Friday, January 31, 2014

Paul Singh Cudail's Luhod sa Harapan - Found Hopelessly Wanting

Carlo (Dustin Jose), an irascible taxi driver, is having a bad day. His sister Nicole (Renee Lopez) carries a torch for him. One night, from a deep slumber, he finds her lying beside him. This gets him livid beyond belief. To make matters worse, gay housemate Rolly (Dennis Cruz) is likewise pining for his affection. And he's losing his patience fast. Such malediction! How has he become this irresistible? Gawd!

To drown him out of his sorrow, he turns to the booze and ends up surlier than ever. He accuses people of taking advantage of him during his drunken stupor – and eventually ends up driving everyone away. 

While Nicole relocates to pursue her dream of working abroad, Rolly moves out and becomes an ambulant pansit salesman, and takes a lover (Nino Abel).

One day, Carlo crashes his car while heavily inebriated. With no one to care for him, what becomes of this grumpy Romeo? Would Nicole abandon her dreams so she could take care of Carlo, who isn't really her blood brother, by the way? Has Rolly forgotten Carlo? Guess.

Rolly gets his chance with Carlo.
Dissecting stories from this genre is sometimes a futile exercise. After all, director Paul Singh Cudail has never delivered a passable film in his life - and the preponderance of a very limited insight on good storytelling is in itself a major debacle. He riddles his narrative with loopholes and questions begging to be asked. The most obvious question here is: why was Carlo extremely agitated and eternally furious of Nicole’s attraction for him? Isn't it extreme to kick a girl out of your house just because she’s in love with you? Maybe he’s a loony? Or needs anger management classes? Whatever his problem is, Cudail fails to explore this dilemma, which is odd, considering it is what’s driving his plot.

But who cares about plots – or making sense of it all? Cudail just wants to highlight Dennis Cruz’s bottom-baring shower scene (after being berated by Jose, Cruz was so devastated he had to run to the bathroom, cry a river, and soap up his backside until they glistened – such scintillating turn of events indeed). As if that wasn't enough, this is abruptly followed by another shower scene with Dustin Jose. In this scene, he apparently forgot for a second that he’s supposed to be drunk, or angry – thus he takes a (drum roll, please) … shower! You see, Cudail loves his bathrooms and he makes ample use of them.

Like other Pink flicks, the production values here resort to the minimum. A dirge continuously plays, scene after scene, a la punebre, surely paying homage to the demise of the film maker’s neurons. For example, there’s much ado about Carlo’s lost wallet (he dropped it during one of his drinking sprees) but this was left in the lurch. In another scene, a confrontation between Carlo and Nicole is drowned out by a couple of rabid dogs barking. Editing is another gray area. Rolly is shown arguing with his lover Benji (Abel) who refuses to break up with the fed-up Rolly, “Bakit ganyan kayong mga lalaki? Di ba kayo pwedeng sex now, pay later?” Cut to the next scene: Rolly and Benji get out of bed after a roll in the hay. And I thought they've broken up already? Post break-up sex, anyone?

Now let’s get into the story telling acumen of the writer. Here's a glaring scenario in the film. It's simple but underlines the mind set of the story teller and/or script writer. Rolly arrives at a sari sari store, after a day of peddling noddles. “Pabili nga ho ng softdrinks,” he tells the manang. She asks, “Ano’ng gusto nyo?” He replies, “Kahit ano ho.” What twat couldn't pick a specific brand? So if the manang handed over an “Amrat Cola” from Pakistan, “Cuba Libre” from Havana, “Bidu Cola” from Argentina or “Star Cola” from Myanmar, he’d accept it without a word? What if he's actually given "Markang Demonyo" Cola? Kahit ano eh! Now I know why a punebre plays overtime.

The penultimate scene has Dustin Jose weeping til he’s blue (above). Then in the most inane delivery, he says, “Kailangan ko pang mabulag para maibalik ko sa yo ang pagmamahal na ibinigay mo.” Huh? Did he suddenly turn affectionate? Or is someone in dire need of a dramatic ending to wrap his story up?

Luhod sa Harapan” tries to set up a stage to eke out a scenario that would put “Bukas Luluhod ang Mga Tala” or “Babangon Ako’t Dudurugin Kita” to shame. Kneel before me and lick my shoes, right? “Isang araw luluhod ka rin,” says the blurb. But there’s none of that here except that as epilogue, Carlo, now hopelessly blind – and still wearing the skimpiest white briefs, mind you - finally gives in to Rolly’s unabashed love and adoration. Aren't we tickled pink? How's that for denouement?   

Dennis Cruz (left) holds a priceless family jewel. Nino Abel (right) covers his. ;)

Nino Abel, Dustin Jose and Dennis Cruz practice color-coding.


Nico Antonio said...

I commend you (and so should the directors thereof) for watching these kinds of pink films.

Just skimming through the review and accidentally seeing one of the pictures (I think you know what I'm pointing at) at the pictures gave me the chills but not the good kind.

Once, I did a pink film and I tell you, I hope never to do one again :-P

Cathy Pena said...

Nico, I understand what you mean exactly. But at least, "ALNBNJ" was one of the great Pinks... and you were in a good one.

To be honest, sometimes it gets embarrassing posting a Pink Film review here, but the initial raison d'etre for Blush was to write about every Pinoy film that gets shown commercially. This isn't really possible anymore because of the volume of Pinoy flicks that gets shown every year.

Since Pinks are "alive", it makes sense to include them in my film blog, as part of a slice of Philippine Cinema. I have earlier vowed to point to these atrocious directors what makes their ouvre bad. Getting a pinch sometimes wakes people from slumber, di ba? Maybe they will learn something from my rants. This is why some of my points are so specific.

Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. These pink directors keep getting worse. And summarizing/re-telling these stories here get me on my toes. It isn't easy to tell these stories here. Most of the time, they don't make sense. Sigh.

Anyway, I am pleased more than you know that you find enjoyment reading my posts. Thanks again. I could swear you were one of the busiest actors last 2013. You were in so many movies. More power to you too. :)

Nico Antonio said...

Hehe :-) During the time when I did Posas, I noticed that a lot of my fellow actors and actresses were in different movies. So, I told myself, "If they can do that, why can't I?" And so I did the following year.

But I think it irked some people in the process. Anyway, I just felt that I had to prove a point.

Of course I enjoy reading your reviews. You give very informative details about the movie which helps me, as a fellow cineaste, to filter what movies to watch or not. Hence, thank you as well for your time and effort in doing these kinds of reviews. :-)

Cathy Pena said...

People got irked because you had work? LOL. That's funny. You were a relative newbie in "Posas" so it was human nature that others would get envious and question the breaks you got. In the long run, what is it to them? The more important issue here is that you didn't make an arse of yourself in the movies you appeared in. Fast forward to 2014 and you've accumulated an enviable resume. It's a great feeling di ba when you know it's the product of hard work?

Re: "informative details", I feel I need to. I remember one of the first films I reviewed here, a Lovi Poe starrer, and I got a harsh comment from some dingbat who said that I just lifted words from a PR publicity material. I was so angry. These days, I don't care anymore. I eat twats for breakfast. Haha. I reckon I will write how I want to write them. They can start their own blogs for all I care. I'm glad though that some people eventually started liking my articles. And I now have a good number of online friends from Blush. ;)

Nico Antonio said...

It irked them kasi my mother produced those movies (Yes, my mother is Atty Joji Alonso). All of them, except Tuhog, Sana Dati and Little Bossings.

Pero naman, most of my roles were support and two of them were even cameos (My mother wanted me to play the lead in Babagwa but I begged off because Alex Medina was more suited for the role). I even read a tweet where Peque Gallaga even mentioned my name in an award ceremony... Peque Gallaga?! The Peque Gallaga!!! Anyway... :-)

Re your work, i enjoy them because they sometimes parallel my sentiments about the local movie industry. You write them as you feel them. It is so personal na parang I feel we're having a discourse as I read them :-) Iyon lang. hehe.

Cathy Pena said...

I know exactly who your mother is, i.e. Atty. Joji Alonso. I did not want to mention her earlier because I feel that, while contributory, she isn't the sole factor to your current stature.

And if I have to be so bold, that lady has a fan in me. Can you tell her please? Cathy Pena, the self proclaimed "movie vixen", bows down before her. If there was a real Movie Vixen, purveyor of quality entertainment, it would be she! Kidding aside, I am no vixen, just a cineaste like you who writes on the side.

I was just chatting with Kyle (my BFF) about Atty. Joji the other day and how she produces all these wonderful, brave, eclectic piece of celluloid - "Minsan Pa", "Ekstra", the adorable "Gaydar", "Kubrador", "Mga Pusang Gala", edge-of-your-seat "Babagwa", the list goes on! That woman has taste! She knows how to pick them! Am I frothing in the mouth already? ;) I don't always watch "Legal Forum" because it mostly airs on a dead slot, but I watch all her movies!

I could imagine you in "Babagwa", but Alex Medina was great there so I shan't rock the boat. There will be plenty. If my mom could produce great movies, (and presuming I wanted to act) I won't even have second thoughts accepting mom's offer if I knew I'd be good in it.
Bakit ba? It's the family's treasures. Duh. Yun nga lang, the film has to be great, and I have to be great in it so it won't get panned in Make Me Blush. Hahaha.

What did Peque say? I'm curious.

Re: my writing. They are personal. I once read an in-depth piece about the difference between a movie review and film criticism. It mentioned that if you write about how cinema affected you, how your experience (while watching the film) becomes intimate, then that's criticism. Unfortunately, personal writing isn't the norm in journalism, i.e. the articles that see publication in tabloids and broad sheets. It just isn't. First person point-of-view is never accepted there. This is why blogs are different. The boundaries are blurred, and language is "freer".

And thank heavens your mom did not produce "My Little Bossings". :)

Nico Antonio said...

Here is a quote of what he said... "By the way, I'm the new Nico Antonio of indie films" - Peque Gallaga. I saw this from a thread in one of Manuel Pangaruy's tweets. Sabi ko nga, at least he remembered me :-P

Sige, I'll tell my mom about you. Actually, I already did. She'll be doing two more, hopefully for Cinemalaya. I'm sure you'll enjoy it :-)

Cathy Pena said...

Hmmm. I wonder what context Peque said it in. Cryptic. Doesn't it make you wonder? No doubt, you've made your mark in the industry. :)

Anonymous said...

sinabi ni Peque Gallaga sa public forum pagkatapos ng isang screening ng Woman of the Ruins sa Glorietta. I think ang context ay dahil may ilang film appearances sya sa magkaibang projects sa festival na un.


Cathy Pena said...

Thanks, Juan. Now I understand. That made sense. Peque was in two films (I think). :)

Anonymous said...

Hi dati ako student ni atty sa law school.kinuha nya ko dati model

Cathy Pena said...

Oooh. I just love side stories like this. Haha. Tell tell... :)