Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Swedish Potboiler in Steamy "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"


After having been set up and disgraced, journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) faces a 3 month jail term for libeling a businessman. But before he's set to serve his sentence, he has 6 months to solve the 40-year mystery of the disappearance (and believed death) of a 16 year old girl named Harriet Vanger. With no work in sight and oodles of money laid on the table, he accepts and travels to the island estate owned by a secretive rich clan where he will commence his investigations.

But along the way, he uncovers unsavory secrets involving members of the Vanger clan. With the help of a hacker Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) - who's stuck with a despotic probationary officer (they refer to the program as "guardianship") and a troublesome past, Mikael is gradually turning over fragile threads to the lost narrative, placing his life - and Lisbeth's - in peril.

With brilliantly pieced stories that could have been 3 disparate, albeit separate stories, this Swedish suspense drama boils to feverish peaks and doesn't let up until puzzles have been pieced together. Performances are top notch, and cinematography captures the cliffhanger atmosphere running throughout the story. Settings for the fictional Hedestad were shot in Sodermanlands; the rest were in Stockholm; frames beautifully captured in moody, frozen, detached backdrop.






The story is adapted from a best selling trilogy of novels by Stieg Larsson who, at the time of his death in 2004, left 3 unpublished novels that would make up the "Millennium Trilogy". The first novel is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Larsson, as a 15 year old child, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl named Lispeth. He never forgave himself for failing to help the girl who inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books. In the UK, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opened to critical acclaim in March 2010 and made more than £2 million at the box office. Sales of the DVD on its 19 July release have made it the highest selling foreign language title of the year in the UK. In 2010 David Fincher ("The Social Network") was set to direct a Hollywood adaptation, for release in December 2011.

Daniel Craig (of "James Bond" fame) is set to play Mikael, while Rooney Mara was tapped to play Lispeth Salander. Others in the cast: Robin Wright, Christopher Plummer, and Stellan Skarsgard.











Monday, March 28, 2011

Film Masters Spotlight - Bunuel & Dali's "Un Chien Andalou" - Walking the Weird Side


You have to be in a certain frame of mind to sit through Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 surrealistic masterpiece, “Un Chien Andalou” which is better untranslated (“Andalusian Dog”) to grasp the grandeur of such avant garde film making. It is filled with aberrant readings and crazy anticpations, as was advised prior to my viewing a couple of years ago. But we earlier promised, we had to do a repeat viewing so we can feature this classic. More than anything, this is the Experimental Film in its purest, unadulterated form. (Not something as predictably cheap, trashy and predictable as "Masikip sa Tatlo".)

The film is a series of unorthodox images that feature a pair of lovers who provocatively opens a scene with the man slicing his girlfriend’s left eyeball with a razor blade. Then in twisted chronological fashion, it jumps 8 years later where the same guy hits a curb of the road while biking. The lady from the window comes down to gather him, then like a dream, he is shown gazing at his hand with dark giant ants scurrying around. The camera then pans succesively at a lady’s armpit then the blades of a flower. These images come in steady succession, each one with discordant narrative from the next.

One of the most provocative is the guy mashing the girl’s breasts (this, after all was 1929). When she runs for cover, he suddenly finds a pair of ropes and starts hauling them off until we see that these were attached to a piano with dead donkeys on top and two Jewish men behind the piano.




In the surreal world, as in abstract art (Dali’s realm), it’s the viewer who makes the meaning, wading through aesthetic pretentions. Cinema, after all, is a halfway state between films and dreams; a superimposition of dreams and everyday reality. In dreams, narrative coherence isn’t always expected or achieved. This is the basis from which surrealists have embraced cinema as a medium of expression.

Salvador Dali was 25, while Luis Bunuel was 29 when they received a cash gift from Bunuel’s mother. This prompted them to make a 16 minute film that opened all doors to the irrational; one that followed the logic of dreams. It took them a fortnight to shoot the scenes. When they finally premiered it in Paris, they received massive critical acclaim. The film then run for 8 months!








The title, “Andalusian Dogs” is supposedly the title of an anthology of unpublished poems of Salvador Dali, but this – ambiguous and not really found within the tale – found itself as title to one of the most spell-binding masterpiece on surrealism.

It isn’t everyday that you get to watch such provocative images bunched up in 16 minutes of black and white montage. Whether this is appreciated easily by any audience is debatable, but you will never forget the images. They get stuck in your mind for a while. I am not either if that’s a good thing. These artists are too preoccupied by death, sin, guilt, mutilation, fetishism and decay. Just maybe when we've encountered them, we will be adept at staying away from such grey-and-dark matters.



Salvador Dali (left) and Robert Pattinson playing Dali in "Little Ashes" (right).


Director Luis Bunuel





Saturday, March 26, 2011

Naughty Film Corner: Brilliantlove aka "The Orgasm Diaries"


Once in a while, there are things that challenge my level of comfort. I am no prude and I've had my share of art house hits, but none that comfortably delves into an unbridled passionate love with simmering frankness.

Such is Ashley horner's "Brilliantlove" aka "The Orgasm Diaries".

It's a sweltering summer in an English countryside. 18 year old Manchester (Liam Browne) spends his lazy hours sleeping, shoplifting, and constantly engaging in raw, enthusiastic, passionate sex with his plucky girlfriend Noon (Nancy Trotter Landry) who's magnetized by the youthful frolicky charm of the struggling photographer. Together, nothing else matters. They spend their days in Manchester's rundown garage, unmindful of concerns that inhabit most other human being. One day, Manchester inadvertently leaves (at a pub) a set of random photographs he has taken of their intimate sexual games. A wealthy gentleman named Franny (Michael Hodgson) finds them and instantly recognizes Manchester's talent - one that eventually thrusts him to the realm of the lucrative Erotic Art.

Though initially oblivious to Franny's offer, Manchester soon discovers the pleasure of a wad of british pounds; of owning a car; of sleeping in a posh British villa; and the adoring appreciation of art aficionados. In fact, every item from his exhibit (of his and Noon's love making) gets bought! There's one problem: Noon is unaware of the source of Manchester's expeditious accumulation of wealth! Suddenly, the innocence of summer is threatened by the brisk turn of events in the lives of the young couple.








With a surfeit of uninhabited nudity, sexual and otherwise, the exposition tackles the nature of a youthful and passionate romance in vivid, albeit provocative narrative strokes. We see the couple in various states of undress, in manifold angles and views, giving the impression that nudity, in its natural state, is not an affliction we have to avoid.

I have to salute Liam Browne and Nancy Trotter Landry for their brave, instinctive (and even pragmatic?) performance that have them in various states of undress. Browne, particularly, gets to wash his genitals on screen; brave the freezing English oceans (despite what cold water does to the male genitalia); masturbate to a sleeping Noon; urinate and even (suggestively) "orgasm" (thus its alternative title) in front of the screen. Too graphic? You have to watch it in the context of the way this story has been "calmly" and eloquently told. Cinematography captures the essence of an Indian summer, as well as the atmosphere of unadulterated affection. In fact, some of the more powerful scenes involve dialogue-free scenes. The thematic sexual burden initially provokes, but such unease eventually dissipates.

The film gets mixed reviews, but it is a gem in my book.

If you're not too prude of in-your-face nudity, this movie (unlike 90% of sex-oriented Philippine indie movies) will impart a degree of catharsis far removed from orgasm.


Machester (Liam Browne) and Noon (Nancy Trotter Landry) enjoying a hot summer before "opportunity" knocks at his door.











Liam Browne will appear next in another British film that tackles hedonism, "Lotus Eaters".



Here is an excerpt from Mr. Browne's interview with Mr. Eric Sclapack at the Edinburgh Film Festival:



Film Festivals Examiner: How did you come to be an actor, was this something you always wanted to do or did it come later in life?

Liam Browne: Well it was something I kind of enjoyed at school as I loved f^@%^# about and this gave me a whole hour to f^$# about without getting told off. People said I was good so I sort of stuck at it, then I got a bit older; thought it would be a good way to get girls which, let me tell you, at drama school being straight and normal, it was! I then went to train with David Johnson, who taught me a hell of a lot about acting and I was still trying to be an actor for many years, getting the odd small part, but nothing major and was working as a window fitter full time.

I always find auditioning very hard and am no good at being over nice to new people so I struggle getting parts. Acting is not something I have ever put 100% of my time into as I have met actors who have and their lives seem limited.

I love to travel and won’t just wait around in hope that a part is going to turn up. I actually gave up acting for almost 3 years whilst I was studying surveying at university. I moved away from home to London, met a lot new people with new ideas, artists and people I classed as cool and I no longer thought I had to be famous or have crazy ambitions and want everyone to look at me. So after university I didn't know what to do so I decided I wanted to get back in to it as I thought I would kill myself if I took the route of a graduate and work in the city in an office. I feel that I now come at acting from a different angle a more mature angle, I don’t want to be famous, I don’t want to be rich, and I don’t want to just get girls. I just want to find challenging projects that excite me and that I would like to watch myself. I feel that having my heart broken has also helped me a lot as I can now understand and covey this emotion.

Before I got the part in brilliantlove I was actually planning give up acting to go travelling for a few years teaching English and doing charity work.

FFE: What is your favorite part of being an actor, least favorite?

Browne: At the moment I wouldn't actually say I was an Actor, as I have done very little work since finishing the film, so I am just a bloke looking for work as an actor. That's the worst bit, I learnt so much working on brilliantlove and I want to keep learning and getting better, and I need work to do that. The best bit is being able to lose yourself in a character and see which bits of yourself and others around you can take and put into that person. It’s also intriguing to have conversation about what motivates that character and what their background is, I guess it’s like reading a book, everyone will have a different imagination.

FFE: Why did you do this film? What drew you to it?

Browne: I loved the script, I loved the love in the script and being a romantic I was drawn to that! After reading it the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and for me that's a sign that something is amazing and it’s had a major impact on me. Even though the script is so graphic, dirty and raw there is a soft sweetness that the writer possesses, which portrays love and emotion in such a beautiful way.

I would say the main reason for me doing the film is what I stated above but then when reading the script there are still so many questions, about how the sex is going to come across and how it would be dealt with and who is making this film. I then met Ashley at the audition and immediately liked him but still I had questions as my agent was not keen on me doing it. I found Ash warm, calm, and reassuring, but honest. After this I went away and researched Ash, Sean and Pinball films, this made me want to do the film more than I ever wanted anything. Ash was in an Indie band, Sean was labeled as a f^$*#^@ genius by Rankin, and the Pinball website was f^$%*@# cool. They seemed to have similar interests as me and and I knew they were the dream combination for my first feature film!

FFE: How did you deal with the scenes in the film where you were intimate with Nancy, or yourself? I guess, it seems like it is one of the more difficult things an actor is asked to do, so how are you able to do it?

Browne: Well me and Nancy were both new to this, we didn't know the etiquette actors have, so we just made it up! We talked in depth about it, coming up with ways to make it as believable as possible. We knew everything was in place for a great film, great script writer, great director, and crew and we didn't want to let anyone down. We wanted to be at their level so we said we have to just throw ourselves at it a million percent make it as raw and believable as possible, make the love seem as if it about to explode at any given moment and that passion and commitment for one another pours out of the screen.

I think the rehearsal process helped a lot with this as we broke down a lot of barriers with the help of Mr Horner which made actually performing on set comfortable and knowing that we had a lot of respect from the crew for what we were trying to do.

The reason I was able to do it is that I have very little fear, if something is scary I will want to do it. I love challenges and new experiences, and I like the adrenaline I get when I am out of my comfort zone but I survive. Manchester goes through a roller-coaster of emotions during the film, and often he portrays his emotion in a sexual way, as some people do. As I have said before, I found doing the emotional scenes that didn't have a sexual content more difficult as it wasn't my body on show but my inner feelings I had to use to get me to a place I needed to be. I personally would have preferred a closed set for these scenes than the sex scenes. A cock is a cock, but a heart and a mind are very fragile personal things that are very hard to lay bare.



(Read the entire interview here: http://www.examiner.com/film-festivals-in-national/an-interview-with-liam-browne-from-eiff-sensation-brilliantlove-that-you-have-to-read)







Friday, March 25, 2011

Hostage Ko Multo - Hundred Tired Gags in Cornucopia of Inanities


The title of this Junn P. Cabreira movie, "Hostage Ko Multo" reminds me of the blood curdling Crisaldo Pablo diarrheic stool called "Kiss Meeh, Manananggal Me" that starred the ebullient English patient, Alyssa Alano. Is it as crass, unfocused and imbecilic? Come on, Crisaldo Pablo has really lorded it over the most execrable film works ever released commercially in the Philippines!

"Hostage Ko Multo" is a wee bit better, but not by much.

Capsule

Isko (Smokey Manaloto) and Iska (Mariz Santiago) leave their humdrum lives in Bicol to seek greener pastures in Manila, but with hardly a plan or a place to go, they end up getting robbed off their money. Fortunately, they were mistaken as the new househelps in Don Emilio's (Jun Urbano) household. They find friends in Kikay, the mayordoma (Lea Ledesma), and Jinggoy, the driver (Jacob Medalla). What follows is a steady supply of "Bubble Gang" gags and harmless flirtations of the quartet. A perky musical number is even thrown in to showcase the voice of Iska and Kikay. But just when we were starting to think we were watching the 3rd world version of the "Sound of Music", they introduced another plot device - ghosts! Isko occasionally feels the presence of "ghosts". But they readily forgot this until a gang of thugs attacked the reclusive Chinese businessman Don Emilio - who's constantly shown trimming plants: grapes, hedges, trees, bonsai. Name your plant, he's trimming it!

The delightful household gets hostaged by gun-toting baddies (headed by Robert Miller). They are demanding P50 million pesos. Don Emilio's "chief security officer" (the new King of Over-acting himself, Roldan Aquino) - who's recently undergone circumcision - is helpless as he waits outside the gate. What becomes of the chirpy group of hostages? Whatever happened to the ghosts? If you have the knack of putting elements together, you can summon a good guess, and you just might get it!

Director Junn P. Cabreira's last cinematic venture was a sex drama - "Asawa Mo, Misis Ko" - starring Sheila Ysrael, Via Veloso and Patrick Guzman. This was shown 14 years ago! Prior to that, Cabreira helmed a lot of Joey Marquez sex-comedies ("Mahal, Saan Ka Natulog Kagabi", "Flavor of the Month", "Lover's Delight", "Mahal Ko Ang Mister Mo"). His 90's sensibilities filter throughout "Hostage Ko Multo" as he peppers the whole crap (did i say "crap"? ooopss!) with a hundred and one tired old gags, you'd think you were watching inferior vesions of "Banana Split", "Loko Moko U" or "Bubble Gang".

To illustrate these gags, here are just a few:

Isko (upon reading a sign that says "Wanted: GRO, Waiter, Driver"): "Tanungin natin baka puwedeng mag apply!"
Iska: "Tanga! Wanted ng mga pulis yan!"

***

Kikay: "Heto ang fried chicken. Kain na kayo."
Isko (taking the whole chicken for himself): "Di yan (Iska) kumakain ng kahit na anong hayop na may mukha."

***

A mongo-sized booger (kulangot) is seen just above Isko's upper lip. Kikay and Jinggoy tells him that he has rice above his lips. He proceeds by eating it, then he says, "Di naman kanin yun. Maalat alat eh!" (IMHO, Gross is never funny!)

***

Jinggoy (on Kikay): "Ang huling boyfriend nyan, namatay sa kahihiyan!"
Kikay (on Jinggoy): "Ang huling girlfriend nyan, namatay sa galis!"

***

When Iska complains of the lack of ventilation inside the maid's quarters, Kikay points to the refrigerator near them. She opens the ref and remarks: "Pag gising mo bukas, ice candy ka na!"

***

Kikay instructs Iska to place sugar at the salt container, and salt at the sugar container. When Iska asks why, Kikay replies: "Para wag langgamin!" (Huh?)

***

Isko asks Don Emilio the difference between "dinner" and "supper" - and why he keeps interchanging the two words. His reply: "Ang 'dinner', pag kumakain ako sa labas masarap kasi masarap ang pagkain sa restaurants . 'Supper" kasi I "suffer" pag kinakain ko ang luto ni Kikay!"




Some of the lines really scrape the bottom. When Jinggoy gives Kikay a bunch of roses, she remarks, "Nung huling binigyan mo ako ng rosas, ang dalawang buwang suweldo ko, inutang mo!"

***

Boy: "Ano ang tawag sa lumulutang sa dagat? Nasa letter S."
Girl: "Sirena"
Boy: "Hindi siya babae."
Girl: "Syokoy"
Boy: "Di sya lalaki."
Girl: "Syoki!"
Boy: "Eh di Salbabida!"

***

Isko: "Ba't laging Chinese ang kinikidnap?"
Don Emilio: "Kasi pag Pinoy, hulugan. Pag Bombay, 5:6. Pag Amerikano, credit card. Pag Chinese, cash!"




Despite a trite material, Smokey Manaloto mines his comedic flair, making the tired inanities bearable. It also helps that editing is brisk, giving the gags and their punchlines perfunctory character. Awkward executions, common among indie directors, are kept to a minimum. This should be attributable to Director Cabreira's long experience in the industry. Even the newbies: Jacob Medalla, Lea Ledesma, Mariz Santiago, do their effusive best to catch up with Manaloto and Jun Urbano (who does his bit of Mr. Shooli here, with his tsinoy speak). The newcomers occasionally falter with insipid punch lines and unmoderated reactions, but there's really so much you can do with the material. At the very least, you could give them a pat for their enthusiasm.

This cinematic smorgasbord feels like a glorified and expanded TV gag show. An easy clue on its unfocused concept is flaunted by its title: "Hostage Ko Multo"! Taking the first person, it is obvious that the "titular" character ("ko") is either Smokey Manaloto or Jun Urbano, but why would either Isko or Don Emiliano hostage ghosts? They were the hostages, for Pete's sake! Not the ghosts! But "Hostage Ko Multo" rhymes, doesn't it?

Titular rhyming is sometimes more important than rational titling, right?


Six footer Jacob Medalla plays driver Jinggoy.


Leah Ledesma plays mayordoma Kikay who has her eyes on conceited Jinggoy.









Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Roomate - A Barren Canvass


Bunking in with a stranger is a tricky proposition. In my opinion, there has to be a checklist to satisfy a criteria before I'd be able to come to terms with a roommate. But Sarah Matthews (Minka Kelly) would eventually learn her lesson when new roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester) starts obsessing on her.

It was, at first, a peachy situation, with smiles and concessions laid down a common habitat, but Sarah's friends eventually gets the ire of Rebecca's resentment, including her best friends Tracy (Alyson Michalka) and Irene (Danneel Harris), ex boyfriend Jason (Matt Lanter), and the stray kitten who ends up getting thoroughly "bathed". When Sarah complains of her Design professor (Billy Zane) coming on to her, Rebecca exacts his comeuppance. Only boyfriend Stephen (Cam Gigandet) escapes Rebecca's furtherance, or does he?







There isn't much into the development of these cardboard characters. They were written with in-your-face conventionality and predictability. In fact, you could chronologically annotate with precision the exact events happening on screen - as they happen. There was no hint of going beyond this trite roommate-from-hell scenario. Some details are in fact triflingly thrown into the narrative: Rebecca's a pill popper; her parents are circumspect around her; she's jealous of everyone's attention on Sarah; she acts like a lesbian in heat. The character sketch is too undiscriminating to discern there's not much talent from the writing board.

The only good news: the cast is a beautiful ensemble. Otherwise, there's nothing in its barren canvass.






Leighton Meester is next seen in the rom-com "Monte Carlo" with Selena Gomez and Glee's Cory Monteith. She's still in "Gossip Girl" as Blair Waldorf.


Minka Kelly will be seen next as a kickass angel in the new TV remake of "Charlie's Angels".


Minka Kelly


Cam Gigandet


Matt Lanter was recently seen in the execrable "Vampires Suck" portraying Edward Cullen's alter ego Edward Sullen. He'll be seen next alongside Burt Reynolds and Cary Elwes in "Ruby McCollum".


Matt Lanter portrayed Anakin Skywalker in the animated film, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. When he's not acting, this 5'10" Ohio cutie enjoys being outdoors, playing golf and relaxing at the beach.


Matt Lanter (above and below)






Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wear Your Thinking Cap With Pacino in "You Don't Know Jack"



It took me some time to get myself to watch Barry Levinson's "You Don't Know Jack". It just felt too heavy that it may just weight down your day. But when I finally did, I couldn't leave my seat. The best part of it is how it presents arguments that don't dumb down its audience, and for the most part, I am grateful to the genius of director Barry Levinson (who used to do high-profile movies) - and the performance of a great cast headed by actor extraordinaire, Al Pacino, who already won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role here.

The story follows the heroic persuasions of a 61 year old pathologist, Dr. Jack Kevorkian (Al Pacino) who has taken it upon himself to devise methods to help terminally ill patients end their suffering - "assisted suicide". In the state of Michigan, euthanasia (mercy killing) is still a crime, but not the act of assisting persons who wish to end their lives. Some 130 clients later, Kevorkian further provokes the law by performing a documented active euthanasia on a person with Lou Gehrig's Syndrome or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a debilitating and ultimately fatal neuromuscular disease.

Kevorkian does present a valid argument, but right in the midst of things is the basic principle of the sanctity of life and its preservation - that no person possesses the right to take another life, although this has basically been debated upon by those who advocate the death penalty. I am of the old school that stands on the precept that a physician heals, not kills, regardless of any reason for terminating a life. When the tough gets going, do we carry the right to terminate it?

Fact is, we never know for sure, unless we find ourselves in the same situation as the other 131 patients. Kevorkian paid the price - and he paid dearly - 8 1/2 years in prison - for challenging the law. And for someone who's supposed to be smart, he overestimated himself. Otherwise, why would his loyal assistant (John Goodman) and his lawyer friend (Danny Huston) refuse to participate in his final Solomonic act?

This HBO production got 15 nominations at the Emmy's last year, and won for Mr. Pacino the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movies. Other acting nominees from this film include John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Brenda Vaccaro (as Jack's sister).

Not to be missed!




Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Welcome To The Rileys - Poignant and Inspiring Yarn



The most poignant moment in Jake Scott’s Welcome To The Rileys” happens between married couple Doug and Lois (James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo, respectively).

At first glance, the couple lives a harmonious and affluent household. But not long ago, they lost their only daughter in a car accident. Lois has become agoraphobic, refusing to get out of their house. This has ushered an unusual household mechanics that they have to deal with on a daily basis. As a consequence, Doug tries to stay away from the depressive atmosphere of his home life. When Doug’s mistress suddenly succumbs to an illness, the strain in the couple’s relationship starts to unravel. Doug is inconsolable. When he had to attend a conference in New Orleans, he meets a tough talking stripper Mallory (Kristen Stewart) who reminds Doug of his daughter. He suddenly refuses to return to Indianapolis, posing himself as Mallory’s guardian. What happens to the agoraphobic Lois?

Once Lois learns of her husband’s plans, she gathers herself, and with all her resolve, braves her fears, and drives her car to see Doug in New Orleans. This is a daunting 1,320 kilometers (820 miles)! It was her first time in the outside world – in 5 years!




The couple’s reunion was awash with emotions; tentative glances, elation, and a deep affection that’s palpable and real! Such moments make cinema a repository of priceless moments!

I am not a fan of “The Sopranos” but Gandolfini absolutely won me over. It was refreshing to find Kristen Steward exploring emotions outside Bella Swan’s constant pout, she was almost “scary” as the foul mouthed Mallory (with enough cuss words to hang around a Christmas tree).

Melissa Leo on the other offered the most insightful performance as the grieving Lois who allowed her husband to keep an extra marital affair. At times, she reminded me of Helen Mirren. Her understated grace is too far removed from her Oscar nominated turn as a human trafficker in “Frozen River”, as well as her Golden Globe winning role as Mark Wahlberg’s feisty mom in “The Fighter”. It’s these understated character studies that make watching movies so fulfilling.



Doug becomes guardian to wayward soul Mallory. Here, they wait for laundry together.





Agoraphobic Lois refuses to leave her house, until his husband decides to stay in New Orleans.


Aside from the Twilight sequels, Kristen Stewart will be part of Jack Kerouac's road tales, "On The Road" - directed by one of my favorite directors Walter Salles ("Behind the Sun", "Central Station", "The Motorcycle Diaries").







Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bikini Boys - Consented Exploitation and Seedy Confessions



WARNING!

This feature contains sexual content, direct quotations from the its "documentary" subjects (pageant contestants). DO NOT PROCEED TO READ IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY SEXUAL MATERIAL. This, like most of the local films featured in this blog, is a "review" of a film we saw at a commercial cinema. The details have been painstakingly included to provide an objective description of the movie's contents.


UNNERVING EXPERIENCE

It's a bit unnerving finding myself in a cinema showing well sculpted, albeit half naked men constantly threatening to pull down their skimpy bikini briefs - moreover, they seem to have mastered sliding down their hands underneath their briefs to check out if the family jewels were still there. Are they detachable? And every time they do, I felt like slouching down my seat - then wear a Venetian mask as I'd eventually make my way out of the theater hall. Is paying for an admission fee a form of condoning the obvious exploitation? This is what I get for this obstinate desire to watch all local commercial releases.

BIKINI PAGEANT DOCUMENTARY

Styled like a pageant and documentary, director Rad Francisco's "Bikini Boys" features 10 physically fit men who join a bikini contest. The criteria for winning is never mentioned, but I was sure it included the propensity to caress oneself in front of a camera. Each contestant is presented in an interview. After which, he is highlighted in an erotic solo scene where he ends up languidly breaking the 4th wall as he slides his hands down his crotch. This is obviously the art of masturbating with briefs on. LOL. To cap a scene, the contestant is then shown by the poolside, taking some laps before getting out of the water on his wet bikini.

LITTLE STORIES AND SEEDY CONFESSIONS

It is interesting how these men are lured into such an endeavor, as they superficially get to unravel in their individual interview portions (yes, they're still in bikinis while getting interviewed).

Eugene Tejada, the 21 year old runaway winner, did it for the "exposure". This, he hoped, would open opportunities and maybe allow him the chance to follow Dingdong Dantes' footsteps (his "idol"). One of three siblings in a middle class family, Eugene took Food Technology at the Bulacan State University. He admits to having had several girl friends in the past. It's his second time to join a male pageant and he "liked the experience". "Feeling ko, artista ako," he enthuses on the attention showered on him. Even his first sexual experience is asked: "First time ko, 16." Prodded about sexual encounters with gay men, he says he had one when he was 18. "70% naman ng mga artistang lalaki, meron eh," he rationalizes. Wherever did he get his figure? Favorite food: "Cake... because it's sweet." Tejada, blessed with boyish charm, is a natural interviewee; he is candid and speaks with confidence despite the relative sensitivity of some intrusive questions. I guess he knew what he was getting into. Did he deserve to win? This 5'10" looker obviously has the best chance to crossover to mainstream cinema, in my opinion.

Some interviews get too abrasively intrusive, short and disinterested. DJ, for example, gets asked about his sexual stamina. "I've done 7x in a day," he replies, and considers "doggy style" his favorite position. The only other thing we learn from him: he grew up with a single mom, and he is currently single.

Jethro Sanchez is a male pageant fixture. He's been in contests held in San Juan, Novaliches and Fairview. His best finish: 1st runner up. How does he prepare for a contest: diet and gym. He admits to not having any gay experience yet. How often does he pleasure himself? "Dati nung nasa apartment pa ako, araw araw," he declares matter of factly. Which does make me blush. Favorite position: missionary and dog style.

Jerome, 21, is in his 2nd contest. He previously won "Darling of the Crowd" (you'd wonder what he actually did to please the crowd) and "Mr. Placenta". Life hasn't been easy for Jerome. He grew up not having the constant presence of his dad. "Second family kami, at dalawa ang kapatid ko," he says. He's had two girl friends in the past. He hails from Floridablanca, Pampanga.




It is Carlo Serrano's second time to join a contest. This 5'11" Ilocano, currently residing in Quezon City, is taking Tourism in Trinity College. His dad works at the Customs while mom stays home. Though he's currently unattached, this 20 year old chinito has had 3 girl friends in the past, and works in a bar. His first sexual awareness was at age 7 when he inadvertently watched an X-rated film. Says he has no sexual experience with gay men. Favorite sport: Volleyball. When he pulls down his undergear's lining, we see a couple of tattoos of huge stars peeping from under. Who knows there could be a whole gamut of constellations if he pulled his bikini further. A moon maybe? LOL

Jay Viernes, with his sexy chinky eyes and 5'11" frame, asserts a magnetic presence in front of the camera. He should be Tejada's main competition. This 19 year old looker took HRM in Lyceum and is currently working as a waiter. He lost his virginity in 3rd year high school to his second girl friend.

Jed Rivera's only entry during the interview was losing his virginity at 14 to his then girl friend during the JS Prom. Rommel Rabida is better seen than heard, but he is also one of the more provocative and less inhibited in the bunch. He admits to having lost virginity at 15 to his girl friend, but soon thereafter, he got his first time with a gay man. He joins these contests to help support the studies of his siblings. In one scene, he is shown changing his briefs in front of the cam (while cupping his endowments). But of course, something has to peep through.





Dandy Yap is a curiosity. He is a Korean model who wants to experience joining a male pageant. His skin is luminescent and his accent is noticeable. He would say "I rearned my Tagarog" (learned my Tagalog) - and "You nevel know who wir win", which sounded sexy. LOL. He then pleads to the audience to "Vote for me. If i win, I can stay longer (in the Philippines)". Then adds, "If you see me in a club, tell me you voted for me. I will buy you a drink." It is rather unusual to find foreigners join such contests because this isn't exactly Body Shots which has spawned several big names!

Clyde Cruz works at a call center, but I find his enunciation a bit troubling. His rolls his words together, they sound incomprehensible at times. He has won a couple of male pageants in Alabang before, thus he carries himself with confidence. He is a bathroom denizen, taking at least 45 minutes to shower, then 1 hour and 30 minutes to "fix" himself up. Asked about his bedroom jaunts, he boasts, "Ang pinaka-wild ko, 8 to 10 rounds in 12 hours." Are we talking about food? Or online games? Or musical chairs? Then he adds, "Karamihan sa kuwarto." LOL

There was absolutely nothing about DJ Lopez so he must have lost a few points without an interview - or the makers weren't interested in one. But of course, he still has to do the requisite "caressing of the crotch" then jumping into the pool. That's the main objective of the contest: to get them wearing a bikini then parade them wet!



Jethro Sanchez and Jed Rivera


To be honest about it, I was surprised to find such flagrant display of masculinity (constant mashing of crotch) sans the customary pretense of a story because this, after all, is a documentary and reality TV-styled bikini contest. Rommel Rabida is even seen thumbing his genitals as he prepares to face the camera for his swimming pool shots. (That way, it doesn't "shrink" when he jumps into the pool, perhaps?) Another guy is highlighted showering for the requisite peekaboos. There is no doubt about it, "Bikini Boys" is made to titillate and display the masculine form.

DVD FIRST, COMMERCIAL EXHIBITION LATER

I am, of course, of the idea that such cinematic project seems misplaced in a public cinema. I feel this should only be made available in the privacy of someone's bedroom. There is something quite seedy having it shown in a commercial cinema. My friend Kyle told me that a DVD of this film was actually released last year, which commenced an online contest through the all-male site www.rddantes.com. This means that the DVD version doesn't have Eugene Tejada as the winner yet, right? But what intrigues me is the "amount" of frontal nudity possibly available in the DVD version. The commercial film offers a couple of fleeting frontals. Does the DVD offer more?

CENSORSHIP, OPPRESSION & THE ARCHAIC SYSTEM

The question above is a valid one because we are curious of the new MTRCB's permissiveness and liberal sensibilities. Ms. Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the new Chairman, seems like a smart executive who hails from a more liberal new generation. Though I am not too pleased that a movie like "Bikini Boys" gets shown commercially, I am also more concerned with the continued presence of "censorship" in this country (Check out Nicholas Cage's latest actioner, "Drive Angry" and tell me you aren't jarred by its numerous cuts.). We should adopt a more acceptable Ratings System where the artistic freedom of expression in films is upheld - no cuts, no censorship. Censorship, after all, is oppressive! Haven't we learned anything from the despotic Marcos Regime? Let the public choose what they want to watch, according to a well appointed ratings system (i.e. G, PG, R, NC-17 and X). Cutting provocative or sexual scenes is archaic and belongs to small minds and socially repressed societies.

Are we a backward society? "Censorship" still exists in the Philippines. Maybe we are.


Carlo Serrano and Clyde Cruz


DJ Lopez and JayViernes


Korean model Dandy Yap


Rommel Rabida, one of the braver contestants (with Dandy behind him).