Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Walang Kawala Ang Walang Kawala

“Walang Kawala” (No Way Out) is a gay-themed movie by multi-awarded director Joel Lamangan and could be the Philippine’s answer to the Oscar-winning “Brokeback Mountain” and “Pulp Fiction.” “Walang Kawala” features Polo Ravales and Joseph Bitangcol playing the most daring role in their career so far. Produced by Manny Valera with screenplay by Eric Ramos, Walang Kawala is a very promising movie that could reap various awards abroad. Also starring in “Walang Kawala” are Jean Garcia and Emilio Garcia. Introducing in the movie are newbies Althea Vega and Marco Morales.

The paragraph above (which I’ve copied-and-pasted from is obviously a press release. To place this movie alongside Ang Lee’s masterpiece and Quentin Tarantino’s groundbreaking film is the work of someone who is, to paraphrase the title, walang kaalam-alam.

Okay, let’s start with the positives. Polo Ravales (who is a co-producer of this digital flick) musters a relatively decent portrayal of an unassuming fisherman named Joaquin. He tries his best to maintain a level of truth to his portrayal, even if the script and director forces him to wail out loud “Putang ina mo, Rufo!” in a apoplectic fit full of sound and furious melodrama, signifying nothing. Joseph Bitangcol, playing Joaquin’s neighbor Waldo, has grown by leaps and bounds as a body, not as an actor. He seems to have benefited most from his gym coach, not his acting coach. Still he is a sight to behold, a barely legal jailbait in skimpy briefs with pubic hair peeking out from the sides. (Yes, the director deemed it necessary to show us that for dramatic purposes. But more of that later.) And the kid can gyrate his way to the top of the macho dancing food chain (where aspiring bold actors who want a quick shot up the celebrity ladder usually land). Okay, let’s congratulate Bitangcol’s dance coach too. My major beef with him is his hair; maybe he was being Method about it and asked a third-rate hairdresser to do his hair. Given that his character comes from a poor provincial town, hmmm, on second thought what a brilliant acting choice!

The veteran actors fare slightly better. The Garcias (Emilio and Jean, not related of course) bring to their roles experience, skill and the ability to make much with so little. Unfortunately it’s just much of the same. A scowl here, a pensive glance or two there, and lots of crying or grimacing when needed—sure, we’ve all seen them before, but at least you can see some effort. Emilio succeeds in certain scenes in portraying the conflicted love-hate relationship he has with his wife—and himself. Okay, okay, I may have over-read his performance, but at least he made me feel his character was unhinged and could go off anytime. Sure, he skirts the boundaries of “okay” and “OA”, but in this movie that kind of over-the-top acting is relatively bearable. That’s what age and experience can bring to the table. Too bad that can’t be said of the direction.

Where oh where is the Joel Lamangan of before? Early in his movie directing career he was positioning himself to follow the late great Lino Brocka in coming up with compelling melodramas that were also biting social commentaries. So where is he now? In one extended scene designed more to titillate than illuminate, Polo watches a strip show with Marco Morales gyrating; suddenly Polo “sees” Joseph in Marco’s place (he found out earlier that Joseph used to work in the same gay bar). Joseph dances, and dances, and dances. And dances some more, in a bid to win Best Performance by An Actor Gyrating Angrily. I’m there in my seat going, “I got it, I got the point of this scene two seconds into it” when suddenly Joseph disappears and it’s back to Marco again and he ends the scene with a flourish and a full frontal of his sizable talent. Bravo! In another scene, a gay friend gazes longingly over Joseph’s briefs-clad sleeping body. The camera pans oh so lovingly slowly from head-to-foot, evoking that classic top-to-bottom reveal of Barbra Streisand after her make-over in The Mirror Has Two Faces—two scenes truly gasp-inducing on several levels.

The movie starts as “Where in the world is Waldo?” then moves on into “What in the world is happening?” and “Where in the world is the director?” territories. Unfortunately I have no idea how to answer those questions because I didn’t stay ‘til the end of Walang Kawala to find out the fate of Joaquin and Waldo. Because there was a way out of the movie house, unlike here, where I don’t know how to end this episode of The McVie Sh—


thebaklareview said...

that publicity release is embarassing!

joel lamangan's activism was always a cheap knock-off of Brocka's. his "political messages" were too easy, i think. i often question his sincerity or his competence to speak on the issues.

i want to know at which point in the movie you decided to walk out. :-)

mister said...

Is there one good Joel Lamangan movie? Because I've yet to see one.

Joseph Bitangcol looks like the male version of Mahal. Not sexy.

M. Hubs

joelmcvie said...

@THEBAKLAREVIEW: I walked out when Jean Garcia told the boys she will help them escape; a photo of that scene is featured coincidentally in your review of the film! (Which I only read after I posted my reaction.) At that point I assumed there will be no more hot scenes between the two leading men to look forward to, hahaha.

@MISTERHUBS: Actually Joel Lamangan's films at the start of his career felt like attempts at something more, whether in form or in content. But then it became just more--more melodrama, more of the same, more as in over-the-top.

E said...

that's why tagalog pink films are boring....same shit different titles...and who writes the scripts anyway?!?! Who the talks like that?!hahahahaha (for most pink films)

No, I haven't seen noway out, if ever i do--ill just fast forward it to the sex scenes :-)

They should've made porn instead

ruby said...

I was planning to watch that movie when I was still in Manila... kaya lang similar to Brokeback mountain, no one wanted to go with me... D: (pero I decided to watch brokeback on my own. hehe)

But I read not so good reviews so I decided not to watch it na lang. :)

Kai Santorino said...

Okay, so the concept was pretty good but the execution was poorly done. It was so cheesy and full of crap -- french kissing before getting shot plus joseph bitangcol running just a few steps away? hay naku..

I thought Polo Ravales was good. and emilio did a great job too.

The lines were funny too- 'kaliskisan kita'

But still he could have made it a better movie.

Isa pa... I cannot believe they made Sex and the City look so sanitize by deleting the dick shot when this guy flashed his penis twice!

Talk about inconsistencies in the MTRCB..

Pero in fairness.. haha!