ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
In the early
80s, Peque Gallaga made Scorpio Nights, possibly the greatest
erotic film ever made in the Philippines.
The film begins with a brilliant theatrical conceit: a security
guard (Orestes Ojeda) comes home late at night, eats the dinner
his sleeping wife (Ana Marie Guttierez) has prepared for him, washes
up the dishes, climbs into bed, pulls up the wife's nightgown, and
makes love to her. Overhead, a young student (Daniel Fernando) watches
the two through a peephole. One night, the student sneaks into the
apartment, eats the dinner, washes the dishes, and climbs into bed
with the wife. She offers no resistance whatsoever.
an audacious premise, a coup de theatre that, if you can
accept it, prepares you for more audacious stuff to follow. Almost
the entire film was set in one room - two, if you count the students
upstairs dorm - and somehow, in that cramped little space, Gallagas
prodigious visual imagination exploded. He threw in every camera
move and lighting trick he knew; he staged every sexual encounter
like a stunt or an action sequence. Gallaga unleashed himself in
Scorpio Nights as he does in all his films and, for once, it was
exactly what was needed - no sex act was too perverse, no visual
touch too baroque or excessive. He directs with an astonishing urgency,
as if this might be the last film he would ever make (in many ways,
he was right).
But it was
more than the sex, it was the attitude - it was the very air that
filmmaker, actors, and audience breathed. Aquino had just been assassinated,
Marcos had lost his credibility, and the economy was in shambles;
suddenly it looked like the Philippines didnt have a future,
or even the hope of one. Suddenly, there wasnt anything to
look forward to - anything at all worth doing - except sex and violence,
perhaps both at the same time. It was a season of despair, and Scorpio
Nights was the most extreme expression of that despair.
said to have been inspired by Nagisa Oshimas In The Realm
Of The Senses; I think that for once, Gallaga exceeded his model.
Oshimas sex scenes were creative and gave off heat, but the
overall movement of his picture was languid, philosophical. Scorpio
Nights is an altogether more intense film; it knows where it wants
to go - nowhere - and goes there as fast as it can thrust, pump,
or plunge. Oshimas film comments on fascism, but its
an arty, subtle comment; in Scorpio Nights the dangers of fascism
are palpable, almost viscerally so.
The sex is plentiful, and athletically impressive - word has it
that Gallaga had them shot and choreographed as if they were action
stunts. Handsomely brown Daniel Fernando as the student is puppy-dog
naïve, but hardly a passive wallflower (remember, he had the
guts to sneak into the apartment, and into the housewife's bed).
Ana Marie Guttierez as the housewife is both dreamy soft and hotly
sensual, a heady mix of the carnal and the childlike, with a maddeningly
downy upper lip.
You clutch your armrest while the lovers screw under the husbands
nose; you hold your breath while they teeter on the brink of dangerous
discovery (in every sense of the word). Sex for the lovers takes
on the air of thrilling defiance, of rebellion. Theyre literally
fucking in the face of death itself.
of the above are excerpted from Noel Vera's article that appeared
in Businessworld, May 14, 1999. The article also appears in Noel
Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
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