Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ronald M. Rafer's "Gigolo" - Tens Years Back

Life hasn’t been a walk in the park for Julio (Mygz Molino) who, as a child, lived with a wicked stepmother who spared no affection for him. At last straw, he finally found the courage to runaway and live on the streets with other urchins. Fast forward to the present. Julio grows up an able bodied Romeo who, along with his friends (Maichel Fidelis and Jake Galeon), hang out in gyms and busy avenues to peddle his flesh to libidinous gay men. His girlfriend Margot (played by a girl who uses the ridiculous-sounding name “Kissy Babe Kisses”, believe it or not) doesn't mind. She herself is a prostitute.

One day, Julio overhears a story from Dominic (Christoff Ken), a gym guy with whom Julio is curiously drawn to, about Dominic’s mother Imelda (Carla Varga) who allegedly gave away her own child when she was younger. Why Dominic would unravel this to a complete stranger is stuff of legends. Anyway, Julio follows this lead and confronts Imelda. She was indeed the same mother who abandoned him. And she had been searching for him. They have a tearful reunion and vow never to be separated ever again. End of story?

Well, not quite. Julio comes home to find Margot battered and blue. Her last customer was Mr. Marquez (Rob Sy), an inveterate sadist. He gets his kicks torturing his girls. Julio vows to avenge Margot. He marches to the club where she works and finds the bald sadist. With great effect, he wears his hood and takes out his shiny knife, then bludgeons Mr. Marquez to his ultimate demise.

Next scene is a baffling testament to absurdity. The whole family: Julio and girlfriend Margot, mom Imelda and son Dominic walk the streets away from their house as they seek new glory under the sun. Yup, as easy as that. Murder completely erased from their timeline. Wide open smiles and bright inspired faces with no iota of guilt, grief or trepidation. Just how a fairy tale should be.

There has been a spate of entertainment writers and tabloid reporters who dabbled with Pink Indies. There’s Benny Andaya (“Tatlong Beses Isang Araw”), Sandy Es Mariano (last year’s “Jumbo Jericho”), and Ronald M. Rafer for “Gigolo”. Let’s not forget Ronald Carballo (“Pikit-Mata”). What’s the common denominator? Except for Carballo whose film we haven’t seen, each project is among the worst that Philippine Cinema has ever produced. In fact, giving these writers carte blanche to actually direct a film is several steps backward. Try 10 years! If this isn't a gargantuan slap on the face of Philippine Cinema, I don't know what is.

Rafer’s story telling technique is in desperate need of constitution. He tells his tales with barely any valid framework. Not only does he tell it in incongruent episodic clutter, he also resorts to spur-of-moment whims inserting narrative threads that do not belong to his story.

Let’s take the case of former Survivor Philippines’ Rob Sy and his protracted bed scene with the bar girl he hired to assault. Sy’s character could be absolutely stricken off because it dilutes the story of Julio and takes the focus away from the main characters. And it did. 

Rafer peppered his tepid story with its undeserved, unrelated and discrepant climax, but the character of Mr. Marquez is non-essential. He is disposable, and his presence puts emphasis to the movie’s randomness. Their scene which must have lasted a good 15 minutes involved an expendable, if not superfluous narrative string – a rape scene whose perpetrator humped away fully clothed! May medyas pa yata. :) How’s that for cinematic will or focus?

Rob Sy, Mahal, Maichel Fidelis and Ms. Carla Varga (Go figure!)

Rafer’s narrative exposition is painfully limited, and his scene transitions are very abrupt that one caterwauling scene briskly follows another head-splitting breakdown scene, then another “Magbabayad-ka-sa-ginawa-mo” scene. Carla Varga, who plays negligent mother Imelda, is a good example of Rafer’s very loose grip as director. Julio asks Imelda, “May anak kayo?” Then with no rhyme or reason, she bawls her heart out. They converse further. When Julio leaves, Imelda once again cries as though she just ate something awful.


Every scene with Carla Varga is executed with over-the-top melodrama, I half expected the Earth to open up and devour the actors for the noise they were generating. Moreover, I was befuddled why Varga is distinctively billed “Ms. Carla Varga”! Why the special title? Is she royalty in the league of Ms. Lea Salonga, Ms. Zsa Zsa Padilla, Ms. Lorna Tolentino or Ms. Eula Valdez? Is she an icon or hero? Is she vaguely popular? Raise your hand, children, if you know who she is. Is she young, vivacious and full of verve? Isn't she 55, or 65? Does she carry an enviable thespic prowess a la Nora Aunor, Bea Alonzo or Shamaine Centenera? Is she a personality of immense Helenic beauty? Mahal, is in fact, a more popular name than Carla Varga will ever be. Yet Mahal isn't billed “Ms. Mahal”. Mahal instead takes the film’s sidelight selling cigarettes at the bar entrance, with ribbon on her hair that's bigger than her head, screaming “Notice me! Notice me!” It’s woeful. We have a conundrum.

With all these peripatetic narrative detours, Julio’s story as “Gigolo” takes second fiddle. We are left out of Julio's kaleidoscopic world. Yes, there are more than half a dozen sex scenes, but some of them don’t even concern our protagonist. Rafer is taken to his “flights of ideas” leaving poor Mygz Molino disoriented in his own titular movie.  

Rafer further recruited some actors familiar in the genre for walk-on parts, as though he is cooking up chopsuey. Throw whatever he can into the brew to disguise the vacuity of his work. Brad Laurente awkwardly hams it up as a gayer-than-gay concupiscent queen bedding one of the guys. Jeremy Ian is likewise billed although I must have blinked and missed him.

Equal opportunity is a double edged sword. Anyone who dreams of directing can buy or borrow himself a camera and call himself a director with no heed for the filmic language or its artistic requisites. See any of G.A. Villafuerte's flicks to realize that the guy tells a single story in 15 of his films all told within 525,600 minutes. Repetition is supposed to turn into mastery, right? Not with Villafuerte, and in this case, Rafer, whose talents are limited to besting how to get worse than their last. In this country, even a secretary without any aptitude for governance can rise to become a Senator. That’s what makes this country great… and shitty.

Mygz Molino is Julio.


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