Friday, September 9, 2011

X-Deal - Bringing Class Back to Erotica

When Billy and Sara (Jon Hall and Paloma Esmeria, respectively) move into a new apartment unit in a high rise tenement, the couple meets Dana (Jamilla Obispo), a professional blogger (she has 5,000 daily hits) who moonlights assisting her drug-dealing mother. Billy is a slacker, a freelance lomographer whose family has migrated to the U.S. He bides his time sneaking around and watching films projected on his wall – and he waits for Sara’s arrival from work. Together, they enjoy a potpourri of sexual games and immersive role playing fantasies that have them copulating in showers, by the stairs, and elsewhere.

But something unsettles Sara. She’s aware of Billy’s cursory glances at Dana. He is fascinated by the disobliging beauty next door. One day, Billy fields his bulging crotch at Dana, but she rebuffs his advances. She chides with a rude confession, “I’m not attracted to you, but to your girlfriend.” Then she laughs and chastises him for his “green briefs”. That night, Billy starts persuading Sara to try a threesome. Sara’s unhappy, but acquiesces. Here’s where the “exchange deal” begins: Sara agrees to sleep with Dana. A week later, Dana would let Billy shag her. Not quite a threesome, but a fair deal for both Billy and Dana. But what does Sara get from such arrangement?

It’s been awhile since female-oriented erotica has graced the cinema. And I surprise myself by saying that it’s about time. I am tired of shoddy, artless film making skills from brain-challebged Pink Film makers with bubblegum production budget and the ugliest men to grace the celluloid. It’s time the fair sex reclaim their rightful place. With Lawrence Fajardo’s X-Deal”, the promising director brings sophistication back to the genre.

Jamilla Obispo, with her over inflated mammary, is a study of contrast. Her doll-like face reminds one of a younger Desiree del Valle, replete with deceptive innocence. Obispo is mostly comfortable though her scenes with Paloma feel tentative and perfunctory. Paloma, on the other hand, makes for an effective seductress. We see her dolled up in various uniforms – saleslady, nurse, and even a blind woman in heat! And if for anything, these scenes are instructive for future reference. LOL. John Hall scorches the screen with his arrogant confidence. His physique is a sight to behold that when he flashes his backside, you end up looking the other way to avoid embarrassing yourself. Hall vacillates easily in his trilingual tongue. When he briskly shifts to his raw Visayan, we listen up – and it sends shivers down our spine. There’s something helplessly sexy in a multilingual muscular man with piercing gaze.

Yes, there’s a degree of sleaze and kink (try a candle scene with liquid wax poured down your breasts), but that’s why it’s R-18. It is meant as adult entertainment fraught with risky theme and graphic images. Despite this, the movie doesn’t feel gratuitous or exploitative; thanks to a dynamic story telling acumen that allows the film to bristle with tension and desire.

I have misgivings with its conclusion which is messy and cluttered. The side story involving Dana’s bizarre mother (she speaks as though she’s performing an incantation) is an awkward fit into the trio’s dilemma, thus this narrative strain feels like a slice of a different story altogether. But then, this allowed the story to move to its epilogue. Otherwise, I have a hunch the story would have stagnated.

Billy teases Dana.

Billy waits for his saleslady.

Some of the lines feel vulgar, but nonetheless humorous. When Billy asked Dana why he had to wait for a week for their concupiscent rendezvous, the latter quipped, “Pagpahingahin ko muna ang kepyas ko.” Turns out, an apple doesn't fall far from the tree. While Dana and her mother enjoy an intimate moment together, the latter declares, "Your father gave me the best fuck a girl could ever have." Would you have your dear mom with such filthy gob?

The film has an inordinate amount of sensual couplings. This is mammary heaven. In fact, the film kicks off with Hall flicking Paloma’s pert nipples in ambrosial close-up. In another scene, Paloma and Hall’s silhouette shows the brave woman devouring what would look like John Hall's gargantuan appendage, I blushed in spite of myself. The night Dana was to consummate her boundless attraction with Sara, we find both ladies sit beside each other while their fingers reach down each other’s crotch – on full view! Passion is never a gossamer ideation as depicted in carefully choreographed movements, scenes too far removed from the hackneyed drivel that populate the gay-oriented ouvres of say, Crisaldo Pablo, Monti Parungao or Lucas Mercado. Eroticism in the films of Pablo, Parungao, Mercado, takes the form of disrobing, nothing else. The element of seduction has all but vanished in the periphery of peekaboo mushroom heads. Imagination has been clipped and disabled. Creativity after all isn't acquired from experience. It is an inherent talent. You either have it or you don't.

Lawrence Fajardo’sAmok”, pending commercial exhibition (outside a Film Festival), is a mind-numbing cinematic experience that had us absolutely engaged; a shoo-in for Blush’s Best as 2011 draws to a close. But it has to be served to a paying public venue with regular screening times to be truly worthy of our citation. And we are glad that “X-Deal” has attracted a good audience when we watched it at the Galleria. This theatrical success might pave the way for the eventual commercial release of “Amok”. We're holding our breath in anticipation.

Jamilla Obispo


Jon Hall: eloquent in Visayan as he is with English.


Please read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and how bad writing can sometimes make you a critic:


mantong said...

dont watch it ,its fuking nuts,walang kuwenta ito ,its the same filipino indi film na ang tema ay gamitan lang nang sex scene para mabenta lang yung movie,poor storyline potrayed,lousy acting by actors and actress,a trash movie

Cathy Pena said...

I’ve published the comment above just to reiterate the sheer absence of perspective of this opinion.

If the poster above has indeed watched most of the indie film releases, it is a mystery to me how he/she has gotten so impetuous and blind with his comparison of “X-Deal” from the rest. It is a sad thing when such a person can’t even tell that “X-Deal” is indeed a cut above the rest. It isn’t a masterpiece, obviously; it sells sex and blatantly so. After all, it is R-18 and is meant as adult entertainment fare, but all elements that make this superior have been thoroughly discussed and mentioned in my piece.

The element of deduction is really child’s play, which underlines how “Batibot” and its “alin ang naiba segments” provide a basic lesson. This is something that the previous poster has never seemed to learn. When he reads from his Facebook link, he turns livid, makes a google account, and starts flooding my comment inbox with his pedestrian thoughts. “its fuking nuts?” You require lithium therapy, hon? Maybe by then, you will realize that sentences end not with a coterie of commas, but with a period.

I feel “honored” you had to create an account just so you can pour out your frustrations here. And thanks for your 6 redundant comments. Must be cathartic. I wasted 3 precious seconds deleting them.

Don said...

I enjoyed X-Deal but the enjoyment level here is different with the one I had when I watched "Tween Academy". Despite the limitations and garish lighting, Fajardo's mastery of technique is still apparent here in X-Deal. The script's brilliant, making it one of the most quotable films so far ("Tanginang brief yan, green pa!"). The actors were surprisingly competent although some scenes were weirdly dubbed.

And I looove Dana's sagely mom!

Cathy Pena said...

I'm glad you enjoyed "X-Deal" as well, Don. I liked the constant undercurrent waiting to explode; the way atmosphere was created to move the story. After a parade of bad local indies flooding commercial cinema, the film felt fresh and was skillfully made. :->

Re: Dana's mom. She probably needed rehab or a shrink. LOL. What a cookie character indeed.

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Cathy Pena said...

Interesting! :)

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