Thursday, February 2, 2012

Miko Jacinto's Salo - Accommodating Affections

Rene (Paolo Rivero) is 30. Every day, he routinely leaves his steaming cup of coffee on his way to work. He runs a business that his family has left for him. Though relatively well off, Rene keeps to himself. He leads a solitary, albeit lonely life. He also employs a driver Levi (Kristofer King) who waits for him all day. Back home, his grandmother Mila (Anita Linda) lies on her sick bed in a coma. Rene gets regular visits from his “tita” (Perla Bautista) who does odd things for them: she (supposedly) takes care of her bedridden friend and occasionally sets the bashful Rene for blind dates. But he never quite connects with anyone. He in fact harbors a secret that had dire consequences one time he unraveled it. He is gay. And he harbors affection on Levi who unfortunately is in a committed relationship.
When another of Rene's blind dates doesn’t materialize at a beachside resort in Pangasinan, this opens an opportunity for Rene to spend time with Levi who, conveniently, prefers a naked frolic while he enjoys the ocean waves. Will Rene’s wistful glances come to a fruition? Will tattooed Levi entertain his closeted employer? Guess.

Miko Jacinto’sSalo” (Share) is a surprising work. Unlike most pink films, Jacinto engages and dives into his narrative - frame after frame - with hardly a spoken word. In fact, most of the spoken lines are left hanging, i.e. there’s hardly an exchange of words. This eventually creates semblance of mood and nuances. “Salo” also benefits from Romy Suzara’s beautifully composed scenes, giving the impression that this isn’t your hurried, shoddy, one-take production.
But there is a problem where narrative details are concerned. Perla Bautista’s character, for example, bewilders. She’s the coquettish “tita” who “barks” loudly, spewing lines like: “Bumangon ka na. Masaya ang mundo. Naalala mo pa ba, dati sabay tayong nanlalalaki?” You aren’t sure this was meant to be spoken by an elderly matron. In another scene (where she gazes at the driver washing the car), she said: “Type ko siya. Matrona ba, magaling ding maghugas.” When told that Levi’s spoken for, she replied: “Kahit gawin mo pa akong kerida, ok lang!” And as if to seal the real identity – or sexual preference – of the character: “Nakadami ka na ba?” Though I understand that her character was meant to stir vitality to an otherwise dour story, her character is a tad too uncouth to be believable. You only have to see how matronly she dresses to feel this incongruence to her peculiar manner of speaking.

Then there’s Anita Linda, Lola Mila, who’s confined to her sick bed. She doesn't move, doesn't open her eyes, doesn't speak. She was never given a line - not even for a short flashback. And the essence of Anita Linda lies in her expositions which were curiously clipped making this cameo nothing short of befuddling.

When her grandson Rene confessed that he’s actually gay, the news so distraught her, she went into coma. Yes, it's a homosexual-induced comatose it's one for the medical books! This spotlights the gravity of “coming out” – it can drive people to coma! J Moreover, the whole time she lay on her bed, we don’t see her with an IV line or a nasogastric tube. Since she never wakes up; how then does she feed? What’s funnier was when Mila eventually expired, this was when we find evidence of life: a pulsating jugular neck veins and the flickering of lashes. Wee.

Paolo Rivero and Kristoffer King have been around in the business so it doesn’t surprise that they lend their scenes a degree of realism and natural grace. Director Jacinto seems also aware of the thespic limitations of Jeff Luna (who plays King’s live-in partner Manny) so his spoken scenes have been played down; his dramatic lines are cleverly shot with half of his body partially covered by frames or shadows.

Because of its genre, de rigueur scenes of nudity find Rivero and King in states of undress, each has 4 bathing scenes, while King shares a shower with Jeff Luna. Showers and bathing scenes constitute a salient feature of a Pinoy Pink, didn’t you know? But consider King’s amusing scenes at the beach: he runs towards the shore then gradually takes his clothes off as he plunges into the waters. Between huge boulders, he pulls down his briefs then sits on a rough bed of pointy, sandy, scratchy corals. Can you imagine what particles get lodged in his anatomical crevices? Ouch.

Despite carefully planned scenes and artistic experimentations, there’s something gravely disturbing about an elder lady – a “tita” – who advocates polygamy. I was having second thoughts if Perla Bautista wasn’t meant to play a transvestite. Let me cogitate on that.

Jeff Luna, the sexy king of monotones.


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