic "noir"
drama. A married couple (Yul Servo, Lolita de Leon) come to Manila
from the provinces to look for a job; they end up rooming in the
house of Servos best friend (Albert Martinez), who finds himself
lusting for the ripe young wife. Albert plays a gigolo, and one
of his most loyal customers is a successful businesswoman (Elizabeth
Oropesa) who, in turn, develops a hankering for the young husband
revelations and realignments follow; its the kind of melodramatic
brew de los Reyes has done before, nothing radically new. But unlike
Paraiso ni Efren (Efrens Paradise), there are no gauzy
attempts at dream imagery and no unlikely subplots involving Non-Government
Organizations (the script and presumably the dream imagery were
by Jun Lana). Unlike Red Diaries, starring Assunta de Rossi, he
isnt required to showcase some skin-flick divas "thespic
prowess." Laman is simple, small-scaled, and surprisingly
honest. It doesnt make any pretense of aspiring to be more
than what it is: a well-made example of itself.
Yul Servo as
the husband is persuasively young and innocent - and later, innocence
lost, persuasively idealistic; he proves with his sophomore performance
that the potential he showed in Batang West Side (West Side
Avenue) was no lucky accident, though his role here is far less
complex. Lolita de Leon as his wife is refreshingly, 100 per cent
real (no surgical enhancements, her); shes good at playing
exactly what she is, a young provincial lass corrupted by the big
is equally good as the sexually voracious employer with a caramel
core (think of the whore with the heart of gold become successful
entrepreneur) - she makes you believe she has the ruthlessness to
succeed in business, yet can still be attracted to Servos
is possibly the gamest actor in the industry right now. Theres
nothing he wont do, apparently, from wearing womens
clothes (Scorpio Nights 2), to performing gay sex (Gusto Kong
Lumigaya (I Want To Be Happy)), to playing unmitigated bastards
(everything from Segurista (Dead Sure) to this film). This
may be the best role hes had in years, though, if only because
its the first role hes had in years where the character
is clearly and carefully drawn.
We come to
understand Martinezs gigolo; we know the need he has for security
that leads him into relationships with wealthy women like Oropesa,
the same time we know the maddening itch he feels when faced with
de Leons tremendous breasts. The one instinct is his best
hope for a long and happy life; the other is trouble, pure and simple.
De los Reyes,
whos in his fifties, neednt feel embarrassed when compared
to the "Young Turk" filmmakers coming out of the woodwork
nowadays; he is every bit as adept with shock cuts and innovative
camerawork (overhead, handheld, what-have-you) as the best of them.
He uses the "bleached-bypass" effect you saw in the battle
sequences of Saving Private Ryan, the one that leaches out colors;
he even includes the trick in Ryan where anyone in motion looked
as if he were moving under a strobe light.
well-edited, well-shot eye candy, yoked - and this is where de los
Reyes has an advantage over all the so-called "Turks"
in the business - to a solidly written, realistically plotted script
(co-written by de los Reyes himself, with Wally Ching).
of Lamans tussles with the Movies and Television
Ratings and Classification Board (the MTRCB, or, in short, the Censors)
- how it was "Xd" twice, and how Regal Studios finally
gave in and submitted a shortened version. Its idiocy like
this that makes me doubt the sincerity of the governments
interest in the arts; all they really seem to care about is in keeping
it all clean and neat and toothless, like a travelogue.
has no positive moral lesson to impart to adult Filipinos -
a characteristic, truth to tell, common in noir - why do the morons
in the MTRCB insist in denying us the privilege of judging the film
for ourselves (what makes THEM so special? "Higher moral standards,"
perhaps, or some self-perceived immunity to smut?)? Laman is
definitely no film for a child - problem is, the MTRCB seems insistent
on treating me and every mature member of Philippine society like
published in Businessworld,
September 13, 2002.
The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review
Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
Click here to order.
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