Friday, February 7, 2014

Francis Jun Posadas' "Aninag" - Back to the Past (aka Documenting Bad)

When a recruiter took off and disappeared with Aldo’s (Lance Raymundo) down payment for his application for overseas work, all he could do was go home to his wife Alma (KC Miller) and sulk. But the indomitable human spirit takes him to another agent who could be legitimate this time. Trouble is, a placement fee of P20,000 is required to get his foot in the door… and he’s all tapped out. In fact, bills are piling up at home and Alma is knocking on friends’ doors for help. 

To do her part, Alma secretly turns to her friend Jem (Lang Lopez) who works as a prostitute. She takes Alma to her boyfriend and pimp Gardo (Andrew Nanos). 

For her rite of passage, Gardo sleeps with the reluctant Alma who didn't realize there were two guys to "sample" her as her first clients - then she earns her P20,000. What’s worse, the dastardly deed was recorded for commercial, albeit underground distribution. Alma comes home with the cash, but is visibly shaken. 

One day, Aldo gets hold of the new “scandal” in town; that of Alma’s. All hell breaks lose, and Aldo menacingly drives Alma away. What could have been a promising marital future has turned into a tenebrous situation. When it’s this grim and gloomy, would there be a flicker of hope , i.e. “aninag”, for the couple? (Swak ba?)

The Girlie Flick (aka B-movie eroticas) has always existed in our country, whether you like it or not. This genre has considerably dwindled and almost disappeared in the first decade of the new millennium. Contributory to this was the refusal of the largest chain of cinemas to show them. Less venues meant limited profitability. But lo and behold, they are gradually making a comeback, competing with the venues where Pink Films used to thrive. Ignoring or disregarding them altogether, as though they do not exist, won't hide the fact that they are a piece of the pie of Philippine Cinema. You just cannot disregard the runt in a litter because they actually exist.

I am repeatedly asked why I give time and write about these films. The answer is simple really: Because they exist! Sometime in the early 70's, eccentric artist Andy Warhol produced several "underground films" notorious for being crude, amateurish and indecent, like "Trash", "Heat", "Flesh" and "Flesh for Frankenstein". The films mostly featured Joe Dallesandro (left), the pioneer of the male sexual revolution, who mostly flaunted his bare essentials, traipsing from scene to scene fully naked.

Director John Waters likewise came up with "Mondo Trasho", "Hairspray" and "Pink Flamingo" (with the obese transexual Divine who, in one scene, even ingested the feces of his pooping dog). Yes, they were trashy and decadent, but decades into the future, the audience found amusement in how ridiculously bad and laughable they were, they essentially became entertainment. These days, the films of Warhol and Waters are frequently screened as retrospective features in London's British Film Institute. Who would have thought? The movie watching experience opened my mind. How can we totally comprehend what a good film is if we haven't seen the worst of them? Now, imagine if these films were totally ignored or undocumented? There'd be no musical remake of the delightful "Hairspray", right?  

Back to the local scene, Director Francis Jun Posadas tells a straight forward story that takes us back to the 90’s when women were the focal subject of soft erotica; those B-flicks that Seiko Filmsproudly” churned out because "they must be good". In fact, Posadas directed a flurry of such films: “Itlog”, “Kaulayaw”, “Tampisaw”, “Bakat”, “Kerida”, “Balat-Sibuyas”, and dozens more. The good news is, Posadas doesn't resort to those gag-inducing protracted showers and ambiguous sexualities to move his story. He takes the “straighter” route and puts the fairer sex back to the spotlight. By doing so, the story becomes a more credible affair than the fantastical yarn of the execrably non-thinking Pink directors like G.A. Villafuerte, Paul Singh Cudail, Darry dela Cruz, Cleo Paglinawan, Ronald Rafer, Toni Te and Jigz Recto – an exclusive company of the country’s most God-awful film makers. "Pinabili ng suka, nakapulot ng camera, director na," as they're frequently referred to. Unfortunately, the earlier good news stops there. While Posadas is a notch higher as a story teller, his film making skill leaves much to be desired. In fact, he takes us back 20 years in the past. And let's not pretend that this vehicle is a thespian's plate. I'd be better off dancing the hula than extolling the artistic virtues of these actors. So I tell it as I see it. Fair?

Clocking at less than an hour, the scenes are carelessly shot, thought it somehow benefits from brisk editing. While Aldo discusses his options with the new recruiter, the scene goes on without a sound. What’s this? A game of guessing mimed statements? Several other important scenes roll along with no audio, as when Aldo confronts his wife. They bickered and yelled at each other yet we couldn't hear a thing! Cinematography is so bad that the images seem like blurred pencil sketches. Moreover, you couldn't read the names of the cast when the credits roll. Cinema is a visual medium. If you cannot deliver valid visuals, turn to radio drama which doesn't require moving images. While Posadas' style is a throwback to a different era when women were the more desirable objects, and is thus surprisingly refreshing, those movies – like this one – were irrefutably bad. And bad isn't good! Ask Vhong Navarro.  

From the top (clockwise): Lance Raymundo, KC Miller, Andrew Nanos, Jayvee Capio, Jerome Tolentino, Lang Lopez

Lance Raymindo
Andrew Nanos
KC Miller (above and below)
KC Miller

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