Friday, January 18, 2013

Paul Singh Cudail's Scorpion Lovers - Deception in Elementary Exposition

Romy (Karl Matthew Garcia), a call center agent, lives with lover Angelo (Dice Vergara), a student whom he financially supports. In a two-story apartment, they play out their seemingly harmonious lives. But Romy is on the verge of resigning from his job, looking forward to a well deserved summer holiday in Dumaguete with Angelo. What he doesn’t know is that Angelo failed his classes (he keeps putting off showing his class cards). What’s worse, their congenial relationship is a one-way affair; and Angelo’s itching to get rid of his doting benefactor. Meanwhile, a new boarder moves into a room downstairs. Vince (Glenn de Luna), the new guy, is imprudent, something that Angelo despises. the new housemate is a former macho dancer now being kept by a lascivious housewife (Jessica Ruiz) whose husband works overseas as a seaman.     

While Romy is away, Vince catches the disagreeable Angelo pleasuring himself while holding Vince’s missing underwear. This gives Vince the opportunity to seduce Angelo who, with nary a second thought, gives in – and even offers compensation for the former gay bar habituĂ©. “Magkano ba’ng bayad nila sa yo? Siguro naman, kaya din kitang bayaran.” he asks.

Before long, Vince and Angelo become regular bedmates. One day, Romy comes home unexpectedly earlier than usual and he finds his housemates tintinnabulating their bells. What’s a guy to do? Should he accept the gun that his friend Joaquin (Ian Ileto) is offering? Guess.

Director Paul Singh Cudail’s “Scorpion Lovers” is 2013’s first local film released in commercial outlets. And I shiver at the thought of what this hints. Are we going to be inundated with more neuron-challenged male-oriented eroticas? The story, if you haven’t noticed, has been told several times in the past. While deception has many faces, “Scorpion Lovers” is particularly derivative and not well conceptualized. Like most of Cudail’s works, the story is laced with a hundred-and-one loopholes. Romy pays for his lover’s education yet he’s resigning from his job? How is he going to pay for Angelo’s tuition? Sure, they were planning for a summer holiday. But most working men take a leave of absence when taking a vacation; they don’t quit work.

Angelo never showed his new housemate Vince an iota of hospitality – or even attraction for that matter. He despised the guy, yet when he found Vince’s soiled underwear, he scampers to his room so he could “play” with it. This hardly makes sense. Even a sexual deviation like paraphilia has to follow certain rational strains.   

At the film’s second half, the narrative aimlessly rambles; the story gets desperate for a plot device to further move the story that seems to have stagnated. So Cudail presents us with his “deux ex machina” of sorts to address his storytelling dilemma. Enter Ian Ileto, the film’s editor and cinematographer, who cameos as Joaquin, Romy’s friend. His mere presence provides a foreboding that you could smell a mile away. Quite predictably, Cudail, who by then has painted himself into a corner, has found his narrative salvation. Is this brilliance? You could only wish. Similar minded Pink Flick directors like Edz Espiritu, Jigz Recto and Darry dela Cruz always end their stories tragically to provide an undeserved drama. Why not kill off a character? Better yet, why not kill everyone? Let's conclude the whole she-bang with a blood bath for inspiration, debah?

Cudail has been taking down notes from Blush because, for the first time in his mediocre directorial career, he didn’t offer a single shower/bathing scene, thinking perhaps that the absence of which could improve his storytelling acumen. It is wishful thinking, of course. But it is nevertheless refreshing not being able to watch anyone soap away their grime. Make no mistake, it’s still exploitative. A lot of wrinkly derriere (check out the opening scene) is still being flashed around. 

Glenn de Luna gets it on with boyish Dice Vergara.

Dice Vergara is as doltish as Karl Matthew Garcia who, with his tall and lanky frame, tries hard, if a bit too awkwardly. Garcia, who we last saw wave his “light saber” in Crisaldo Pablo’s inane, “Bagito”, must be raring to move away from Pablo’s shadow. Glenn de Luna’s performance is likewise hobbled by caricature. If there’s anyone who registers better than the main characters, it’s the hunky Ian Ileto who earlier topbilled a “Blue Lagoon” yarn for Deo Fajardo’s “East of Paradise”. Unfortunately, Ileto appears in only 3 sequences or so.

Why “Scorpion Lovers”? The title is an afterthought, to be honest. It turns out that both Angelo and Vince were born under one astrological sign - ScorpioNaw, they didn't turn into predatory eight-legged arthropods with claws and venomous stingers. Cudail would have you believe otherwise, but mark my words. Nothing is vaguely profound in this film. It’s superficial, it’s crass and it’s cheap.

Ian Ileto pawns his gun to Karl Matthew Garcia. Not that gun!

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