Sunday, October 14, 2012

BJ Morales' Dama - Feeling the Void

When Rolan (Jordan Samonte) learns that he has glaucoma and will eventually go blind, he decides to leave the big city where his cousin Allen (Paolo Bernardo) resides. He also leaves his buddy Angelo (Itcheru Lopez). In a fishing village in Batangas, Mang Nico, an elder, albeit sickly relative, tends to Rolan’s needs while he gradually loses his vision. But village life isn't all that bad. He acquires a new friend Ian (Iyann Marfori) and an enthusiastic admirer Vanessa (Jessica Ruiz), the town hussy, who doesn't hide her attraction to the "mabango" gentleman. What he doesn't know, Angelo, who’s Canada-bound, is distraught about his sudden departure.

One day, Rolan gets a surprise visitor, but what’s more surprising is how they rediscover their feelings for each other. They share one unforgettable night. Angelo, after all, is set to fly to Canada to join his mother. Unfortunately, Rolan’s elder guardian suffers a heart attack and dies, leaving poor Rolan alone. Though he gets an occasional visit from Allen, the latter still lives in Manila so Rolan has to fend for himself. Meanwhile, neighbor Ian falls under Vanessa’s diligent and amorous spell. What becomes of Rolan? Will Angelo disappear from his life forever? 

Director BJ Morales' "Dama" (Feel) follows a recent Pink flick tackling blindness, GA Villafuerte's "Kapa", a cinematic effort with backsliding artistry. "Dama" feels a wee bit improved, though not by much. Saying this, there's really not much to expect here. The film is flunky in presentation and thematically shallow. Narrative exposition is cursory, even desultory. As a result, our attention wears off when the compounding complications surface: he's blind, his parents passed away, his guardian croaked, his lover left for Canada - and he lives alone. Yet we end up not caring. Empathy is earned in insightful scenes that deliver human emotion, something that feels staged than felt in Morales' cinematic meandering.

The problem here: not a single character is real. They're mere character sketches wandering around like fictive cyborgs. Let's take the case of Ian, Roland's new friend. Why don't we see him assist the blind guy? Are we really a community of feckless beings more concerned with getting laid than offering a hand for a debilitated and helpless friend? Angelo's abrupt return from Canada (his mother dies so he finds no reason to stay there) feels like a foolhardy decision. Why not make a good life in that foreign land? His success could empower him to financially assist Rolan - and himself.

Now let's turn to the disease of the month - Glaucoma, a condition where there's persistently increased eye pressure within the eye affecting the optic nerve and, eventually, vision. While it is true that Glaucoma could lead to blindness, there are several measures that could prevent progression of the declining vision: Glaucoma eye drops, filtering procedures (those they call "laser" - an ambulatory procedure), and surgery. All these interventions seem to have been overlooked, giving the impression that Glaucoma is a hopeless case akin to death. It isn't. It's like saying that once you're diagnosed with HIV, you might as well proceed to the cemetery, dig your own grave and - while you're at it - bury yourself there!

The performances leave much to be desired. Jordan Samonte is a curious choice for the protagonist. He isn't exactly what you'd "define" as "easy on the eyes". He isn't gifted where muscular development or postural gait is concerned. He eternally mopes, consistently manifesting a one-note performance. He also displays a bland affect that's seen in comatose patients - or worse, those with catatonic schizophrenia. For Pete's sake, give me Jeff Luna anytime. :) Luna maybe robotic, but at least he's an eye candy.

Placing myself in Rolan's situation, I'd be a bevy of emotions if I were going blind: I'd grieve, I'd be angry, I'd be defiant. I'd create a bucket list for the visually impaired. But Samonte is mostly a resigned soul which is just a single stage in "grieving". His emotive inclination reminds me of Annabelle Rama's acumen as a probable public servant. Yes, I am wondering what quality was seen that merited Samonte's coveting the lead role. Six inches of artistic intuition, perhaps? Or five, as the case maybe. But is it really moot and academic to seek answers from amateurish work? The by-product displays the nullity of the film maker's intentions.

In a scene where Samonte and Lopez frolic in the beach, we find the two lovers share lip service. While lying on the sand, Lopez gradually kisses Samonte. And the latter could hardly open his mouth. As though he smelled something pungent? It's a nondescript scene because it didn't validate any situation in the story. It however enforced the fact that Samonte, like his director, is clueless about his character's motivation. What's he - and his director - doing there then?

Ken (above) unwittingly discovers Angelo and Rolan sharing a bond beyond friendship. 

Vanessa flirts with Angelo (left). Angelo and Rolan play the "habulan" game  at the beach. (right)

Iyann Marfori, who plays Ian, performs the de riguer bathing scene while a mushroom head occasionally peeps from his  incredibly transparent shorts.

Jessica Ruiz and Iyann Marfori enjoy the floating cottage. (above and below)

Jordan Samonte plays Roland (left)and Itcheru Lopez plays Angelo (right).

Paolo Bernardo strikes a pose.

Iyann Marfori and his traffic-stopping briefs.

No comments: