ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
first glance, D. H. Lawrence seems temperamentally perfect for Peque
Gallaga (who had earlier directed Scorpio Nights).
Lawrence, like Gallaga, is reckless, intuitive, sensual, passionate;
Lawrence, like Gallaga, has that quality of being both less-than-wise
Lawrence is master of a much broader canvas - of the sexuality and
feelings of an entire society. His novel, Lady Chatterleys
Lover, was written to advance the idea that sex was actually a healthy
and natural act - radical stuff in the more conservative 20s.
But what made the novel really radical - and had it banned in several
countries - was the manner in which it was written: Lawrence extended
the same care and complexity and realism with which he wrote about
his characters to the sex scenes - even down to the words the characters
used before and after sex. For once in a major work of literature,
people made love like they did in real life; afterwards, they even
talked like they did in real life. As a result of this really very
simple act, the novel was never legally published in England - Lawrences
own country - until the 60s.
the very first scene, Gallagas Ang Kabit Ni Mrs. Montero
(Mrs. Montero's Lover) seems completely wrongheaded. You have Mr.
Montero (Edu Manzano) in his wheelchair, watching while a man -
in a tableau that can only be described kindly as Arabian Nights
kitsch - screws Mrs. Montero (Patricia Javier) three ways from Sunday.
Theres an entire video crew on hand to record (and witness)
the scene, and a screaming-gay director to scold Mr. Montero on
his atrocious bad taste.
beginning - entertainingly kinky as it may be - is miles away from
Lawrences melancholy Wragby Hall, with its shell-shocked paralytic
(fresh out of the horrors of World War I) and his lonely, frustrated
Lawrence took pains to sketch his characters - Clifford Chatterley
just this side of frigid, Connie Chatterley liberated, but not too
liberated - and show how sex and sexuality change their lives during
the course of the novel. By making the Monteros decadent from the
start, Gallaga begins with his characters at their most extreme
and leaves them with nowhere else to go but over the top. Theres
a chilling power to reading about Lord Chatterleys increasingly
infantile dependence on his nurse; watching Mr. Montero become healthier
and more sexually active under his nurse (Sunshine Cruz) doesnt
quite have the same impact.
Gallaga doesnt seem interested in developing his characters.
Sunshine Cruz and Patricia Javier are by turns wholesome or nasty,
depending, it seems, on what page of the script they happen to be
reading at the moment. Edu Manzano sometimes looks as if hes
about to rise from the chair in a fit of healthful energy, sometimes
looks as if he thinks hes Dr. Strangelove. Its not the
changes that I mind - its the sheer carelessness with which
the changes are brought about. The characters spin like tops, helpless
in a rudderless story, and Gallaga doesnt seem interested
in giving them direction - any direction at all.
of context, character, and story, the sex scenes are just a series
of soft-core pornographic sequences strung together. For the record,
Sunshine Cruz possesses a superior body to Patricia Javier, but
both give off relatively little heat during the sex scenes - maybe
because they never understood why their characters are having sex
in the first place. Edu Manzano has moments of campy fun as the
chairbound Mr. Montero, though you sense in him the manner of a
guest at a boring party, trying to stir up some entertainment on
his own initiative.
Gardo Verzosa gives the most successful performance, as the Mrs.
Monteros lower-class lover. Verzosas role is again a
departure from Connie Chatterleys gamekeeper, though this
time for the better - Mellors was an egomaniac compared to Verzosas
relatively more subdued security guard. Its as if Gallaga
was too preoccupied in ending the acting careers of the rest of
the cast to bother with ruining Verzosas performance.
Gallagas accomplishment in Scorpio Nights, its sad to
realize that hes practically never made as good a film since.
Deliryo was the saga of two talentless puppy-dogs (Jomari Yllana
and Giselle Toengi), playing at erotic love; Scorpio Nights 2 -
which Gallaga produced but did not direct - resembled a two-hour
beer commercial, and was mildly kinky where the original was harrowingly
perverse (you might call the sequel Scorpio Lite). Ang Kabit
Ni Mr. Montero is Gallagas latest attempt to recreate
the triumph of his one great film. Looking at that film, can you
blame him for failing? And, at the same time, blame him for trying
again and again and again?
Note: Businessworld, May 14, 1999. The article also appears in
Noel Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO
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