ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
has directed a number of films (Scorpio Nights 2, Ekis (Crossed),
Dos Ekis (Double-Crossed)) that hed written himself, and the
results were - well, lets just say they were less than satisfactory.
noir storylines (teacher involved with student in Scorpio 2; kidnap
gang collecting ransom in Ekis; two lovers on the run in Dos Ekis),
in the most outlandish settings (a school dorm a la Federico Fellini
in Scorpio 2; apartments behind a movie screen in Dos Ekis). He
would throw in grotesque plot developments (professor dressed in
drag, raping his student in Scorpio 2; dead body in a trunk in Ekis;
sadistic torture of heroine in Dos Ekis) that might have been perversely
entertaining, only youre too insulted by the nonsensical plots
to enjoy yourself, however perversely.
This time Matti
has decided to work with another writer, Roy Iglesias, and for the
first hour at least, the difference shows. Fresh, pretty-faced Ditas
(Aubrey Miles) goes to college in the big city, driven by Nonoy,
a tricycle driver in cool shades (Jay Manalo). Driving down crowded
streets, we get Jays cynical point of view via voiceover,
which goes something like: "pussy... all that pussy... if pussies
worked hard to earn money, they would make millions... the Philippines
will be saved by hard-working pussy..." Nonoy is actually a
pimp, and hes driving his whore to her casa (whorehouse) to
meet the boss, "Mama" Xedes (Racquel Villavicencio).
We get to know
the people in the "casa," and we watch some fairly funny
vignettes involving a necrophiliac, a man who wants his own pair
of breasts, another with unbearably smelly feet, so on and so forth.
"Mama" Xedess is a professionally-run operation
- almost unbelievably so: theres actually a health program
going on, as the girls wait in the casas porch to submit their
urine specimens to a visiting doctor (most prostitutes, I imagine,
would go to free clinics). At one point, "Mama" Xedes
asks a girl about to get married to "please dont leave
until we find a substitute." Employees come and go, but the
work must go on, uninterrupted.
The film runs
into trouble about the time the conflict starts: Nonoy falls in
love with Ditas, a development "Mama" Xedes has expressly
forbidden, time and time again. Why? "Because its unlucky,"
she explains. Granted, falling in love is inconvenient and unprofessional
(and hers is a really smooth-running operation, with only an occasional
police raid to interrupt the workflow): why is she so adamantly
age-old convention; its how some whores become whores - the
pimp courts them, makes love to them, introduces them to his "friends."
"Unlucky" is an okay reason, but it doesnt have
any urgency to it - certainly not enough to pin the conflict of
an entire movie on. Iglesiass script, unfortunately, never
satisfactorily settles the matter, leaving the question, the conflict,
and the entire movie hanging in mid-air.
The movie never
recovers from its misstep; earlier it had nothing to prove and no
story to follow, so the one-thing-after-another flow of funny anecdotes
worked just fine. Now that theres a premise (a pimp and whore
who fall in love when they shouldnt), Matti has to work up
the necessary lather, and the movies more than half-over;
he has to build to an intense climax in some 20 minutes.
be operatic tragedy comes off more as fast-forward comedy: "Mama"
Xedes suddenly has to play villainess, and it doesnt fit what
we previously knew about her nurturing nature. Nonoy has to storm
up the stairs, storm off, storm back, ask forgiveness, and basically
go berserk for no particularly sensible reason. Ditas - well, Ditas
doesnt really do much of anything, except have sex. She copulates
with Nonoy in a closet, then in his tricycle; you wonder why she
doesnt fall out the closet door (most closets I know dont
lock from inside), or tricycle (she leans against a plastic tarp
that shouldnt hold her for a second, conveniently ignoring
a nearby handlebar).
disappointing development, and with all the shrieking hysterics
amidst the strikingly lit alleyways and rain-shower effects, unbidden
thoughts come to your mind like: Ditas works in a casa and has a
pimp? Pimps are a street prostitutes agent; they search for
likely customers, haggle over price, and bring them over for servicing.
A casa prostitute depends on walk-in customers; she doesnt
need a pimp (if a casa prostitute went out to solicit, shed
be moonlighting - and probably encroaching on some street whores
We see Nonoy
waiting around in the casas porch (that porch has got to be
the towns social center), and delivering her to various high-powered
customers, in which case hes probably not her pimp but the
casas bouncer and courier. Did anyone actually do any research
for this movie?
Nonoy is intensely played, but he seems incapable of coherent thinking
or decision-making - a prime example of a man with gonads for brains.
Which is fine - intelligence in a character is not a prerequisite
- as long as the movie recognizes his stupidity and uses it, perhaps
satirically, but no: Nonoy is seen as tragic (hes not just
an idiot, hes a tragic idiot). Aubrey Miless Ditas,
aside from not doing much, does the little she does without much
talent; her coyly displayed nipples are her entire performance.
Ditass sister prostitutes - Hazel Espinosa and Pinky Amador
come to mind - are a lively, funny bunch that help keep the first
hour entertaining, but are largely forgotten in the last half-hour,
which kills the movie.
Xedes, Racquel Villavicencio (who seems to be channeling someone,
I just cant say who), has languor and mystery and a fantastically
sensual low-pitched purr that outclasses every hooker in the picture,
including Miles (she shouldnt be a madam; she should be commanding
the highest prices). Its almost criminal of Matti to hobble
her performance with a Captain Hook eyepatch, then give her a character
that barely makes sense, on paper or on the big screen.
is actually more than just a character actor, shes a formidable
scriptwriter whos worked with Mike de Leon (Kakabakaba Ka
Ba? (Worried?), Kisapmata (Blink Of An Eye), Batch 81)) and
Laurice Guillen (Init sa Magdamag (Midnight Passion)). Why didnt
Matti ask her to write the script for the film, or at least look
it over for problems, or at the very least ask for her advice about
character motivation and plot development? Its not as if Villavicencio
is a stranger to or disapproves of sexuality in movies - Init is
one of the most erotic films in Philippine cinema. She would have
been the perfect choice to write Prosti, only Matti isnt exactly
known for making sensible, coherent choices, much less sensible,
October 4, 2002. The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic
After Dark: A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
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