Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Three in One - Scatterbrain Confusion and Misdirection

Director Rene Cruz, Jr.’sThree in One” is a gibberish gabfest that tries to veer away from the norm of Pinoy Indie-cum-exploitation flick. In fact, it deserves a trophy for not resorting to half a dozen male shower scenes (although there’s one with its female lead). To be honest, we’re so sick of this cheap ploy from unimaginative schmucks. What is the limit of one’s artistic talent if a film maker has 7 shower scenes in a movie that’s barely an hour long? This also clues you in on the sexual orientation of its director – that he isn’t a libidinous, salivating gay man (Paul Singh Cudail – check; GA Villafuerte – check) moonlighting as a clueless film maker so he could ogle at the shortcomings of his male leads. 

Why am I talking about the director’s sexual orientation? Simply put, in such genres, sexual orientation dictates the content and flavor of the film. It predicates on their priorities and leanings, not on their artistic capability. Having said that, let’s get into the heart of the story - if you could call it that.

Director Rene Cruz, Jr. plays the friend who gets cold feet after proposing to his girlfriend. He shares his scenes with Jo Regis.

Three disparate stories are woven together by two friends who hang out together in a third floor pad. For purposes of discussion, let’s call them Rene and Jo since these characters are not given names. Rene (Director Rene Cruz, Jr.) gives his chubbier buddy Jo (Jo Regis) a visit to discuss an exigent matter – he wants to get hitched to his girlfriend Beth. He’s been mulling over the idea for a year. He is 30 and is gainfully employed. He sold some stuff, even his prized Xbox, so he could finance the ring. But minutes after dropping the bomb to his friend, he shifts gears. Suddenly, he gets cold feet. “Bigla na lang… ayun, wala na! Ayoko na!” He is weighed down by his cloak of indecision. Jo decides to take the wheel of their conversation by telling his friend about the people he met at a resort in Laguna (a resort that his family owns).

One day, three rooms are reserved by different customers. The first room is occupied by newlyweds Bimbo and Hannah (Bench dela Torre and Tanya Morales). The couple goes at it like most honeymooners do. But it soon becomes evident that Bimbo, a vain and narcissistic hunk, is more concerned with his sexual needs. Hannah is frustrated. “Ako ang nanligaw sa kanya, ako ang nagyayang magpakasal. Sana minsan, ako naman ang asikasuhin nya,” complains Hannah to Dennis (Jonas Gruet), a stranger she meets at the resort restaurant.

The second room is booked by Dennis (Gruet), a freelance writer who finds himself alone in a different resort. His friends went to another. Dennis intends to make good use of his solitude by hooking up with single ladies in similar situation. He meets frustrated Hannah, but Bimbo finds them and Dennis gets hit on the face. He meets Sherry (Mia Henares), another frustrated wife who gets testy when Dennis asks what it is that’s troubling her. Dennis ends up with a big slap on the face. Finally, he finds Czarina (Barbara Chavez) who, like him, solitarily roams the resort looking for love. After a drinking spree and a minor stripping moment, Dennis gets puked on by the inebriated Czarina.

The third room has old couple Philip and Sherry (Enrique Joe and Mia Henares). They stay in separate beds and even a romp in the hay is as perfunctory as a morning dump. Unemployed Philip feels neglected by Sherry (a manager of a shop somewhere) who performs their conjugal coupling by the number. When he cajoles her with “Sex tayo?”, she nonchalantly disrobes on bed. Philip, all clothed, rides into the moment until Sherry asked with a “Matagal ka pa?” effectively ending their concupiscent rendezvous. They fight. Sherry sleeps while Philip wanks away his sexual frustrations. Sherry catches him so he walks out and joins a drinking party outside.

Bench dela Torre gets lead role in his 2nd film for 2012. He reminds me of the powerful screen charisma of  Pink Films' "it " boy Jeff Luna.

Now how do all these vignettes relate to Rene’s situation? The conceit here is high on philosophical gibberish, i.e. a lot of things could happen in a day, predicating on the ephemeral, temporal nature of things. Will this provide answers for Rene’s dilemma?

The film is divided by Chapter Titles: “Bimbo and Hannah”, “Dennis and Czarina”, “Philip and Sherry” – and subchapters: “Sa Isang Araw, Maraming Puwedeng Mangyari”, “Mabuhay ang Bagong Kasal”, “Ang Araw ng Hassle”, “Happily Ever After”, etc. but what’s clear is the scatterbrain storytelling that confuses the audience more than shedding light. In fact, it breaks grounds by doing a tackily edited “Groundhog Day” scenario, oft repeating scenes to piece the three stories together. These vignettes appear in episodic fashion between Rene and Jo’s protracted conversation that runs the gamut between amusing to weird. How else do you explain a topic about masturbation when the subject at hand is about Rene’s matrimonial Catch-22?

In this discordant thread, Rene and Jo discuss their first time (to self pleasure): one of them started at 13 years old and it lasted for a brisk minute; the other offers that he used sexy tabloids as inspiration; the exquisite use of baby oil; the technique of a good soap lather and a double-hand mash; dad’s porn video stash; one couldn’t masturbate standing up, etc. While the discussion could be interesting, it clearly departs from the narrative focus. Furthermore, you’re hard up hearing about the details because of the noisy “room tone”. This is a major problem in the film because most of the details are drowned out by noise. Getting the details (names, etc.) becomes utter punishment for someone like me who tries to make heads or tails of the story. How else could I share it for Blush, debah?

The two friends also discuss their sexual fantasies: Rene wants to do it with a mascot – and with someone afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome (a neuropsychiatric disorder where a patient suffers with involuntary, albeit violent muscular and verbal tics). Jo bizarrely gets his kicks with Sitophilia (Sitophiles are turned on by food, but this can be through consumption, direct sexual contact with the food or simply by rolling around in it.) He wants steak all over his flabby protruding belly as his partner partakes on the slab of meat. (You don’t wonder why he’s pushing 250 pounds when even during sex, it’s food he’s thinking about.) Do these contribute to move the main story? Or to the arbitrary nature of things (that indeed, a lot of things could change within the day)?

Director Cruz coasts on a badly written script, unable to fully realize any of his three main vignettes. In fact, his scenes with Jo Regis is a tighter film making simply because this doesn't allow him greater level of difficulty in technique. They just stay in a room, talking it away like there's no tomorrow. Most of his lines with Regis are ad libs, thus you end up with scene fillers: "Putang ina", "ang labo mo", "ano ang punto mo", "ang weird"... just to tide over the incipient ideas and lines that eventually made it in the flick. While I am aware that it is important to distinguish the individual elements that comprise the 'design' of a narrative structure, you have to be able to seamlessly piece them together. Instead, his anecdotes are like pages of different uninteresting stories that don't contribute to the movement of the plot. Not legibly anyway. While credits rolled, he thanked his film school for "creating a monster". But from the looks of it, the school hasn't really taught him much. And that's really a lot of wasted finance. Don't tell me this is another DLSU film graduate? Oh dear. :) 

Mia Henares (Marimel Candelaria in real life) plays Sherry, Philip's wife. She's also seen in "Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha".

Jonas Gruet as freelance writer Dennis. This photo from Ian Felix Alquiros who seems to have mastered the art of photographing the male form.

Barbara Chavez (aka Vanessa Kate del Prado in real life): She sometimes looks like an inferior version of dancer Saicy Aguila.

Enrique Joe plays the sexually frustrated husband Philip.

This could be Tanya Morales playing Hannah. Got the photo (by way of deduction) from the theatrical poster of "Ang Lihim ng Mga Nympha".

There’s nothing worth discussing about the performances, but Rene Cruz and Jo Regis enjoy comfortable banter. It’s also evident that any hint of a script is characterized mostly by elementary sketches of gibberish. This is why we hear several (count it and you should have nothing less than a dozen): “Ano ba talaga ang punto mo”, “ang punto ko lang naman ay…”, “ano ba talaga ang ibig mong sabihin,” “tang ina… ang labo mo” - yet there’s no valid perspective anywhere near these redundant utterances. An example of this is: “Matanda ka na kasi tapos pag di ka mamatay, mas tatanda ka pa, eh sinong mag  aalaga sa ‘yo?

Jonas Gruet does a perfunctrory Dennis, but it’s clear that his expletives are as benign as his thespic insight. He could have been a stronger presence had he invested on emotions more than the didactic nature of delivering lines. After all, he is the guy who gets punched, slapped and vomited on. A huge loophole in the story concerns his arrival in the resort. His friends went to a different place while he ended up in Carayan Resort (a place frequented by these indies and Pink Films). Cellphones exist in this day and age, don’t they? Can’t he drive himself to the other resort to join his friends? The rooms were supposedly reserved. What happened to the rooms reserved by his friends? Did he pay for them? Maybe his friends went to Boracay instead. It's possible you know. :)

Bench dela Torre packs a wallop where his cinematic presence is concerned. Now this is a guy who oozes with machismo and sexual charm, the proverbial “artistahin” not found in many of Crisaldo Pablo flicks who prefer his guys cachectic and “dugyutin”. Casting is imperative in a film like this because if the movie can’t offer much in content, the paying audience can at least feast their eyes on the pulchritude of its cast. Unfortunately, Bench dela Torre delivers like a duo-tone robot. His phrases are spewed in two pitches that are as tentative as reciting an alphabet. He could have benefitted from not opening his mouth at all. What did he “show”? You have to remember that this has a straight director, which means, there are no “labas-puwet” shower scenes here. Just tight bikini briefs. For that three-second peekaboo of his “shortcomings”, try GA Villafuerte's "Ang Lihim ng Mga Nympha" where Bench lies completely naked in a dimly lit room (oopps, I saw the mushroom head in its slumbering state) – the review will be posted here soon!

Among the girls, it’s Mia Henares who fares better, although not by much. She flaunts a frontal nudity (she takes off her towel in bed, showing everything) while Enrique Joe (who plays her husband Philip) is fully clothed, humping away until kingdom come. Did I say “come” Naughty me. :)

Barbara Chavez, billed "Barbie" in one of its three theatrical posters suffers from misdirection or the lack of it. I would have expected a little more from her since she has appeared in several film features this year ("Mga Lalake sa Balsa", etc.) Barbie epitomizes the sex nymphet common in the 90's - fair, petite, willing to show her mammaries, clueless. It's Tanya Morales that we could hardly find photographic materials of, although she was also in several flicks this year ("Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha", among others). While it's easy to google photos of the male cast, finding some for the female cast is like finding needle in a haystack. This only underlines the blatant shift of priorities of B-Cinema. Males have become the preferred commodity - and this is dictated by commerce and patronage. If only indie film makers of the genre would try harder, this resurgence of low budget flicks could be beneficial to a lot of parties, most especially the paying audience. 

But that's all wishful thinking.  

Bench horizontally enjoying the water.

Bench dela Torre as exquisitely photographed by Vic Fabe (above).

Director and actor Rene Cruz, Jr. and playful Mia Henares


elmerlovesoreo said...

Ang pogi ni Bench dela Torre!

Cathy Pena said...

@ Elmerlovesoreo:

Amen to that! :)