Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cleo Paglinawan's Bugaw - Death by the Kangkungan

Lito (Jerome Pineda) is turning over a new leaf. He has decided to stop peddling his flesh to voracious gay men. He was 12 years old when he left his brother from the province to seek greener pastures, but ended up in the flesh trade. Though relatively young, Lito is changing careers from the peddled to the peddler. Now he’s pimping others for the fast buck. One night, Lito finds Efren (Jeff Luna) dancing at a gay club. He was impressed by the tall and lanky gentleman so he offers a deal that Efren couldn't resist: Efren could stay in his house for free, but Lito becomes his pimp. That way, Efren could stop dancing altogether.

Little did Efren know that Lito harbors affection on him. In fact, Lito takes care of Efren needs: he even cooks for him. But Efren gets other ideas. He wants to reunite with his former girlfriend Ellen (Adriana Gomez) who’s also a dancer in another club. “Di ka na nagsasayaw, pero puta pa rin,” jests Ellen. But Efren is serious: “Kahit magpasuso ako sa lahat ng bakla dito, gagawin ko. Makaahon lang tayo.” Such hopeful sentiment, debah? Efren then takes Ellen home to the consternation of Lito who’s not merely jealous. The bills are piling up and here comes another mouth to feed. He couldn’t afford supporting Efren and Ellen – so Lito books himself to his old clients (Ike Sadiasa). Later, he comes up with a plan to set up Ellen with a customer (Nico Baltazar). What happens when Lito clandestinely books Ellen for a session with Efren who though that his girlfriend has retired from the trade? Would Lito succeed to create animosity between the lovers? Would Efren turn his attention to the besotted Lito?

Jeff Luna
In “Bugaw”, Director Cleo Paglinawan, recreates a narrative filled with a dozen improbabilities. There are wringers in every situational turn. Why is Lito writing to his younger brother about his emerging feelings for Efren? Older brothers are supposed to be more discreet where younger (non-gay) siblings are concerned. Instead, he fills his brother’s head with irresolute thoughts. It’s also a stretch to believe that pubescent-looking Jerome Pineda and his alter ego, Lito, are jaded this early from their trade. And that someone as young as Pineda could actually manage the affairs of someone like Jeff Luna. I am sure that Luna could outhustle Pineda in manner, form or persuasion. How can Efren offer a haven to a homeless girlfriend when he himself is freeloading from Lito? Are vestiges of reason alien in third-rate cinema such as this one? When guilt consumes Lito, why did he leave his own home? The economics in such decision is quite incongruent to the financial capability of our protagonist.

Jeff Luna, despite his thespic inadequacies, is a welcome presence. He has always exuded the appeal that has made him the “it” boy of the Pink Film industry for several years now. This charm hasn’t faded one bit. The better news is: Luna has finally shown signs of confidence and artistic improvement. He isn’t as monotonous in delivery as his previous efforts. Luna – still - isn’t shy of disrobing and this is evident in a shower scene where he proudly displays his frontal appendage for his peeping landlord/pimp. Yes, there’s an engorged earthworm in Paglinawan’s cinematic canvas. :) Most times, these peekaboos are a rarity in the director’s unenviable, gag-inducing body of work.

Jeremy Ian cameos as Luna’s “macho dancing” colleague; his partner on stage (they soap each other on stage). Jerome Pineda is miscast as the prematurely retired hustler who’s in love with Luna. Pineda, though always an enthusiastic performer, is more perfunctory than believable. Age and experience are a factor to this, clearly. Adriana Gomez looks waylaid in most of her scenes. This is mostly because her character is ill-conceived and underdeveloped. In fact, it’s clear that Ellen is a mere afterthought in the story. She might as well get buried in this heap of mediocrity. Gomez, if you haven’t noticed, is one of 2012’s busiest actresses. This is great news for the sexy actress who was introduced early this year in GA Villafuerte’s plagiarized “Ang Lihim ng mga Nympha”. Gomez is even able to secure a role for a Cinema One flick that’s getting screened this November.

Adriana Gomez as Ellen and Jerome Pineda as lovelorn Lito.

The script is written, once again, by Kenneth Montero and Cleo Paglinawan. Darry dela Cruz, a ubiquitous presence in many Paglinawan flicks, wears the Assistant Director’s hat. How can anything so dry and technically impoverished be the end-product of more than one brain? You wonder. Maybe it's a cogitative calisthenics to render the bare minimum? Maybe it's a film movement outside the realm of Moron Cinema? Paglinawan's exposition is unmistakably the product of drunken stupor. Having said that, here’s the pop quiz that’s wanting to be asked: Children, what is Darry dela Cruz’s narrative trademark? Answer: His character always dies a violent death, remember?


This time around, they get more imaginative. Lito, the flick’s main protagonist, drowns and dies in the kangkungan (water spinach). I am not kidding. Don’t laugh. It’s real. Believe it or not.      

Jeremy Ian cameos as a macho dancer.

Adriana Gomez looking fresh and innocent.


Gene said...

Death by Kangkungan had me laughing hard, witty as always Ms.Cathy. Have good day!

Cathy Pena said...

Thanks, Gene! My pleasure. :)