Wednesday, March 5, 2014

G.A. Villafuerte’s “Ex-Men” – Ligo na U, Ligo na We

Majority of the characters in G.A. Villafuerte’sEx-Men” had to endure their individual shower scenes. To break the monotony, there would be occasional shower pairings. In fact, if these bathing scenes were pieced together, they’d easily constitute more than half the running time of the movie, leaving not enough to develop a valid story. But telling a legible one was never among Villafuerte’s goals - or talent. If you thought cinema was meant to "tell tales", "educate and inform" or "entertain", you’d be hard pressed to pick an adequate raison d’ĂȘtre here. None of it is in the aforementioned. "To titillate?" Nah, not even that.


After overcoming upheavals in his finances and romance, Jayco’s (Jay Enriquez) fortune is starting to turn around. He has a well-paying job that that allows him to pay off his loan, saving his house from foreclosure. Moreover, he’s in a loving relationship with Brixx (Ichiro Lopez), a former rent boy who now lives with him.

But circumstances could rock Jayco’s peaceful existence: His brother Gerry (Jace Flores), along with pregnant wife Isay (Renee Gozon), needs temporary shelter. Why not, enthuses Mama Bong (Jobben Bello), who convinces Jayco that it’s his brotherly duty to help “dahil ikaw ang may kakayahang tumulong.” Strangers have done less for others. Jayco’s concern is, they've never agreed on anything in the past. 

On Jayco and Brixx’s first year anniversary, a motley crew of characters get invited, including Ervin (Marco Ronquillo), the uncle who once took advantage of Jayco’s erstwhile misfortune; Brixx’s mother (Elona Mendoza, also billed as executive producer); Jayco’s ex Kean (Chris Samson ), who left when Jayco’s fortunes dwindled; Kean’s new lover Glenn (Gary Guarino); and Norris (JR Alcaraz), Brixx’s former customer. This rendezvous of old and new acquaintances becomes a test as each character has to face some unresolved issues.

What follows is a series of banal events - spin the bottle (quite predictably), a drinking spree, an orgy of four that one of them refers as “threesome” (let’s teach the dingbat-writer how to count, alright?). As if this wasn't enough, caterwauling ensues; one that would try the audience’s patience against the most irritating and petty arguments.

G.A Villafuerte populates his stories with a dozen characters he has absolutely no aptitude to develop or explore. But then, more people means more showers, right? Hell would freeze over without someone soaping away his intimates. 

Even GMA 7’s former castaway Jace Flores had to scrub away his muscular grime to fulfil Villafuerte's myopic vision. What’s funny is how Villafuerte wasn't able to convince Flores to show his wares. Unlike other male characters where a camera would run through every inch of the actor’s state of undress, Villafuerte could only show Flores' tattooed shoulders. Takot si Ate.

But what Flores refuses to show, Jay Enriquez (in)adequately provides. Generous Jay has a fleeting frontal scene (so don't blink when he's showering). Let me tell you, it wasn't an angry inch, so to speak. A few centimeters was more like it.

The film has a party scene that's unnecessarily protracted, thus aimless. I knew I lost a good part of sanity just waiting for the whole darn revelry to unwrap. It was 15 minutes or so of kitchen preparation (yup, the whole kitchen groundwork wasn't even edited out, but employed as time-filler to stretch his 5-minute story).  It was like watching a bad cooking show without anybody cooking. 

In one of the story's arguments, Brixx was so disoriented that all he could mutter was a repeated line: “Sa akin ka naman galit, huwag kang mandamay ng iba!” Three times he spewed and belched like it was the only line he could remember from a three-page script; each one as undecided as the next – he even buckled on his third try I laughed so hard. I suspected this was really designed as comedy! When Jayco calmed down, he said, “Hayaan nyo akong mag-isip at hanapin ang tunay na ako!” Deep, debah? I didn't know he vanished.

In another scene, Brixx was trying to convince his mother that Jayco’s a good man. He tells her, “Mabait yun, Ma. Tinulungan nga ako nun noong naglalakad ako sa daan.” I didn't realize he needed help to walk. He didn't seem physically impaired to require assistance. In fact, he did strenuous activities in bed that necessitated perfect lower extremity mobility, I swear. These lines make you wonder if someone is actually writing these scripts. Or has Elvis left the building? ;)

A couple of scenes, both involving Guarino and Samson (who play lovers), did not have audio at all so I thought it was an exercise of miming. Where was the anonymous sign-language lady? Villafuerte just forgot his microphone. Though easily rectifiable, the scene stays in the movie. Did the director even bother to fix these? Ineptitude and laziness are major factors why such Pink directors do not achieve a degree of respectability.
Gary Guarino shares the shower with Chris Samson.

Jay Enriquez (left) shares inches more, but his burgeoning “feminine” side is off-putting. He gets “softer” by the minute. If this was pure acting, he might as well earn a Famas for his vicarious artistic persuasion. Ichiro Lopez, despite his small stature, registers well on screen, but he desperately struggles with his lines. Gary Guarino carries himself well and reminds me of the masculine charisma of Jeff Luna. Unfortunately, he wasn't tasked to do much but cavort (vigorously) in bed – or do these extremely crucial shower scenes.

Christopher Samson, if you're not aware, has a degree of fame as It's Showtime's Coco Martin kalokalike.  And he bravely shows his inches in a frontal shower scene (but for Villafuerte's eyes only) with Guarino (above). He also cavorts in bed for a couple more scenes. Very limber indeed. Was Coco ever this generous for Brillante Mendoza? Uh, yes. he was for "Masahista" and "Serbis", wasn't he? The biggest question is: What is Jace Flores doing in a film like “Ex-Men”? But then, what was Kristoffer King doing in Villafuerte's "Sayaw"? Or Jef Gaitan in the same brilliant director's "Dilig"? Desperation sometimes prods people to do the most ridiculous things. Maybe Jace will finally accede to showing what's way way down below the tattoos in Villafuerte's next two-dozen films?

Before I forget, the movie title is nothing but a bad word play on the prefix “ex” (former) and “men”, and has nothing to do with coming out of the closet. The story teller is too inept to handle such narrative dilemma. Thus he comes up with “Ex-Men” – men who were “former lovers/customers”, like Kean and Norris in the story. Brilliant idea, right? Burst of genius, I confer.  


Villafuerte is the poster child of “artistic bankruptcy”. His stories repeat like a recycled vomitus. Heck, even his setting is recycled. The house used here is the very same structure he employed in “Pilyo”, shown one week before this. Even his blockings are familiar. There’s threadbare development of characters. Several scenes suffer from Meralco outages. Moreover, his plot uncharacteristically conflagrates into undeserved tension. Blink and you suddenly get shouting matches and high wattage melodrama.

Where did Villafuerte “unlearn” his screenwriting skill? This seems relevant because we don’t want others following his disputable knack for making the most opprobrious body of work. That he finds pleasure in getting mentioned here in Blush - as a director of ill repute and vacuous artistry - is really a testament to his simple mindedness. Bad publicity is never good if he never learns from his mistakes, which are a dime a dozen, oft repeated from one movie to the next. And what nincompoop considers a movie review as publicity? It is unfortunate that mediocrity is incurable. If it could kill people the way a malignant cancer does, he’d have been buried 20 films ago.  
Jace Flores: What is he doing in a B-exploitation film?
Gary Guarino
Chris Samson, Coco Martin's bespectacled kalokalike in It's Showtime!