Monday, February 4, 2013

Deo J. Fajardo, Jr.'s East of Paradise - Marooned in Many Levels

Here's a piece previously scheduled for a December 3 (2012) posting. Though the narrative is not particularly designed like a Pink flick, the story actually focuses on its male protagonist. Like many B-flicks of this generation, the female character takes a backseat while subtle emphasis is given to the appendage-gifted male star. But then this is a Deo Fajardo, Jr. movie whose characteristic hybrid of pseudo-action/drama and sex clash like water and oil.


On his way to meet his girl friend Amy in Cebu, Edgar (Ian Ileto), an air force officer, survives a plane crash that maroons him on an uninhabited island. Days later, he finds Lara (Sofia Lee) unconscious in a hidden cove. When she regains consciousness, they both realize that they only have each other to survive this ordeal. They subsist by fishing from the bounty of the sea and gradually learn about each other. Edgar's girl friend doesn't approve of his precarious employment and wants him to leave his job. This puts strain to their sketchy relationship. Lara, on the other hand, dances in a bar and sees this mishap as a way to redemption - out of the seedy grind of her job.

Edgar and Lara soon develop feelings for each other. But while Edgar is desperate for rescue, Lara prefers to stay. Edgar's concerns are valid: "Paano kung may emergency? Paano kung mabuntis ka't manganak?" Meanwhile, Lara is enraptured by their misfortune and is becoming increasingly apprehensive of the probity of their relationship. Would it survive once back in the civilized world? More importantly, has Lara been trashing Edgar's SOS signs? This frustrates Edgar no end. Will they ever get rescued?

Director Deo J. Fajardo, Jr.'s foray into "Blue Lagoon" territory straddles between mediocre drama and soft porn. His narrative candor is bogged down by his inability to go beyond the film's premise, i.e. two strangers marooned on an island. In fact, the tension of the plot is hobbled by a flimsy narrative burden. There's really nothing to do in the island but fish, make dubious rafts, go skinny dipping and shag the living daylights away. That's all they do; talk nonsense then go at it like rabbits.

There is, of course, the exploratory artifice to introduce dilemmas concerning their lives back in the dry lands, but they seem terribly unimportant, an excuse to smokescreen the immediate and more salient goal of disrobing the film's protagonists. Sofia Lee ("Batang Ifugao", "Pagnanasa", "Big Night", "Ken at Abel") is tentative and more perfunctory than earnest. She doesn't imbue sympathy to her tepid character even when she cries buckets so you're left staring at her unaffected. Ian Ileto does better. He looks like a screen hero and carries himself with confidence. This is evident even in the way he delivers his lines. It's too bad we haven't seen much from him since (this film was in the can since 2010 and has found a venue only in 2012). Ileto, it seems, is busier these days as cinematographer ("Hawla", "Butas 2", "Ang Jowa", and recently in Cudail's "Scorpion Lovers") and film editor ("Students Project", "Sulot", "Hawla", "Ang Jowa").

This is not a Pink Film by presentation and thematic design. It's a straight film, but Deo Fajardo (who rose to fame for "discovering" Robin Padilla) has always been known for his subtle homoerotic streaks even in pseudo-action/drama flicks like "Casa" with Asia Agcaoili and Paolo Paraiso, "Bangkero" with Michael Rivero; and let's not forget titles like "Hatulan si Baby Ama", "Miss na Miss Kita" (Ang Utol Kong Hoodlum 2) and "Anak ni Baby Ama". His cinematic vision is nothing to crow about. Remember the confused "Students Project" (2011)?

Edgar rescues and finds Lara.

In terms of nudity, there's plenty to go around here. Sofia Lee displays her gargantuan mammary in several scenes. Where frontal scenes are concerned, it's Ian Ileto who accommodates with his err... "considerable" endowments: in love scenes with his leading lady and in underwater scenes (shot in Bolinao, Pangasinan). In fact, these scenes recall Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins' underwater frolic in the Randal Kleiser flick. So Ileto exposes his "slithering snake" flopping away in wondrous splendor. He isn't shy and it's understandable why. J

"Nasaan ako? Bakit ako nandito?" asks a disoriented Lara.

The film culminates in anti-climactic fashion, ultimately losing steam as it wallows in narrative apathy. If getting shipwrecked provided Lara's redemption, ending this story was the film's ultimate accretion. Thank heavens for that. Otherwise, we're further subjected to aimless cinematic ramblings. Ending it abruptly prevented people from further embarrassment.

Spear fishing, anyone?
Raft construction turns intimate.

Underwater frolic.

Lara worries about "getting rescued". Go figure.

Ian Ileto: actor, cinematographer, film editor

Sofia Lee

Sofia Lee

Sofia Lee gets photo op with Dennis Trillo.

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