Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Magdamag" - Rita Romances Edgar Allan in Fascinating Gabfest

Watching Joven Tan's "Magdamag" (The Tryst) is like watching a chamber play that only Monique Wilson's New Voice Company seems to be staging here. It's a rare form of film execution that slow burns a cinematic brew. And it requires patience and commitment from the audience, but the payback is gratifying.

As a theatrical piece, chamber play is a form performed in a minimum number of acts, played by a small cast with practically no set, no costumes, and small space. The form zeroes in on the didactic narrative rather than the foibles that characterize the fluff in stage musicals. This form produced the likes of Max Reinhardt and August Strindberg. And we are saying that "Magdamag" is presented similar to the intimacy of a chamber play.


Like the recent "Two Funerals", the story takes place during the Holy Week when 37 year old Soledad (Rita Avila) meets 22 year old Joven (Edgar Allan Guzman) at a club in Boracay. They hook up and eventually end up in his pad, physically and emotionally disrobing each other between a series of intercourse.

Sol initially personifies the vulgar cougar, but in the course of their conversation, we learn more about her: she's a teacher, has 2 children, has endured several separations, and is married to a guy 15 years her senior. We also learn about Joven: a firedancer who hails from a religious town called New Washington (Aklan), is 15 years Sol's junior, and is engaged to an elder Swedish woman who plans to retire in Boracay. He cooks her post-coital omelet, while she offers him mallorca gin. Each word of disclosure brings them closer to each other, but by 4 AM, after another round of intercourse, it becomes clear that they are discontented souls who have disconsolate resignation to their fate. Will this tryst be their last? As Sol leaves Joven, copious tears are being shed. Joven writes down his mobile number. He hands his card to her. Then Sol walks back to the gentle shores as the sun gradually rises into Good Friday.

You have to simply listen to the words and watch Rita Avila at work as she confidently and deftly rides at the interplay of conversational paradoxes that come alive in Ms. Avila's verbal tussle with Edgar Allan Guzman, who suffers in terms of gravitas. When Sol offers to give him a blowjob, and he winces with embarrassment, she provokes him, "Di na titigas yan, ano?" "Bakla ba ang naka devirginize sa yo?" Then she continues, "Mga lalaki sa Pilipinas, lahat may karanasan sa bading!" Annoyed by her taunts, he pulls down his pants and forces his crotch on her mouth, which provoked a curiously contradictory reaction. She gags and turns to the sink to vomit.

Guzman needs to acquire a degree of pluckiness to counter Avila's delicious provocations. After all, despite his character's youth, Joven is a ripe 22. He isn't so innocent from the ways of the world - what with him marrying a foreigner for her house-buying inclination. Isn't that a naive case of pseudo-prostitution?

Writer Jerry Gracio turns in a smart script that gives director Joven Tan a substantial material far removed from the director's mediocre past. Unfortunately, the script at times becomes self-indulgent. Gracio sometimes forgets the logic within his verbal diarrhea: e.g. After another round of coitus, Sol turns to TV and watches porn, and complains, "Ano ba yan, wala man lang akong mapanood, kahit Wowowee." At 10:30PM she's expects to see Wowowee?

Despite the seemingly risky conversation pieces, there is nothing visually graphic for those expecting flesh and kink. Look elsewhere for your fix of genitalia (like the current pink film "Indie Boys") and graphic sex. Majority of the scenes happen inside a room, thus there is hardly a change of view. That, in itself, is a daunting task for the story teller who has to make his topics a little more florid to sustain attention.

It is a tall order to mention Reinhardt and Strindberg in the same breath as Joven Tan, the director of cringe-worthy films like "Tutok" and "Dalaw", but this film is without a doubt a decent work. It deserves my most gracious applause. It isn't for those whose idea of cinematic fun is a slap-happy scene, a rabid car chase, a naked pubescent hero, tech-savvy CG effects, or a finger-snapping terpsichorean swirl. "Magdamag" doesn't have any of those. It is simply a compelling piece of thought-provoking, neuron-inspiring character study.

Rita Avila: luminous and provocative.

Edgar Allan Guzman: "Mr. Pogi" winner shares stellar billing with Rita Avila.


Anonymous said...

akala ko dati, yung Mr. Pogi na si Edgar Allan Guzman at Edgar Allan Paule na writer sa mga magazine e iisa lang..hehe..

anyway, that Edgar Allan Guzman needs an acting workshop, a real acting workshop..he belongs to an array of "talentless" "actors" -- Aljur abrenica, sunshine cruz, yasmien kuri, daniel matsunaga, aj dee, enchong, heart, mariane, cogie domingo (haay, i-type ko na lang kaya yung marunong umarte? 75 % kasi ng mga bagong artista ngayon e artistang lugaw lang, kulang sa sabaw)...

Cathy P. said...

You must mean Sunshine Dizon because if you do, we share the same thoughts about her. That's some list you got there. Re: name, it seems like an interplay of similar names.

Edgar Allan Guzman - indie actor of movies like "Magdamag", "Astig",and Alix's "Imoral". Quite raw, but not absolutely irremediable, I believe.

Edgar Allan Paule - he co-moderates and writes for his socio-political blogsite, "Viewer Discretion" with wit and searing commentaries. We have him here in our shortlist. Haven't read him in magazines (like you mentioned). I mustn't have been attentive enough.

Edgar Allan Poe - American master writer of mystery and the macabre, circa mid-1800's. I love his poetry: "Annabel Lee" and the onomatopoeic "The Bells".

Allan Paule - a Lino Brocka-trained character actor who starred in Brocka's "Macho Dancer".

Anonymous said...

tama..! Sunshine Dizon, tsk.. nakakaumay siyang panuorin, ewan.. bakit ba kasi ang GMA at ABS kailangang laging maging banyaga? Lingo-lingo na na lang ginagaya mga Hollywood stars/production/singing style.. kahit nga badut na hollywood stars, ginagaya, akala nila maganda..

okay lang naman siguro gumaya "minsan " forproductio purposes o for motif/theme" productions, pero lingo-lingo?

kung may pera lang ako, (kung, sana kahit alam kong imposible 'tong sasabihin ko)gusto ko palitan ang Party Pilipinas ng tunay na music show.. kung saan tutugtog ang indie bands, pop acts, lahat, from teatro to sarzuela at pop-rock to jazz to ensemble.. tapos may inteview portion (hindi yung maintream way pero musical pero mild ang attack, yung mageexplain ng song writing process, writing , inspiration, at mga simpleng tanong na labas sa musika.)

kukuha ako ng director na kahit bata pa e hindi hilaw,may tenga sa musika at may mata sa produksiyon, mga visual artist na totoong may talento, mga musikerong totoong musikero, welcome din ang nobelista manunulat at artistang totoong artista.

sa pamamagitan nito, imbes na nag dodota ang mga kabataan o nakikinig ng Aljur o Jricho covered songs e mamaumulat sila sa dapat nilang matutunan.

edgar allan trivia was a good one.. sama pa natin yung tatay ni FPJ!(DI AKO SURE DITO..hehe)

kunin sina Lav Diaz, Khavn etc. para gumawa ng totoong kwento para palitan ang mga Primetime bida, ...

alam kong imposible to para satunay na mukha ng TV. magbabackout ang mga commercial ads, baka ilan na lang tayong manood ng TV.hehe

Dempsey Sanders said...

I would certainly like to give this movie a try although could't comment on anyones acting abilities as I have never seen them before. Very good post, interested certainly in the movie

Cathy P. said...

@ RM:

Lav Diaz for primetime television is a bit stretching it. Haha. Though I've high regard for his artistry (and I have seen 3 or 4 of his works), he takes his story telling too long. I'd say, "Life is too short" to wait for a single cinematic story to unravel in 16 hours! Placing him on primetime will encroach on late-night, wee hours, early morning and early lunch shows. And that is not physiologic! Plus what do you say about an artist whose main aim for an audience is the foreign land?

That he is uncompromising in vision and execution is meaningless to me if he doesn't even make the effort to be seen in his homeland.

Look at Dante Mendoza. He said he would NEVER screen his Cannes-winning flick, "Kinatay", in commercial theaters (Robinsons), but he recanted and eventually found a way to offer it for the interested mainstream moviegoers, though he knew not a lot would come to watch anyway. (Stupidity of Filipinos who keep complaining we have garbage for a film industry - yet they don't troop to the cinema for a compelling piece like "Kinatay".)

Mendoza gets my respect for that because he values the Filipino audience AND the mainstream venue for his "stage", instead of just being exclusively a foreign cineaste fodder. The foreigners can have them for all I care, and I am not gonna lose sleep over them, awards and high praises included.

@ Demsey: "Magdamag" is Joven Tan's salvation in my own movie la-la land. At least, now he can say "Paupahan" (For Rent) wasn't exactly a fluke.

Anonymous said...

it was just my own "daydreaming " of my dream "TV shows'.. sa totoo lang , nauumay kasi ako sa philippine TV, bagamat may magaganda rin namang palabas minsan, o "entertaining enough" kung panandalian mong papatayin ang "critic" sa sarili mo..

pangarap ko kasi yung TV na malaya ang lahat -- stretching man o poetic o anuman -- pero alam kong hanggang imahinasyon ko lang lahat to.

mababaw lang din naman ang kaligayahan ko, at hindi rin ako galit sa komersiyalismo, sana lang moderated at magamit ng maayos.

sabi ko nga "sino bang hindi lo;onyal kung ang kolonyal ay isa na lamang kolokyal?"

sang-ayon ako ng 5000000x10 sa Brllante thoughts mo.. well said. (may limit bang magcomment sa blogspot?hehe)

Anonymous said...

Plus what do you say about an artist whose main aim for an audience is the foreign land?

- kakulangan sa "tunay na pagmamahal"sa bayan.

pero hindi nangangahulugang pinunterya mo ang ibang bansa para sa mga trabaho mo ay hindi mo na mahal ang bayan, o kapag inggles ang ginamit mo sa pagsusulat ay hindi ka na tunay na Noypi, o pag gumamit ka ng Nike o Adidas, o mga banyagang gamit -- may namamatay kasi sa nasyonalismo kapag ang nagpainit dito ay banyagang bagay, hindi mapapainit ang pagka-pilipino ng isang bagay na Amerikano, o banyaga.

Mahirap husgahan ang tao sa tanong mo, dahil siya lang naman ang nakakaalam niyan, e.

pero para paiksihin, sabi nga ni Chicoy Pura "sa Amerika na siya mag-picnic, 'wag na siyang babalik".. hhehe