Friday, November 9, 2012

Dante Nico Garcia's Madaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi - Tales of the Drunken Stupor

Local residents and foreign visitors converge in a bar in Palawan’s Cuyo Island on the eve of All Soul’s Day. A band plays its raucous number as music slices through the lull of the night. The place comes alive when the bar owner’s daughter (Angelica Panganiban) arrives clearly inebriated, and offers every one free drinks. But wait, the town is also celebrating the feast of “Pangangaluluwa” (a traditional welcome to All Soul’s Day). The feast would have revelers move from house to house, singing verses that threaten to steal from the living and offer them to the dead (usually livestock like chicken, eggs, and even pigs). The bar owner’s daughter offers P10,000 - and herself for a night of pleasure - to the one who presents the best loot before the night is over. Every soul in the restaurant soon scatters around. This opens a venue to introduce a bevy of characters.

An aging father (Buboy Garovillo) teams up with a skeptical guitarist (Rocco Nacino) to steal and collect coconut crabs. But all the father desires is a guitar lesson – so he could impress his daughter. A French tourist (DJ David Callum) enlists the help of the waiter (Alchris Galura) to find the anonymous girl (Glaiza de Castro) with whom he’s had a one-night stand. A couple of dope heads (Kean Cipriano and Edgar Allan Guzman) bump into a sophisticated cougar (Cherie Gil) who’s rushing for her rendezvous with her lover, her best friend’s husband. An effete, but virginal waiter (Dominic Roco) runs after a group of customers who sneaks away from their bill – with the help of the band’s lead singer (Karel Marquez). A band member (Tutti Karingal) along with an Indian national (Eric Tai) decides to steal a valuable painting in a rural bank, disarming the security guard (Lou Veloso) in the process. Problem is, the painting is nowhere found. A disparaged Cosplayer (Bojong Fernandez) takes the likeness of anime’ personality Krisma to prove his worth to his gang (Regine Angeles,

Director Dante Nico Garcia’sMadaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi” is a cornucopia of situational sketches replete with extraneous narrative elements that are too disparate to piece together. Most of the strains are fashioned like tepid pseudo-comedies without commensurate punch lines. In fact, Garcia peppers his ouvre with loads of characters too eccentric to root for. He weaves them without much empathy. Like "kwentong lasing", these are easily discardable anecdotes with their unretentive preponderance. 

Angelica Panganiban, one of the industry's most prolific actresses, makes a grave career misstep, depicting herself like some beerhouse airhead hosting an episode of "Banana Split". The difference being: this one's several times morose and capricious. In fact, whoever fashions this like some high profile comedy deserves to be sent to some dungeon and locked 'til eternity. The unamusing strains remind me of Adolf Alix's "D' Survivors" where hilarity of situation is limited within the cast members. Let's not go far: the director's 2009 flick "Oh! My Girl! (A Laugh Story)" starring Judy Anne Santos and Ogie Alcasid was painfully ludicrous - and one of the decade's worst. Garcia just doesn't have the comedic flair - nor the insightful cinematic acumen that allows his movie goers to sit back and enjoy. He instead peppers his canvas with a dizzying array of  elements believing somehow that "more is better". He is able to gather a great number of stars who fails to parlay an iota of gravitas because... well, each of their narrative milieu is ridiculous.

Cherie Gil, for example, makes her career's most graceless and embarrassing cameo. Her scenes with Edgar Allan Guzman and Kean Cipriano have the augury akin to a pig sty. It was like a chapter straight out of a bad acting workshop exercise with personalities who couldn't generate chemistry nor a sense of authenticity. Likewise, Dominic Roco appears in one of his worst performances. His virginal gay waiter drips with cardboard caricature, and it doesn't help that his narrative strain with Karel Marquez is a cauldron of fallacy. Which waiter tells his customer, "Baka ma reprimand ka ng dad mo?" Huh? And in which universe do you get a line like, "Kaya ka bakla, kasi 'di ka pa nakakatikim ng babae?" You mean gay men should sleep with a woman first to corroborate the obvious? I'd have thought there were easier, albeit less painful ways of knowing for sure. Someone's overthinking the uncomplicated. Why did Karel and Dominic end up shagging each other? There was nothing in the narrative that could readily validate this twist. The list of these head scratchers are a plenty. And I've never seen these actors in their worst. What a waste!

Glaiza de Castro's story with the Frenchman was curiously more complete than the other stories. Yet in its form, we see the most glaring weakness of the writer. He fabricates melodrama crisscrossing serendipitous romance and tragedy. Why was it so hard to find Glaiza? It wasn't like she migrated to Sorbonne or Belize or somewhere exotic for the wandering Frenchman. All he had to do was retrace his itinerary. Go back to Sabang and ask the boatmen about this nameless girl. Surely, the one and only Vietnamese Restaurant in Vietville could have identified and located the girl who lived just a block away. And why nameless? Was it a secret, otherwise national security is put at risk? Search me. Was the Frenchman mute that he couldn't ask her name? More importantly, wasn't that miscarriage scene too unnaturally concocted? I thought I was daydreaming, watching a continuation of Coco Martin and Julia Montes' "Walang Hanggan".

"Madaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi" is as directionless as its busy poster, and as vague and unfocused as it's ambiguous title. For some strange conceit, Garcia won't even name his characters, further alienating his audience. How else does one relate to anonymous characters? Such ploy could have worked if your film making skill was sufficient; not when you're frittering away in your exposition. The writer and director badly needs a moment to contemplate career changes for his own good. Fielding ones' story with high profile names doesn't necessarily make a great movie - and this flick is a testament to that. 

Why are directors of GMA's "Survivor" reality show horrible film makers? Is it in their diet? Are they subconsciously programmed to be borderline directors? Or do the GMA executives have an affinity towards mediocre talent? 

The part where Bojong Fernandez dresses up into his favorite lady anime character was particularly agonizing. His psychobabble about dressing up and homosexual tendencies were mere ramblings of a scatterbrain with nothing worth saying. These diarrheic ideations were so expendable, you could have stricken out his character and lose nothing to move the film. All I could think of was how my cinema entrance could have been spent better as donation to a children's charity. Not like this. I wanted to scoop out the director, tie him upside down on a tree until he comes to his senses. Stay away from a movie camera. Do something more fruitful. Plant a sineguelas maybe. Volunteer to join the missionaries who travel to Djibouti. Anything but making movies. Do not waste the moviegoers' hard earned money. Please!

A religious girl falls under the spell of the wandering Frenchman.
A French traveler is looking for an anonymous girl. How can he not know her  name? She went  with him to visit the Underground River, not to mention their salubrious lay in the hay.
Karel Marquez and Dominic Roco play out their invalid situational discourse. Unfortunately, not a single moment was credible.

Kean flirts with Cherie where the latter is looked down (by Edgar Allan Guzman) like some shriveled prune.
Bojong Fernandez hams it up: "Hindi ako bakla!"

Posing for posterity.

Angelica Panganiban

Cherie Gil's career embarrassment

Glaiza de Castro

Rocco Nacino plays the homophobic guitar player

David Callum

DJ and model David Callum plays a wandering Frenchman

Regine Angeles
Dominic Roco


Armando dela Cruz said...

I loved the easiness of the individual stories. Don't overthink it. I believe the film is meant to be presented this way. It needs cohesion, I think.

Direk Nico actually did Ploning. And it's more or less confusing how he ended up in a movie this fun. "Gusto ko lang baliin ng konti yon. [talking about the serious nature of 'Ploning'] Para bumaba ang expectation. Hehehehe," I talked to him over Facebook. There is my answer. :) Nice review by the way. I literally had to bring a dictionary with me. What. A. Vocabulary. :D

Skilty said...

Dominic Roco is insufferable here. Negates his work in Ang Nawawala. Rocco Nacino is amateurish. Negates his work in Sayaw. Angelica is OTT. Negates her work in Here Comes the Bride.

I thought the director here put too much trust in his actors that he forgot to rein in all their bad habits.

I have to disagree with you on Cherie Gil and Kean Cipriano, though. I thought that segment almost saved the film.

Gene said...

I watched the movie too, and did a little review though I guess we're on both ends. But I don't think its something to argue about, we have our own opinions and ideas, and I do respect yours. You're right though, it was too much. Anyway, your review is so much better than mine haha :) Good Night Ms.Cathy

Cathy Pena said...

@ Armand:

"Don't overthink it?"

There's nothing to overthink the shallow or I'd scrape bottom, right down through muck.

Is "hate" a strong word? Okay then, I'm gonna use the word judiciously. I HATE this film. :)

Cathy Pena said...


...and the director has to "direct". Unless he doesn't have strong vision about his film.

Re: Cherie and Kean scenes: I started disliking the film with Angelica's scenes. By the time they got to the Cherie-Kean scenes, I was like, WTF?

But then I am fully aware that art appreciation is a subjective experience. I think the director got overwhelmed (or intimidated) by his stellar performers, thus hands-off stance re: performers.

Cathy Pena said...


You're right, Gene. No one should dictate on your opinion.

My thoughts, no matter how adept I am at expounding them, will never impose them on others' ideas. As long as you can state your reasons why you think that way, then your ideas are as valid as mine or any Tom, Dick and Harry's.

I didn't like the movie. I think it wasted my time. You think it's worthy of your praise. Am not gonna negate that. Keep writing reviews. :)

sineasta said...

nu'ng makita ko pa lang nag trailer nito, na-confused na ko! tapos written & directed by pa niya. eh musta naman! hello, oh my girl!

till he hasn't come up with a decent film, i'll consider ploning as a fluke!

Cathy Pena said...

@ Jheck:

I get nightmares remembering "Oh My Girl!" Josnamahabagin! :)

tori said...

We saw this two days ago. At the first 2minutes of it, one of my friends suggested, "Laro na lang tayo taguan." (The cinema was empty except for us three, and three more moviegoers at the back).
I whispered back, "Hindi, paramihan na lang tayo ng seats na mauupuan."

I agree with your review.
When we got out, we were laughing, not at the wit (which was lacking) of the supposed-to-be funny movie, but in regret, for the time and money we wasted.

I groaned at the balot-girl when she offered to take the money Roco was giving only if he accepts her hair barrette. If this is supposed-to-be an 'aww' moment, I didn't get it. It just felt unreal and ridiculous to witness.

Karel and Roco's exchange at the beach sounded preachy and unconvincing.

The French guy and Glaiza's, I can't buy that 'no names asked' part. I mean, what did they moan or call each other when they were doing it? And she has an intricate tattoo... for a seaside lass.

The little 2D animations of mini characters moving about? I think, I can do a better job than those. And the transitions were not flawless.

Almost everything seemed like short stories I've read from fanfiction sites, with lines that made me cringe. I found myself asking why do they have those dialogues? What were they trying to tell? May message ba?

But I haven't seen Ploning or any of the director's past works so I can't make a comparison or judge the director. It's either, I didn't share or understood his film or we should have watched Wreck It Ralph instead.

Suggestion ko sa friends ko afterwards. "Hanap tayo ng coffee shop. Tambay, doodle, and pag-usapan natin ung film... Or not."

Cathy Pena said...

Hi Tori:

Very well written. Film makers usually resort to saying we "didn't get the film" whenever we say we don't like it. But I know exactly why I didn't like this, and it wasn't because I didn't understand or "get" it. Nothing about this is funny, and I cringe at some who refer to this as moderately watchable. There is truly no accounting for taste.

Shit happens when you try to be profound using banal anecdotes without real emotional anchor. Like you, I desperately had to shake off the "post-watch blues" so bad I decided I needed to watch another film (so I watched "Skyfall" - again! - since I've seen all that's showing in the cineplex). Doing that made me feel a little better. :)

Ivan Stewart Saldajeno said...

The movie was done during Direk Ga's crash course on various young people in Puerto Princesa City. The loots mentioned were the respective answers of his students when he asked the question "What do you want to steal if given the chance to do so?" The characters were unnamed to represent a walk of life. It's a matter of "Place someone's name here." The plot became a bit too vague because he wanted to ask us this, "If you were him/her, what wil you do?" It's more of a reality-dramady, a usual stuff in indie films.

Cathy Pena said...

Hi Ivan,

Interesting piece there. I like that the story evolves from a didactic session. However, this only proves that workshops and crash courses don't exactly translate to a good movie.

Another point here: using anonymous characters to give it a sense of universality ("to represent a walk of life") robs off empathy from the material, making them less "relatable".

The aforementioned isn't always a valid assumption because "named" characters in other flicks, when seamlessly threshed out, could also represent a piece of the population. Many great cinemas name their characters without making them less universal or compelling.

Like many cinephiles, I am familiar with the different faces of Independent Cinema - and it's crystal to me this film isn't the most engrossing. It's aimless and overly indulgent; its humor is as tepid as a sponge bath - and if you place this alongside this year's Cinemalaya's main features (aka new breed), it's simply not that good.

I can't even give it a pat on the shoulder. Absolutely not "A" for effort. Not when I am footing the bill to get ridiculously annoyed by merely watching it.

abdon said...

I love the movie.