Friday, July 20, 2012

Cleo Paglinawan's Bikini King - Funny for the Wrong Reasons

Ike (Ike Sadiasa), an aging gay man, is documenting his tale before a camera prior to committing suicide.He is a jaunty talent coordinator who scours the country for able bodied young men willing to join a bikini contest, promising fame, fortune and - if they sleep with him - the crown. The invitation is, of course, more artifice than anything else. It becomes clear that his invites are meant to lure these hopeful candidates to his concupiscent bed. With balding head, sagging skin and protruding belly, Ike walks from all over town with a camera hanging down his neck. One by one, he meets his wards.

There's Peter Asuncion (Jeremy Ian), pool cleaner by day, but moonlights as an exotic dancer by night. Though initially reluctant, Pete eventually surrenders himself to the wiles of his "mentor" just so he could grab the "bikini championship", something that Ike promised. On their 5th date, Pete insists, "Dapat nasa top 5 ako." But Ike is having second thoughts about Pete's talent who proudly declares, "Pilipit man ang dila ko, derecho naman etits ko." Ike's next proteges are construction workers Rey Gatdula and Leo Delgado (Rocco Mateo and Nico Baltazar) who were likewise circumspect about the contest. While deciding, something happens between Rey and Leo. "Ano'ng nangyari sa atin kanina? Bading ba tayo? Bakit tayo nag sex?" asks Leo. To solve their dilemma, they both decide to sleep with the neighborhood slut Jenny ("yung pokpok sa kabilang kanto" - played by Barbara Chavez). They magnanimously arrive at a conclusion: "Nag enjoy tayo kay Jenny. Pero nag enjoy din naman tayo sa isa't isa." How fetching, right?

Meanwhile, Ike is making hay, recruiting even street urchins playing basketball by the road side: Paul Gutierrez of Malabon (his motto: "Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga. Kapag may nilaga, may hihilata!") Michael del Rosario of Caloocan; Leonardo Gatmaitan (his motto: "Di po ako naniniwala sa mga kasabihan kasi kung sinu sino lang naman nagsasabi nun - maliban na lang sa sinasabi ng nanay ko!") Finally, there's Jhustine Phaglinawan (Jerome Pineda): "I'm 18, and I'm from Cainta." His motto: "Ang lalaking mabait sa bakla ay may cash na napapala. I thank you" That being said, young and hunky Justin is desperate to win, occasionally warning his recruiter not to betray him or his father would hunt him down. While Ike gets infatuated with the charming looker, he soon learns that the Bikini Contest is shelved because of the paucity of sponsors. Meanwhile, his wards have been pressuring him about his promises. What's worse, his savings have dwindled and collectors are beating down his door. What to do?

Much as I'd hate to admit this, director Cleo Paglinawan's latest flick has more narrative flesh than any of her other works combined. In fact, a hint of sarcasm is held up against the exploitative nature inherent in such male pageants. However, satire only works when it's well executed or performed. Otherwise, the gnawing message gets lost in artistic subordinacy. This isn't saying that "Bikini King" is a superior work. I'd croak first if I were to say that. Paglinawan's artistic dearth is as discernible in the film's redundant scenes as it is in her ability to weave valid situations: there's too much shower and bathing scenes that seem to tie up the incipient vestiges of a story. If these aren't bathing scenes, they come in the form of nubile young men posing and parading around in their skimpy bikini briefs, getting soaked by a gush of water (all filmed in Villa Apolonia in San Mateo, Rizal).

Despite Paglinawan's fecundity of bathing scenes, you hardly find any peekaboo scenes in ANY of her films. Sure, the girls get to show their bumpers (Barbara Chavez wiggles her boobies in another shower scene and in her separate bed scenes with Rocco Mateo and cutie pie Nico Baltazar) but the guys merely tantalize with their bulge-heavy briefs - or backsides (at the most).

Jeremy Ian's very thick Visayan accent is bothersome. He says "eee-teets" for "etits", and isn't it hilarious teaching him how the word is pronounced? Try this, Jeremy: "eh-teets"! Once again, try it with feelings: "eh-teets". Got it? In another Q&A scene, Jeremy declares that the way to "ak-chieve" love is by world peace! No one on the set knew how "achieve" is rightfully pronounced? :)

Jerome Pineda, like in his previous cinematic effort, appears natural and comfortable with his delivery. Coupled with masculine good looks and youthful charm, Pineda should be able to "graduate" from these gag-inducing Paglinawan flicks soon! I am keeping my fingers crossed for this. However, the closing frame of the movie announces the production's coming releases: "Hubadero" and "Malasado". If you think I am kidding, think again! Oh dear heavens, how have you abandoned us. Indeed! :)

Like most of Paglinawan's ouvres, the element of carelessness is conspicuous. In a scene where Jeremy Ian is supposed to show off his acting talent, he declares: "Pinagtiwalaan pa naman kita! Bakit mo ako ginaganito? Pinagtiwalaan kita!" It is, clearly, "pinagkatiwalaan". These simple lapses are easily remediable, yet you find them in the final cut. Even simple sentences are met with great difficulty. Rocco (as construction worker Rey) asks Leo: "Kaya ba (3 second pause) natin talaga?" Scenes like these define the mind set of its film makers, don't they? In Paglinawan's stories, things just happen without due antecedent. They happen with no building narrative. It's like constructing a building with nothing but walls and ceilings, but there are no posts.

Some lines are too baffling to take seriously: "Ang tunay na Bikini King, kayang ipaglaban ang may katwiran!" Really? Your bikini makes you do that? Here's a funnier line from a contestant: "Naniniwala ako na ang taong masipag ay hindi tamad!" Ohmygoodness! Tama nga naman. 

In another scene, Ike is trying to convince Rey and Leo to join the contest. He says, "Rarampa lang naman kayong naka brief. Haharap sa mga tao." Leo asks, "Madali lang ba 'yun?" Ike replies, "Ang tawag dun, PASSION!" I fell off my seat and found the letter "f" down the floor. So that's where it was! Anything else on the floor? Guess.
Barbara Chavez as Jenny.

Adorable Jerome Pineda lures you to his boudoir. 

Monkeying around with Jeremy Ian (left) and Jerome Pineda (right).

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