Carlitos Siguion-Reyna's Misis Mo, Misis Ko (Your Wife, My Wife, 1989), was probably his most believable film in terms of human drama. So why is it that the spirit of Ed Wood hovers in the background? Noel Vera puts his hand in the air.


THE ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna’s Misis Mo, Misis Ko (Your Wife, My Wife), made back in 1989, now unfolds onscreen at Pelikula At Lipunan ’99 like an unusual prelude to a very unusual career. Misis was made for Viva Films, and feels very much like a Viva production, but here and there throughout are hints and intimations that this is no ordinary director at work - an innovative bit of editing here; a strikingly framed shot there; an entire sequence wittily staged. The script, by Siguion-Reyna’s wife Bibeth Orteza, has a good farcical premise: a wife betrayed by her husband takes revenge by sleeping with the husband’s employee, who has a huge crush on her; the husband replies in kind by sleeping with the wife of said employee.

Misis plays out too slowly to make good farce, and the attempt to give the characters "heart" undercuts what should have been a nasty two hours of black comic fun. But the lethargy and the fuzzy characterization is about par for most Viva films; what makes this one so notable is that it was one of the rare times Siguion-Reyna was able to put ordinary human drama onscreen. You don’t have the hysterical climaxes that ended Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay Ni Selya (The Man In Her Life) or Inagaw Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin (Harvest Home); you don’t have the hilariously unreal depiction of, say, whorehouses in Ligaya Ang Itawag Mo Sa Akin (Call Me Joy). And, save for a scene where Jackie Lou Blanco slides down a cliff-side, you don’t have any hideously funny bits of business, like the bouncing-rubber-baby scene in Abot Kamay Ang Pangarap (Elena’s Redemption).

This is subdued Siguion-Reyna, almost human-sized, and the result is strangely ambivalent. Measured by conventional yardsticks, Misis Mo, Misis Ko could be considered Siguion-Reyna’s best work to date, but somehow it isn’t the best that you want from this filmmaker, it’s courage - the courage to swing from the rafters, to do loony, out-of-this-world melodrama with a style and verve no other filmmaker on Earth can touch.

No, really - the only one who can even approximate the tone and look of a Siguion-Reyna film is Pedro Almodovar, and Almodovar is hopelessly corrupt. He’s got impeccable taste, and whenever he feels a scene is even remotely ridiculous, he encloses it in quotation marks and make us laugh at his sophisticated wit. Siguion-Reyna is a purer comic artist; he has the innocence of Edward Wood, Jr., director of Plan 9 From Outer Space - considered by many to be the worst film ever made.

Of course Wood, if he had been asked, would have violently disagreed; that’s what makes his film so hopelessly funny. Siguion-Reyna clearly operates in the same oblivious spirit; he firmly believes he’s making great art, when what he’s really making is great camp.

Note: Businessworld, February 19, 1999. The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
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