Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nuel Naval's A Secret Affair - The Land of the Despicable

Despicable creatures. That was running through my mind as I watched Nuel Nunez’sA Secret Affair”. In fact there was not a single character in this theatrical ouvre that I’d wanna be associated with in my life if they were live specimen. I’d rather march to the Zambian capital of Lukasa and live a life of seclusion until I’m fat and ugly and my Louboutins don’t fit me anymore – than have family and friends like the caricatures of “A Secret Affair’.

There’s Rafi (Anne Curtis) who accepts a marriage proposal barely two months after she met Anton (Derek Ramsay). Like rabbits in heat, they decide to wed faster than Lilia Cuntapay could spell “baccalaureate” or “bourgeoisie”. Yes, faster than Cristine Reyes’ ability to sustain familial loyalty to siblings who fed her until she’s big enough to earn her own keep. Unfortunately for the bemuscled Anton, Rafi gets cold feet on the day she traipses down the aisle. She’d rather fly to New York for an indefinite holiday – and by indefinite, it meant a couple of weeks of vacuous soul searching. Does she really want to spend her nights counting the abdominals in Anton’s torso for the rest of her life? Would she survive Anton’s pelvic grunts and forceful deltoid and tricepsual embraces? Could she stomach Anton’s passionate gaze for the remainder of her sad, sad life? The answers seem clear.

Rafi comes home to woo her erstwhile beau who’s so heartbroken, the only way to mend his grief was to shag the living daylights out of Sam (Andi Eigenmann), one of Rafi’s sorority sisters, who’s desperate for a horned-out father figure with 8-pack abs to boot. This wouldn’t be their sole concupiscent rendezvous. As anonymous strangers, they’ve actually done the dastardly deed even before Anton met Rafi. This time around, Sam decides to stake her claim to the Eurasian bratwurst. After all, she had him first. Besides, this bratwurst drips with juicy smoulder she couldn’t get enough of. Albie Casino should probably hide under the table beside Anton’s considerable inches, right? Oohlala.

At this point, the story moves into Boy Pick-Up territory; alas, with the kitchiest, sassiest, campiest one-liners this side of Gaylandia. Everyone tries to outdo the next queen. How kitschy? Well, for starters, there’s Tim Yap whose presence distracts like a fish bone stuck between your dentures. Tim Yap, you see, can’t act to save his life. What’s funnier, he’s awkwardly depicting himself. I’m actually tickled pink to see someone who’s so bewildered and clueless how to portray himself. Such hilarity.

The cinematic plate is replete with Imeldific beauty: flowing or serpentine gowns, designer handbags, sexy stiletto heels, immaculately coiffed hair; you cannot deny the stark beauty lavishly paraded before you. You somehow wonder if this was originally envisioned like a shopping catalogue with the narrative taking the back seat. Unfortunately, without valid characters, such elements make a dubious film.

A Secret Affair” brims with caricatures, none of them deserving our empathy. Rafi, for example, the main protagonist, sashays around with chock-full of verve and confidence yet she's such an air-head she can’t make up her mind about commitments. She’s the kid who’s taken to the candy shop. After almost an hour of roaming the shop, she queues at the counter and ends up changing her mind – again! She has the emotional appropriation of a 2 year old. It doesn't help that Anne Curtis, one of the most ridiculous Best Actress winners from an equally ridiculous awards-giving Famas, is turning out emotionally barren. The scene where she spews: “I’m okay; I’m okay. I’m not okay” is more than telling. She could have made the emotive leap, but ends up with a parched, albeit perfunctory smattering. Curtis is in dire need of gravitas, and it doesn't help that she trades her verbal tussles against the immensely intuitive Andi Eigenmann.

And isn't it ironic that it’s the cinematic oppugnant who gets our sympathy? Eigenmann personifies her dilemma with clarity and unusual depth. Her scene with Jackie Lou Blanco (playing mother Cate) is particularly compelling: “Mom, what's wrong with us? Why do men always leave us? Mahirap ba tayong mahalin?” And she asks why the women in their family always end up losers. Her restraint is reminiscent of the much younger Jaclyn Jose who, these days, succumb to Machiavellian thespic ploys. All of Jose’s artistic bravura has been bequeathed to her brilliant daughter, leaving her with nothing but glowering and contriving character delineations. “Alam mo saan masarap magkape? Sa burol mo!” “Shut up. Bitch ka lang. Super bitch ako”. Lines like these are likely to arise from parloristas actively engaged in a catfight, not the upper middle class denizens who populate this film.

Finally, there’s Derek Ramsay playing Anton whose emotional sagacity flies out the door whenever a prepubescent Lolita offers her coochie snorcher. Ramsay works hard. In fact, he still smolders – while the testosterone charm drips over. He punctuates his delivery with decibel adjustments. When he pleads for understanding, his delivery turns almost inaudible, the words get lost in his discerning dispatch. But all these feel hollow. Conveying emotion does not rest on the volume of your delivery. You have to become the character. Derek's 8-pack is more coercive than any of the lines he delivered. You could probably squeeze emotions out of a rock than from Derek whose vacuity lords over his artistic savvy – or lack thereof. Isn't it too bad that Angelica Panganiban wasn't able to imbue her hefty artistic wisdom before they parted ways? They could have polished the “Being” exercises in the privacy of their bedrooms. Tsk tsk! Those missed opportunities! You don’t wonder why TV5 opted to hide Ramsay’s face under a mask in his new series, “Kidlat”!     

And those lines: “Betrayal and infidelity in secret is still betrayal and infidelity." Huh? Ano daw?

Sam listens to Anton and Rafi.

Sam barges inside a spa to "service" Anton.

A call surprises Rafi.

Like licking chocolate-coated lollipop...

Ellen and daughter Rafi

Anton smolders in his seat.

Andi Eigenmann captures her emotional predicament even without saying much.

Jackie Lou Blanco, as Cate, was never this bad!

Catfight starts.

The super bitch makes her move. This same tack (of pouring a bottle of liquid) is repeated when  Rafi faces Sam. this time, with a calamine lotion. Very original, debah?

Derek Ramsay smolders like... an igneous rock?


brndn said...

So true...and the amazing thing is that its raking in the money. i walked out after an hour. which i think was mighty generous. my friend walked out 30 minutes later. buti na lang nilibre lang ako.

Cathy Pena said...


I am really just overwhelmed by the film's own smugness.