Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mercury Is Mine (Jason Paul Laxamana, #Cinemalaya2016)

There is much to like about the film but an equal amount of bizarre things tarnish the luster of the award-winning Cinemalaya film.

The dark comedy Mercury Is Mine deals succinctly with the colonial mentality of Filipinos. The fortunes of a middle-aged cook Carmen Batac (Pokwang) begin to rise after taking in an American teenager Mercury (Bret Jackson) as temporary help. The American boy attracts hordes of customers smitten with his good looks. Carmen's roadside eatery begins to flourish and becomes a regular stopover for trekkers and fortune hunters going to Mt. Arayat.

The filmmakers suggest that Carmen is like a small-scale miner who struck gold after using mercury. But, mercury can be fatal if handled improperly.

An early film segment shows Mercury's true colors. He is not as pure as his white skin. He is a cold-blooded killer. Running away from patricide, he ends up in the eatery of Carmen.

The famed hospitality of Filipinos is shown through Carmen's decision to let Mercury stay. Carmen shows no hesitation in letting in the white boy. The whiteness of Mercury's skin clouds the minds of those he encounters. Carmen never doubted Mercury even after learning of the murder of his father.

This early in the film, I've lost my empathy for the male lead. Mercury is a killer. On the other hand, Carmen may be a bad girl who preys on the needy but she may still have a pure heart. However, as the film progress on, the dark side of Carmen's character comes to the fore. The two leads are so vicious they deserve one another.

Mercury Is Mine is spot on with its treatment of how Filipinos behave with Caucasians in their midst. However, the lead characters are extreme turn-offs. Imagine an absentee mother letting her daughter get impregnated by an American teenager. I didn't care anymore where the story went after that incident.

Pokwang's delivery of her one-liners brought the house down. Carmen's innocent guess on the origin of Mercury's name is a winner.

Prior to my viewing of Mercury Is Mine, I caught up with the Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave Best Picture Ari at Cinemalaya 2016. It is a Kapampangan film dealing with a famed poet. The film, with ample creative support from Jason Paul Laxamana, highlighted some of the main criticisms against the Kapampangan language. One of these quirks is the interchange of Fs with Ps.

I had a hearty laugh then after hearing Carmen say 'Let's fuck' when what she meant was 'Let's pack.' Local tidbits such as this, along with the delicious dishes, give the film a unique Kapampangan flavor.

The gold hoard of Mercury left me puzzled. Are they real? If it is real, then why didn't Mercury raise hell to recover them?

My guess is that the gold nuggets are fake. The last scene bolsters my hypothesis that the nuggets are fake. The final shot shows Carmen still cooking in her roadside eatery. Nothing has changed. Usually, when a character comes upon a fortune in the latter part of a film, the audience sees the result of this windfall in a succeeding scene showing a new house or a new car. In the case of Carmen, she is still stuck in her eatery.

I like to think that Carmen gave away those gold pieces but it is not within her character. That storyline is about as false as the gold hair wig of Carmen. Yes, there's no use changing her personality. She is, as she said early in the film, 'a bad girl.'


Sunday, September 04, 2016

Camp Sawi (Irene Villamor, 2016)

Love means never having to say you're sawi

Sorry! I can't help it. The above hugot line is not from the film. But, it is a major lesson one can glean from the film.

Camp Sawi deals with five women grappling with the pain of being heart-broken. All of them cannot handle the hurt so they join a camp designed to ease their loneliness and depression.

The film begins inside an impressive and probably expensive condo unit of Bridgette (Bela Padilla). It is the regular trysting place for her and her boyfriend, Chris. The visits though begin to taper off. One day, he no longer answers Bridgette's calls and text messages.

The abruptness of Chris' absence affected Bridgette's performance at work. She starts to look for options to heal her broken heart. She chances upon the website of Camp Sawi and laughs at the crazy idea behind the resort. But, the more she peruse the website, the more it becomes attractive. She eventually fills up the online registration form.

Camp Sawi is an island resort catering to love victims. Bridgette finds that she is not the only woman left by her man. Joan's case is heartrending. On the day she accepted the wedding proposal of her beau, a fatal accident happened. If you're a regular moviegoer then you probably have an idea on what caused the death of her boyfriend. It is death through vehicular accident once again.

Clarisse (Andi Eigenmann) and her lover is still seeing one another. However, the relationship is a cul-de-sac because Clarisse is a mistress. After every date, she experiences the pain of seeing her lover go back to his family. Among the resort guests, she is the only one who knows the first thing she will do after her stay at Camp Sawi. She will let go of her lover completely.

Rock band singer Gwen (Arci Muñoz) is smarting from her break-up with a fellow band member. The guy writes a break-up song and sings it to her face-to-face. A fellow musician at the camp heals her heart and transforms her into a sultry crooner.

Teenager Jessica (Yassi Pressman) does her best to get noticed by a good-looking basketball player. Her stalking ways lead to her discovery of the guy's true sexuality. Her mother convinced her to join the camp so she can get over the fact that her crush is gay.

Camp Sawi is not only for the distaff side. Every one who wants to move on is invited to move in. The peak season is during the love month of February.

The genesis behind the resort is not clear. The camp master and owner (Sam Milby) says he wants to help people. But, the way I see it, he is also looking for the woman of his dreams. There is a rule prohibiting guests from falling in love during their stay. Camp master, though, can easily find a way to contact guests outside because of his access to their files.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer column by Michael Tan on extreme sorrow helped me see that the five women are not broken-hearted. Their hearts are complete and intact. Love is still residing there. They only need to tap into their hearts to release joy that will suppress the loneliness they feel inside.

The pain felt by the women emanates from the liver. The Malay root word of Pighati and Dalamhati is hati, meaning liver. Luwalhati means being outside the realm of pighati.

The film Camp Sawi enlightens in an entertaining way. Extreme depression can only be vanquished by love and joy. The film's message is supported by an astonishing transformation of a drunkard Gwen into a vampy singer Love Joy. Musical interludes serve as major points in the evolution of Love Joy.

The brutally frank break-up song devastates a vulnerable Gwen. Then, the videoke sing along lifts up the hopes of Gwen. Finally, the torch song by Love Joy smolders and sizzles. She is so attractively hot even the camp master cannot help but invite her for dinner.

The other girls also learn to flush out negative emotions. Jessica may have lost a crush but she gains a BFF in return. Will she be able to make a man out of her BFF? Only time can tell.

Someday, Bridgette and Gwen may follow in the footsteps of Joan. The latter may not be as pretty and sexy as her fellow camp mates but she beat them all by getting married first. Maybe she is more beautiful inside than the others.

The trick then for singles is to be full of love and good vibrations in order to attract positive things. Love Joy seems to be in the right path. Go girl! Ituloy mo lang.