You would think that after a good number of films released, Crisaldo Pablo would eventually come up with a decent ouvre, right? "Hinala" (Hunch) is a testament to disprove that. In fact, you come out of the cinema with a sense of loss. One is made acutely aware that the only thing great about this work is its theatrical poster: moody and provocative. But the film is anything but.
Once again, Pablo tackles his his oft-repeated theme of homosexual promiscuity as though gay men are incapable of fidelity, of being circumspect. If indeed Pablo is a champion of the Pink movement, why does he paint the third sex in livid lechery and predatory exuberance? But let's leave this rhetoric for now.
In "Hinala", doe-eyed Joeffrey Javier plays Cris who's in a 5 year relationship with Michael (Justin de Leon). Despite appearances and Michael's incessant appeasement, all is not well in the domestic front. Cris gets flustering clues that point to a profligate lover. These seeds flourish into several day dreams that keep repeating into lurid hunches, "mga hinala" if you will. Like a common friend who slips into saying that he expected Michael to leave Cris; or Michael disappearing from the face of the Earth when he was supposed to take a leave from work to celebrate their anniversary together.
These day dreams, murkily filmed like elementary vignettes of incohesive narrative strains, work their way a la "Ground Hog Day", a vicious cycle of different situations of promiscuity showing men in various stages of undress, and all leading to the fact that Cris is really given the run around by Michael.
We think of Joeffrey Javier as a pleasant find, with his next door good looks and very Pinoy package, but this interest isn't sustained by Javier's grave dryness of delivery. He speaks in dead monotone, in a voice reminiscent of a mistuned base - broken, hollow, lifeless. Justin de Leon is comfortable as the deceitful cad who's fickle enough to stay in a joyless relationship with clingy Cris. Clyde Cruz, in his first full length feature after his brave and "showy" stint in "Bikini Boys" plays the English-speaking lover who figures in several "bedroom wrestles" with de Leon and Javier (in one scene, he smothers Javier with a pillow during a three-way). Clyde enjoys a lengthier part than Arjay Carreon whose character comes out of nowhere to allay Cris' grief and offers himself up (though his advances were declined). Chamyto Aguedan, Pablo's eternal muse, provides comic relief, as usual.
The most basic observation in "Hinala" is its utter mediocrity - from the narrative progression (which pretty much plateaus 20 minutes into its running time) to the production values. There is absolutely no guidance by way of performance. Pablo's earlier strength ("Duda Doubt", "Circles" "Bathhouse") was his visuals, but this has long been discarded and forgotten. The focus of Pablo's works is in the coital meanderings and how he can flash the requisite genitalia somewhere in the story. This, to me, is a sad case of artistic bankruptcy - the failure to thrive as an artist.
Experience is supposed to make people better artists. Unfortunately, not in Crisaldo Pablo's case. Isn't it sad to be the pariah of mediocrity?