Things you already knew: The director, Q. Allan Brocka, is an American -- born in Guam and raised in Washington -- of Filipino descent, nephew of legendary director Lino Brocka. The movie, Boy Culture, was independently produced in the U.S., toured the festival circuit in 2006, had a limited theatrical run in France, Spain, and Japan, before it was released on video in 2007. Two years after its debut, it's here in Philippine theatres, and it feels like a strange landmark moment.
What the arrival of an offshore niche film means -- you know, a queer film -- is that, after a string of local gay-themed movies drawing people like you and me into the cinemas, the niche market was heard. Somebody figured out there's an audience here for the sort of film usually passed over to pirates. If you watch it, and a dated American novelty cashes in, who knows what movies the future brings? It can only benefit everyone.
The movie itself is a confection. Based on the novel of the same title, it has practically every trope of the gay-urban-romantic-comedy genre: club music, bitchy one-liners, sexual situations, gorgeous guys (but no explicit nudity), ruminations on love, lust, and life. Even the characters are stock: the handsome hustler, his two roommates (a queen and a closet case), and an older gentleman client who pays him for his visits but won't sleep with him unless he desires him back. Thankfully, the nearly flawless storytelling has verve, style and pathos, and even if you get the feeling you're not getting anything new, down to the inspiring message of embracing love, I dare you to say this isn't the kind of worthwhile comfort food the candymakers should exactly be making.
If the poster, trailer, and even the title for Sa Pagdapo Ng Mariposa make it seem like a removed enigma that doesn't want to explain itself, that's because the movie is a genre-bender difficult to describe without giving away the tasty surprises. The offbeat drama -- about a caregiver who falls in love with his patient -- keeps careening into demented, high-concept territory, right unto its twisted ending, and that's what makes it a pleasure to watch.
If only it were more skillfully made. If you can't quite dig into the scenes, blame the simple lapses in filmmaking judgment and weak mounting. Why do the women in the cast appear eerily the same age range? What is the deal with the longplaying pop rock jukebox that sucks out the emotion of every other sequence? Despite dynamic camerawork, action and dialogue are occassionally stiff. Often, the movie feels like a blueprint for a movie than an actual movie. Of course, you can say the same for many of the low-budget, underpolished features coming out these days; it's just that this one is interesting enough to wish for more exact hits.
What lifts the pulpy material are the two extraordinary lead actors. Marcus Madrigal, as the paralyzed former sepak takraw athlete, is still convincing as a twenteen, and still as sexy-cute as if he were still in softcore ten years ago. The real star, however, is Josh Deocareza, who inhabits his nurse in early scenes with a soft saintliness and just the right clues of psychic pain bubbling underneath. It's an expertly measured balancing act. What he does, almost magically, is to thread the bumpiness of the film with the gradual self-destructing desperation of his character, even though, when you think about it, the profile written for him is sketchy. His is a striking, intelligent performance that would have been brilliant in a more realized film.
The different sexual positions demonstrated in these two instructional videos are for the benefit of a man/woman pair, but maybe a few of you could try if they also apply to the anatomies of two men. But until we find further usefulness for these videos, or until someone invents a gay Kamasutra (again, I won't charge for the idea), the sights of naked hot men in simulated heterosexual sex should do.
In Pinoy Kamasutra -- the first one, starring Katya Santos -- the sights are disappointing. A big, ugly graphic framing dwarfs the scenarios by about a third of its size. If you're familiar with how hot the men are -- Haren Cuevas, Jerwin Mercado, Jay-R Zamora, Alken Miranda, and in starring roles, Justin De Leon and Cedric Javier -- you'll mourn at how barely you can recognize their features with the horrible lighting.
As if to atone for their sins, the second Pinoy Kamasutra -- starring Myles Hernandez -- is leagues better in photography. At least this time, we get curves and highlights and natural skin tones. The action also appears more alive. During a trick called "The Moving Wheel", Harry Laurel displays active physical prowess, not to mention a showcase of his strong, smooth ass. The other men -- Anthony Logan, Niko Arellano, Jerwin Mercado, and a brief appearance by Chester Nolledo -- are also nicely featured.
However, the storyline for the second is even more irritating than the first. Yes, there's a story. While the first one concerns the discovery of the ancient Kamasutra book in a friend's bedroom apartment, the second one is more "hip", as the Kamasutra is attached in an email from a secret admirer. With sleep-inducing scenes of monitor screens and typing on the keyboard -- and interminable interludes of bellydancing females -- the second one contains more filler.
The DVD of Pinoy Kamasutra 2 has a behind-the-scenes feature, while Pinoy Kamasutra has nada. The people who made the first one must hate their viewers so much.
The thin premise -- strangers from the internet meet up for sex -- sounds like a concept that's so five years ago, yet the people behind M2M Eyeball commit to it to a fault. The actors don't use last names; As if spectres in the chatroom, they're credited only by their nicks: AJ, Myles, Richard, Paolo, Mark, Aljon, Ken and Adrian. They're mostly cute but in ordinary nextdoor ways. However, everyone braves full frontal nudity, and it's wonderful.
Quasi-poetic texts and pregnant glances are tacked on to supposedly widen character and story. In typical purple by director Cris Pablo, they also function as commentaries on gay relationships. But it's a stretch -- an underwhelming exercise straining for relevance. Even the actors seem like they're pushing for drama that isn't quite there.
The video peaks during its purely visual exploitative moments. My favorites are the solo jerk-offs, because the guys, in playing to their webcams, appeal directly to the voyeurs on the other side, which is us. Early on, a guy masturbates with his shirt still on and his laptop literally atop his lap -- and his rigid penis is digitally blurred. (Apparently, it's permissible to show dicks but only when they're limp.) Pumping furiously, he appears to be immersed in his own hedonistic world, and it's the sexiest image in the set. Like a session in front of your computer, this video is best enjoyed as unsubstantial timewaster with pictures that amuse.
Finally, a trashy video that’s B-movie excellent! It’s the story of a model photoshoot in a haunted mansion, and because even the ghost is a sexpot, there’s nudity and sex galore! Funny and raunchy as hell. Granted, it’s made with the straight guy in mind, so there’s loads of boobies and lesbian coupling that’ll require a fast forward button.
However, as the narcissistic photographer, Josh Ivan Morales is a juggernaut of horniness. Anything the hunk does – or says – onscreen is charged with the joy of guiltless sex, and it’s contagious. I’ve never seen him act so free and loose, not even in his porn past. During sex, he expresses how proud he is of himself by raising both his arms to flex his muscles and kisses his bulging biceps – while still humping the woman! He does this on three different occassions. He’s dripping with sweat, too, and the look on his face is pure cocky machismo. If anyone has had any doubt that the guy’s a sex god, lend them this video.
The only other male in the cast is a skinny, youthful cutie named Martin McKenze, who plays the photographer’s assistant. For a comic relief with an annoying whine, he’s hot, too, as he gamely poses with only a few leaves covering his genitals and he shows masterful tongue-flicking and nipple-sucking on one model. I loved how his tongue seemed to have a life of its own throughout the video. And my god, his pink nipples.
Eric Ramos, the guy behind the also-great-but-straight Sikreto Ni Kuya, knows how to have dirty fun. We could learn a lot from his approach: His videos are sexy because there’s a celebration of mindless pleasure at its core. A gay version of him is needed, especially in these times when our gay sex image seems always troubled by a tragic seriousness.
To judge from the movie Ploning, the island of Cuyo in Palawan teems with fit, good-looking men and boys who are often shirtless – playing futbol, parading during fiesta, doing ordinary chores. Actor Bodjong Fernandez, a Cuyo local, is a perfect specimen of deep brown skin and chunky beef. We almost never see someone like him play a lead role. The film makes him act like an unoiled robot most of the time, but his torso in the opening and closing scenes had me creaming my pants.
But the men are minor side attractions. The film itself is a wholesome, non-gay, G-rated piece of cinema that nobody in this country makes anymore: a widescreen sweep of virtuous bucolic life. Based loosely on a folk song about a woman who waits eternity for her lover to return, the movie, with its yearning, sacrificing characters, is really about the struggle and rewards of faith. Ploning can feel like chicken soup with scenes built around spoken metaphorical truisms spewed as wisdom, but when the froth works – especially in the locomotive final third – it’s damn near magical in its healing.
Looking back, what heralded this year’s summer was the image of actor Dingdong Dantes in briefs on billboards sprouting across Metro Manila. It got people talking and announced the impending heat. The biggest and best was a humongous horizontal display at the foot of North Luzon Expressway.
I’m convinced a calculation of the billboards' surface area would reveal it was designed to contain as much flesh as possible, with the model practically spilling over the edges. The effect is like an invasion of a giant. I’m not too keen on the photography itself, and the modeling seems freakish; but you have to admit: It makes you look, duck for cover, or kneel in worship. If only all eyesores were as bold.