There’s something implicit about Karlo’s (Miko Pasamonte) disposition about his trade. He’s straight forward without being intrepid. Yet a sense of innocence surrounds his demeanor. Karlo works as an escort, accompanying gay men in concupiscent holidays in Boracay, performing prurient private shows with his hustler friend (Jommel Idulan) for gay old men, etc. “Kung gagamitin niyo lang ako, mag gamitin tayo,” he reasons. He is quite celebrated too with referrals coming in from satisfied customers.
One day, he meets 18 year old Yuri (Danniel Deramayo) in a bar. The young virgin strikes up a conversation with the escort who later finds out that the charming, albeit hapless lad is inflicted with an illness that, though non-infectious, might be terminal. He also meets a psychic who could foresee an individual’s future. And something numbing worries the latter. Later that night, Karlo finds Yuri in a carinderia near his pad. The two strike up a genial conversation that soon had sparks flying. And the unexpected happens in the most romantic way. Check this conversation:
Karlo: “Ikaw, nagkajowa ka na ba?”
Yuri: “Wala rin.”
Karlo: “Bakit naman?”
Yuri: “Ngayon pa lang kita nakita eh.” (and he sheepishly grins)
Karlo: “Loko loko.” (Karlo moves closer to Yuri who then quips…)
Yuri: “Wala akong pambayad sa yo.” (Yuri whispers and smiles tentatively.)
Karlo: “Huwag kang mag alala. Tumatanggap naman ako ng utang.”
Do we foresee a happy-ever-after?
Some of the lines may be simplistic or cheesy, but the execution gives them a veneer of warmth and tenderness unusual in local homoerotic flicks. There’s no denying the inherent charm of a serendipitous romance tackled in the film.
Monti Parungao’s “The Escort”, based on Lance Collins’ story, with a no-nonsense script by Lex Bonife, took me by surprise. If you’ve been following this blog, you should be aware how much I despise many of these gay-oriented flicks because they tend to be exploitative, dull and unimaginative. I always maintain that good films should have a universality that comes through and could be appreciated even by a straight crowd; something that’s almost rare among Philippine Pinks. This is why we hold Brillante Mendoza (who has his share of Pink ouvres) and Joselito Altarejos in high regard. They don’t dumb down their audience.
The film is short, but the exposition that follows a few days in the life of a pragmatic hustler is compelling. Sure, there’s a de rigueur shower scene, but you realize that it isn’t the raison d’etre of the narrative. And we clearly appreciate this. Too bad the film has limited screening.
Miko Pasamonte passes muster, but he isn’t disadvantaged by a borderline script. In fact, it helps him acquire a sense of legitimacy. Danniel Deramayo, a member of the “Hotmen”, does even better. He imbues his character with innocence and fragility, allowing his “first time” to come off as sweet and tender. Yup, BFF Kyle, just like a Purefoods hotdog. J Bonife pays attention to particular details - like when he shows Karlo collecting stones because they remind him of home. I like that.
Of course there are loopholes in the narrative: when Yuri gets taken to the hospital, none of his relatives come for a visit. He’s said to get admitted 2-3 times a year. So who foots the bill? At his hospital bed, you hear the respirator working, yet Yuri is merely hooked to an oxygen nasal cannula. And what seizure disorder has him unconscious for days? I’m sure it was mentioned, but there’s room tone distraction, thus audio is patchy. Some lines are out of sync as well.
And yes, it concludes in the same artifice as Bill Condon’s “Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2” – but then this validates Karlo’s pragmatism. It was almost delectably funny. For the ninnies who only appreciate pink flicks with full frontals, they should be leaving the cinema with tongues a wagging. Pasamonte generously displays his considerable chorizo in a morning-after scene where he wakes up naked in bed. Yes, Urduja, it’s a full frontal flopping-down-the-stomach glory. Yet somehow the scene didn't seem gratuitous. J
Corollary to this concern, whenever we travel abroad, we’re embarrassed by the spate of Filipino Film releases that get peddled overseas. Let's take Silom Road in Bangkok, for example: if you scour the street leading towards sleazy sois of Patpong (and even soi Cowboy), you will be amazed with their benevolent collection of Filipino Films proudly represented by the likes of “Lagpas”, etc. If these epitomize our slice of the film pie, reflecting Pinoy artistry, for foreign cineastes, then we should all troop down the gunungs of Indonesia and hide in a cave forever, debah?
|Jommel Idulan recruits Miko Pasamonte for a "booking".|
|"Kaya mo bang sikmurain ang matandang yan, pare?" asked Karlo.|
|Private sex show with Jommel Idulan (above) and Miko Pasamonte while the geriatric audience watches. Jommel gets P10K while Miko gets P5K.|
|Yuri strikes a conversation with Karlo in a bar where everyone knows the latter.|
|Danniel Deramayo plays fragile Yuri.|
|Miko Pasamonte (as the titular Karlo) and Danniel Deramayo (as Yuri)|
Please read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and why Web Criticism sometimes makes us nginig: