Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Bliss (Jerrold Tarog, 2017)

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Bliss is a true sleeper. It is a satirical, horrifying take on obsession and predation in local cinema. Filmmaker Jerrold Tarog churns out a fantastic, exceptional movie that shook the bejesuses out of a lethargic local film industry.  

Bliss is a homage to the Stephen King chiller Misery. The nail-biting suspense book was adapted faithfully into an amazing Hollywood film. Misery dealt with a best-selling male author who figured in a road accident which left him crippled. He could have died if not for the intervention of a witness. The female witness, a nurse, happens to be a passionate fan of the author's books featuring the character Misery. The author experiences tender care, and later on, horror and misery at the hands of the nurse.

Bliss also deals with a celebrity (Iza Calzado) who've had the misfortune of crossing paths with a crazed fan. The actress, crippled because of a freak accident during shooting, is left to recuperate in a humongous house with only a nurse as constant companion. The beautiful actress experiences nightmares at the hands of the nurse.

A memorable nightmare scene shows the paranoiac star fleeing from a horde of monsters who want a piece of her. These legions of monsters symbolize the rabid fans who gobbled up every piece of info about their idols. These type of fans yearn for close contact with their favorite celebrities. They hold vigil during midnight shooting sessions. They outmaneuver bodyguards and security people in their desire to have selfies with their idols. A lucky few get to kiss their idols.

The hospital scenes at the end of the film are deeply shocking for some viewers. Those viewers will realize that they share a thing with the nurse. They, too, want a piece of the star. It is not that they want to experience a blissful albeit criminal, full-contact, close encounter with the actress. It is just that they wish to see their beauteous idol in full naked glory. Calzado joins Maria Isabel Lopez, Angeli Bayani, and Sue Prado, on the list of celebrities who've done full frontal nudity on films.

There's another meaning to the word Bliss aside from rapturous joy. Bliss refers to the multi-storied housing project of the Marcoses. In the film, the spooky, dimly-lit residences in Sikatuna are home to a sexual predator. This female pedophile eventually lures a girl to a world of blissful nightmares. The girl morphs into a sex pervert herself.

The Sikatuna Bliss segment of the film gives the chills that linger. There are indeed real-life perverts preying on children. Just recently, a priest is being probed for possible trafficking of a minor. 

Top-tier celebrities may have better lighted, well-secured homes but it doesn't mean that they are shielded from parasitic people. The philandering husband of the celebrity takes opportunity of her imbalanced state of mind by leeching money. The filmmaker exploits news on the aftermath of the freak shooting accident to spruce up publicity for his movie. The mother of the celebrity convinces her burnt-out daughter to continue acting because of the financial windfall associated with her showbiz career.

Tarog is a top-notch filmmaker who makes films, first and foremost, for the Filipinos. Unlike the obsessed filmmaker character in Bliss, he isn't fixated with winning international film festival recognition and awards. Tarog, though, has amassed varied honors since his debut in 2007. Bliss is up there with his very best films including Sana Dati and Heneral Luna.


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