In the far reaches of Western Visayas where foliage lushly insinuate over dramatic rock formations and cryptic caves, humanity is overwhelmed by nature. Amid this backdrop of greenery, we find a bevy of souls wandering in the different corners of the jungle: half naked tribes folk, a band of military cadets jogging around and frolicking by the waterfalls, a mid-aged woman (Gloria Morales) carrying a newborn child, a traveling couple Martin and Mae (Martin Riffer and Mei Bastes) - and their wilderness guide Aldrin (Aldrin Sapitan). The woman loses the baby she was carrying. Who could have taken the child?
The exploring couple commence their sexual games, cajoling their guide to join in on the fun. Mei gets naked while Martin looks on. “How do you want your clit to be licked?” flirts Martin, as he starts playing with himself. When he gets an erection, he dandles, “Do you like this?” Martin prods their guide Aldrin to masturbate while looking at Mei’s naked body. The carnal game continues throughout their stay. Meanwhile, the tribesmen nearby engage in some ominous ritual, donning blue paint on their skin. The spirits of the jungle start to take over, blurring the reality for everyone. What happens when Martin starts having hallucinations? Or when a soldier (Renato Amar) finds a naked Mei?
Director Sherad Anthony Sanchez deliciously weaves a nonlinear tale about the human inhabitants of a jungle, framing his narrative montage with ethnographic accessory, like most of his earlier work. He laces his scenes with an almost abstract sketch of situations and ribald sexuality, it almost feels gratuitous when taken as separate scenes. In fact, never has Philippine Cinema been this impudent: masturbation scenes, full frontal erection, onscreen copulation and (hold your horses) even ejaculation (as the soldier, played by Amar, is implied to make love with a woodland ghost).
The intertwining anecdotes mesmerize, thus even without much verbal grind, you are glued to your seat waiting for the next scene to disentangle. Teresa Barrozo’s music adequately creates an enigmatic atmosphere as well as help localize the story (a novelty-flavored music about Jesus plays straight out from a transistor radio). Sanchez’s “Jungle Love” is undoubtedly high art. It’s a skip away from the realist’s fare, but its artistic concept is unexpurgated and completely accomplished. The concluding part takes a bit of a detour though when, after the orphic scenes, Sanchez injects a dose of humor. You aren't quite sure if it’s meant as a mockery of how the audience should take this story (if you can call it that).
The film is produced by one of Davao’s favorite broadcast personalities (and politician) Mabel Acosta. Now who would have thought that Regional Cinema has come of age in Davao?
|Renato Amar. The only photo I could find from the cast.|