ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
To be honest,
Im not a great fan of Oguri; watching his The Sting Of Death
felt very close to the real thing. But he did say one thing that
struck me: "As many flowers can grow in one pot, so is there
room for filmmakers like me and Spielberg."
Not a bad philosophy,
but Id like to have asked him: what about filmmakers like
Carlitos Siguion-Reyna? Hes a real original I think, a filmmaker
who does scenes weve never seen before - and, with any luck,
never will again. All of his films boast of high production values,
glossy cinematography, inventive staging, and the sense of "were
doing something special, for the sake of art." His works are
also (especially with his wife Bibeth Orteza writing) excessive,
self-indulgent, campy, melodramatic, and totally out of touch with
Take the tangled
skein thats Tatlo... Magkasalo (Three). Ara Minas
character doesnt enjoy sex with her husband (Tonton Guttierrez)
but with her former girlfriend (Rita Avila); Guttierrez enjoys sex
with his wife, and also with a work colleague (Sharmaine Suarez).
Avila loves sex with Mina, but that doesnt stop her from having
sex with her live-in partner (Gina Alajar).
supposedly deals with the issue of lesbianism and, maybe, the Siguion-Reynas
felt that lesbians and their supporters will flock to champion the
film. I hope not; I like to think that lesbians have as much good
taste and sense as anyone else and not champion something that will
embarrass them, and this film is nothing if not embarrassing.
is atrocious, as usual; people use words you wont find outside
of a poetry-reading contest, in sentences that sound stilted even
for a Filipino film. Whats new is that Ortezas lines,
as directed by Siguion-Reyna, have acquired a new cadence: now they
sound like they were written expressly for translation into poeticized
English, and theyre spoken slower, with longer pauses, for
often brag that they and their films have traveled to international
film festivals; seems to me that theyve learned a few mannerisms
from some of the more pretentious festival entries along the way.
The sex scenes
are sex scenes in name only. Siguion-Reyna cant seem to build
any momentum or erotic charge, despite the presence of Ara Minas
formidable swinging breasts; actually, you get the distinct feeling
that hes not all that interested. The sex acts look mildly
kinky, but theres no heat to them; the actors seem to be performing
aerobics (theyre sweaty and breathless afterwards, and look
more weary than satisfied).
had the same problem with Rosanna Roces in Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay
Ni Selya (The Man In Her Life) and Ligaya Ang Itawag Mo Sa
Akin (Call Me Joy). Roces showed wit and spirit in cheap Seiko
sex-flicks like Patikim Ng Pinya (Taste My Pineapple), but
Selya and Ligaya are supposed to be art films, so
Siguion-Reyna has her act world-weary, bored. The result is wearying,
not to mention boring; Siguion-Reyna, in a bid to turn Roces into
a "respectable" actress, killed what little talent she
had as a comedienne.
Not that theres
much to kill in Ara Mina. Both in here and in Chito Ronos
Curcacha, shes inexpressive and has no presence at
all; her face is fixed in a permanent, petulant stare, which seems
to be her idea of intense acting. Rita Avila and Gina Alajar dont
fare much better; you can add them to the long list of talented
performers whove been overwhelmed by the house style of overacting.
Tonton Guttierrez injects much-needed energy into the picture by
hamming outrageously and kicking or wrecking whatever happens to
be nearby: cups, saucers, wine glasses, gay neighbors, Rita Avila,
taxis - half the production budget must have gone into buying things
for him to smash.
Suarez seems to rise above it all; hers is the only relaxed performance
in the film. In fact, she figures, with Tonton Guttierrez, in the
one scene in the film that has any credibility. Suarez and Guttierrez
are in bed together: Guttierrez is doubting his masculinity because
hes learnt that his wife is a lesbian; Suarez is doubting
her femininity because she cant take Guttierrezs mind
off his wife. They exchange hostile remarks; Suarez realizes that
she has had enough and leaves.
dialogue and Siguion-Reynas direction snap into focus; their
work in this scene is more honest than anything theyve ever
done, and the difference is startling, even a little dizzying. What
makes the scene so good? Maybe because it deals with two people
who realize that theyre not as talented as they thought they
were; that theyre not, in fact, the people that they thought
they were. They have to lie in bed together with this cold, hard
fact between them, and the sheer pain of the realization destroys
what love they have left in them for each other.
October 2, 1998.
The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review
Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
Click here to order.
+ + + + +
Click here for other Asian Values DVD Reviews:
Women Of Desire
Naked Under The Moon
Girl With The Long Hair
Sex For Sale
36 Secrets Of Courtship
Sexy Girls Of Denmark
Golden Lotus: Love And Desire
Tuhog (Larger Than Life)
Dreams Of Eroticism
Legends Of Lust
Amorous Woman Of Tang Dynasty
Hong Kong Hong Kong
Kiss Of Death
Forbidden Tales Of Two Cities
The Call Girls