Experience teaches men to get better; to improve himself; to upgrade his craft. That is a reliable fact of life. But Pink Film producer and director Crisaldo Pablo seems to challenge this because with the number of theatrical releases from his film outfit, it’s becoming evident that his artistic capabilities don’t amount to anything substantial. In fact, Pablo has been churning out cringe-worthy works without an iota of redeeming value. And the more he does them, the worse they get! After “Hinala” and “M2M Eyeball The Movie”, I never thought he could get worse. Guess what!
Director Crisaldo Pablo is becoming prolific in his capacity to release movies for commercial exhibition. In fact, he can probably outnumber Star Cinema's or GMA Films' film output before the year ends. This dubious talent is a sad development considering the stark pedestrian quality on shameless display in any of his films. In Pablo’s latest anthology, “Dose Trese Katorse”, he delves into the realm of pubescent love.
The movie is once again, a trilogy fielded to dutifully accommodate Pablo’s workshop victims, errr, I mean clients.
“Slow Motion” follows the ministrations of best friends Miguel (Jaycob Bulaong) and Edel (Edel Santiago) who are poles apart in their high school’s social strata. While Miguel is popular (he’s running for class governor), Edel is diffident and reluctant. And Miguel pushes Edel to come out of his introverted shell. They devise a plan meant to derail the political ambitions of school rival Maria. But their conspiratorial plan bogs down when they’re eventually found out. That Edel, who’s wooing Maria, is actually gay! What’s a young man to do when he’s more comfortable holding his breath under water?
“Swerte Ni Maxin” centers on Maximo (Roseller Kempis), a fatherless adolescent, who nurtures whimsical attraction with Joewel (Joeffrey Javier), a kanto boy who’s the object of affection of the neighborhood’s fledgling prepubescent gay boys. Maxin and his friends spy on the amused Joe even when he’s bathing. One day, Maxin gets word that Joe is holding a contest (a really ludicrous, albeit campy one involving “long hair” and money) and whoever wins gets to spend a night with Joe. But a gang war erupts and Joe finds himself running for cover – straight into Maxin’s house. Will Maxin find the courage to speak his mind? Will Joe be the accommodating Romeo?
“Luv U Tol” is about Sieg (Joshua Domingo) and Gene (Alvin Notarte) who grew up best friends. Gene is courting Ritz (Kathleen Empleo) and requires Sieg’s help to summon the girl’s attention. Inside a dingy pad they call “tambayan” - an empty room with a single mattress plopped down the floor and nothing else – the three characters exchange their awkward flirtations (if you could call it that). Unknown to Gene, Ritz is really attracted to the bashful Sieg who in turn seems more interested with his best friend than with Ritz.
It is an exhausting routine trying to make sense from these stories when you realize that there’s hardly anything worth picking out from them. These were spur-of-the-moment narratives borne out of incipient whimsy, not talent. The actors are plain awful; they cannot even deliver their lines with adequate verve enough to convince us that they enjoyed what they were doing. This makes watching this opus an exercise in self flagellation. These pseudo-actors deserve to be exiled to Timbuktu just to make sure they won’t have anything to do with films – at least not at the expense of a paying audience. This is P170 shredded into pieces.
In between scenes, like most Cris Pablo flicks, you would hear people shouting, “Cut!”. Even a 3rd grader, by way of logical deduction, knows that he isn't supposed to hear these things when watching movies. These remediable gaffes (which end up in the film anyway) is a testament to the thoughtless film making process involved here. Artistic bankruptcy, laziness and mediocrity are becoming synonymous with Pablo’s works. Moreover, you find the actors awkwardly waiting for these directions. When basic conventions of film making are blatantly ignored, you wonder about the pointlessness of the whole process. You cease to enjoy “making believe” that this was a re-enactment of a bunch of stories The glaring shortcomings constantly remind you that what's viewable on screen are mere acting class exercises. A bad acting class, that is.
The production value leaves much to be desired mainly because the production outfit doesn’t even try anymore. In “Luv U Tol”, for example, instead of haggling for a real flower, all they were able to come up with was a badly-made “paper flower”. Yup, you better believe it! When you are gearing up for commercial exhibition, i.e. with a paying audience to consider, you can at least up the ante by hiking up your cinematic ambition. And “paper flowers” won’t do the trick. Can't they even find a better place than the dump they used as their "tambayan"? I could swear it might as well be a drug dealer's den. This production is scraping the bottom. Really pathetic.
Another grave fault is the incongruence of lines and situations. Here’s a dialogue: “May girlfriend ka na?” Reply: “Nag-aaral pa ako eh.” Huh? Even marriage won’t stop anyone from going to school. In fact, young age didn’t stop them from canoodling with each other’s joysticks. While thugs were pursuing Joe, he leisurely knocks on Maxin’s door. No hint of urgency was heard from his voice. “Puwedeng makituloy? May humahabol sa akin eh,” reasoned Joe. He might as well recite Shakespeare: “Let me not into the marriage of true minds admit impediments…” Actors need to be motivated and it’s the job of the director to extract emotions in such counterfeit situations. In this case, it felt like the blind was leading the blind. Or wasn't someone home?
Still on “Luv U Tol”, when the thugs finally catch up with Joe, Maxin simply tells the baddies, “Umalis na kayo. Darating na ang pulis.” And off they go like obedient pups. No resistance of any sort. No threats nor coercion. It felt like a Three Stooges comedy. When Joe finally admits his amorous affection to the shy Maxin (“Eh paano kung ako ang may gusto sa ‘yo?”), the latter becomes adamant because he knew of his friend's similar infatuation towards the twinky kanto boy: “Di kayang ipagpalit ang pagkakaibigan namin dahil sa isang lalaki.” Five seconds later, they copulate. So much for friendship.
Maxin's friends eventually find out about his indiscretions – and “Grace” is livid. (You then hear “Action”.) “Ahas ka talaga!” accuses Grace (who's actually an effete gay boy), then continues, “Pangarap ko pa naman na maka SIX si Joe.” Huh? Yes, you heard it right. He had numerical obsession for Joe; not four, not five, but “six”. Or did he mean “sex?” Haha. But this roller coaster shift of emotions has Grace making a hundred-eighty-degree turn and say,”O sige na nga. Friends na uli tayo. Ang mga lalaking yan, gagamitin lang naman natin sila.” (These are just guys. We’ll just use them.) This is a line coming from a 13 year old. Kuha mo? This steady succession of emotional caterwauling simply takes you straight to Venus and back. This isn’t just drama, but science fiction as well.
Pablo's seeming cinematic indecisiveness is more blatant in “Luv U Tol” where, during courtship, Ritz suddenly blurts, “Sige, tayo na. Pero pag ayoko na, papayag ka ng walang tanung tanong.” Gene sports a grin wider than the Sea of Galilee. He didn’t even fathom the restrictions of the said relationship. If you have never heard of the perfect deal, this one should be it, right? Are relationships really that easily disposable? Or is the script writer living in fantasy land? If romance is the building block that jumpstarts a relationship, it would scurry out of the window just as fast when it hears of such deal.
The last 5 minutes of this segment was even more alarmingly banal. The characters would argue in their “tambayan”, come out the door, walk the streets, then finish their conversation back in the same dingy hole before concluding with a narrative twist that’s vapid and preposterous. Why they have to carry out the whole discussion in several locations is beyond me. Boredom perhaps? Of course it had to turn up that way so Pablo could have his male leads rolling in the vermin-infested, vandal-ridden “hay”.
“Dose Trese Katorse” is a perfect specimen on how not to make a film, and it even rests on a plot that contentiously portends pedophilia. And this bothers me.
I am wondering why Ms. Grace Poe-Llamanzares and her MTRCB staff haven’t caught up with such ruse. A kanto boy seducing and eventually sodomizing someone whose character is only “trese”? Pornography is indeed a state of mind, as director John Sayles implied, but there are clear-cut boundaries that rational beings shouldn’t cross. Cris Pablo should stop exploiting impressionable young minds. Erotica and minors, deceptively set in the context of coming-of-age, are a taboo! They shouldn't make comfortable bed fellows. It is morally despicable, not to mention "criminal". Makes my skin crawl.