Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Goatzilla In Cannes

Unanimously, the panel of juries composed of myself and my multiple personalities, hereby bestow the Hernia d’Or to Brillante Mendoza’s Serbis.

Serbis is that rare gem that once in a while sneaks itself through and outmaneuvers the high standards of the Cannes Film Festival and instantly makes Serious Critics’ garters all knotted up. Not us, the very fine-tuned Panel of Absurdity who have just the combustible appetite for Films From Hell. And Mendoza is our shining beacon of hope, the kind of hope who profoundly understands the crucial need to out-squalor India and Somalia in the determined dash for Cinematic Sordidness.

Serbis is brandished as a story of arbitrary morality. It follows a mishmash of activities of a family operating a seedy porn movie house and the hormone-crazed habitués populating it. Or so it hopes to be received.

As a warped, rabid consumer of local indie flicks it hits me this way: it’s not a movie about the human condition—it’s a bleak Third World aerobics video disguised as an artsy movie/celluloid provocateur! It’s actually a herniating two-hour voyeurism; an exhausting trailing of the characters in lieu of spectator workout: you lose five pounds just sitting through the entire movie what with too much going up and down the dingy stairs like a grimly-lighted exercise cassette. At one point I was half expecting Jane Fonda, in matching Rainbow Brite head/wrist/leg bands, to pop up into the screen and cheerfully exhorting everyone. “Ok! Great! Now! Two More Flights Up The Grimy Stairwell, Folks! A-One! A-Two! A-Three!”

In the opening sequence a young woman, newly-bathed, purr at herself in the mirror. She croaks “I Love You…” in breathy repetition while the camera languidly spans the slopes downhill from her cocoa-tinted nipples to her bushy black-pubed crotch. A poster of Jesus and several iterations of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary looked on with beatific smiles while she goes on a narcissistic spree. Classic! This scene got slammed for “gratuitous nudity” by certain critics at Cannes. Being a passionate Absurditst I indignantly disagree! How can they not see it? It’s Mendoza’s love letter to self right there. You can almost picture him contemplating his own nakedness in front of the mirror, as he tweaks his own nipples in self-congratulations and breathes “You are a fabulous auteur! I love you…”

However this has a reverse, ironic effect on majority of the gay audiences that I presume to be the core audience of Mendoza’s Cinéma-vérité.

Kaloka!” squeals an offended fag, and by the tone it was uttered, he’s plotting class action suit for psychological trauma.

Come on! Is it really difficult to love the Mendoza's School Of Filmmaking and it’s underlying genius in Techniques In Making The Rounds Of The Awards Circuit? Forget craft in storytelling! Forget character depth! More Nudity! Sex! Raw Living Conditions!

Capitalize on the exoticism of squalor! Show clogged bathroom pipes! Extend protracted shots of grimy drainage hosting three thousandth generation of Escherichia coli!

And while you're at it, pass the Xanax! AND the Maalox!

This technique will appeal and will come off very provocative for the likes of say, Paris Hilton or the entire population of Sweden or Switzerland (where poverty is unheard of) who will involuntarily bronze Brillantes as a visceral visionary.

However, show this movie to the populace of the innards of Quiapo and you’ll get a big “SO?”

Despite all these purported foulness, I laud the movie for its abundance of absurdity.

Take for instance the character of Coco Martin, who plays billboard painter slash reel delivery boy. Just when I was almost convince that he has the acting intensity, a convincing tortured look and a believable limp, it was finally revealed that it wasn’t really his talent: it was a humongous boil at its ripe, terminal stage throbbing on his butt cheek! The awful boil (which deserves its own billing) in a brilliant exhibition of third world DIY surgery, was popped out of commission with the help of a long-necked whiskey bottle. While collective chorus of disgust floated from the audience at the sight of pus and blood oozing from the quashed carbuncle, I wanted to leap out of my seat and do a manic ovation in behalf of all Nip Tuck fans everywhere! Coco Martin is a poster boy for courage!

This is not to say that the film is lacking in talent: Gina Pareño as the grand matriarch bristles like a blue blooded thespian in her scenes that command your respect and attention. Then there’s Julio Diaz, whose gravitas is felt despite all the 'quiet' acting and the jarring premises and scenes that threaten to eclipse him. Then there’s THE Jacklyn Jose, who can convey three thousand emotions just by slowly pursing her lips. Jacklyn rises above all the ludicrousness and she solidifies my respect for her prodigious talent. Here she once again proves she’s an actress of the highest order by delivering the line “Inang, May Nakapasok Na Kambing!” ("Mother, a stray goat got inside the theater!”) without bursting into giggles. Another thing about her that begets my respect: she carries her scenes with solemn composure and unwavering dignity despite her botchy, caked faux tan slowly melting like she’s an animated Madame Taussaud's exhibit delivering the lines from Medea next to an incinerator. Meryl Streep, you got competition.

Serbis is crude, and visceral; It is a daring celluloid umbrella of great actors (even the very minor actors toss their lines with convincing faculty) which is diluted by the film's pretentious over eagerness to be taken seriously. The cinematography is incredible, the art direction spot on, but this film suffers the advance stage of Auteur Syndrome: the inability to film with a steady camera. It is like saying: If the camera movements aren’t shaky enough, then it’s not indie enough!

Listen: we get it! It’s supposed to be raw, but would nausea be necessary? Isn't floors flooded with urine and other excrement head-spinning enough? It is as if Serbis' (or any other current indie movie) main purpose is to induce vertigo or tourette and if the audience don’t launch their previous meals into projectile vomiting then the movie is a failure!

Nevertheless Serbis has its moments of pure glee. For an anal retentive dork like me, pay attention to the graffiti and vandalisms all over the theater walls in the movie. What would one make out of “Dodong Charing” for instance? I snickered like hell. Then there are those ST movie posters with equally-hilarious titles and subtitles: “Tampisaw: Hindi Lahat Ng Laro Ay Sa Apoy!” Indeed!

Then just as I am about to get that sinking, let-down feeling the most brilliant moment happened.

In (one of the) film's orgasmic scene, where the screen is flashing hardcore sex and the characters are busy doing unprintable filthy fun with each other inside that squalid theater, a goat - yes, a goat - appeared in front of the screen bleating like an amused character who jumped out of Salvador Dali’s cranium right smack into Mendoza's cinematic opus. I can’t quite gnaw the metaphor there but it was a very rich moment in Philippine Cinema.

Will we ever unravel the monumental mystery on how on Mendoza's colossally-gifted imagination did the fantastical goat climb several flights of stairs in a very dense commercial district, elude detection by prostitutes of every gender loitering the hallways of the raunchy theater, and steal the scene and do a riotous coitus interruptus for the orgasm-determined characters in the throes of smutty theater sex? I guess we'll never know.

Serbis is supposed to be a bold essay of austerity but slides into the centerfold of conceit and absurdity. It is like a wry joke trying its luck to pass off itself as drama. All things considered no one should deny Brillante Menoza much-needed encouragement or credit (at least) for all the chutzpah. But gunning for an award? Sure. Hand out an award.

Give it to the goat for making sure we got a good laugh for the door price.


You haven't heard the end of absurdica yet. Next to be celebrated in this blog: Hugot.

Not recommended for anyone with IQ over 20 and have no warped sense of proportions.


Misterhubs said...

No one does a movie review like you. Seriously.

So the movie's not that bad eh? Hmp. The way the critics panned it in Cannes, you'd think it was Glitter 2.0. Good to know it has its fine moments too.

But what I really want to know is: Did Coco really have a nude frontal scene? Whether or not I'll watch/download this movie depends on your answer. Hehe.

loudcloud said...

the movie is not bad if you have a high threshold for pain. if you feel that nailing your eyeballs with rusty screws is not painful enough then this movie might be a suitable alternative... as someone used to say, if you really hate people, this is the kind of film you want to highly reccomend to them. hehe

no, coco didn't have a full frontal scene, contrary to the hype. two possibilities: they claim there is to sell the movie, or the charming mtrcb folks are scissors-happy again.

i'd encourage you to watch it THEN write YOUR review. that would be a blast!

Anonymous said...

Well, we might as well be the champions in Cinematic Sordidness. Indians seem to have amnesia in displaying the sordidness of their society. As for Somalia, do they have a film industry?

From what I heard, the French loved the movie, the Americans hated it. They allegedly got so grossed out by THE boil in Coco's butt. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

loudcloud said...

mac! - what can i say. for all the macho imperialistic posturings, americans are wimps in the squalor department! hahaha. thanks for leaving a comment! :)

Kai Santorino said...

Yes, it does have its fine moments but i thought the sex scenes were just too much! and yes, it's coming from someone who loves sex. Art doesn't have to be as scandalous as that blowjob scene of the lagarista!

does anyone agree?

loudcloud said...


ultraneat reading your comment here again!

that particular scene will have the 'rewind', 'pause', and 'slowmo' buttons in remote controls when the dvd hits the stands. hahaha.

as you pointed out the movie is quite excessive in an awful way: too much noise/din, too much camera movements, too much hormones, and too much eagerness for recognition

Kai Santorino said...

yes yes yes! too much of too much it's crazy! misterhubs pointed out at one point in his blog that indie films dont have to have too much camera movements.

going back to that scandalous, yet unforgettable blowjob scene, the 'gay guy' who sucked the living daylights out of the semi-hot lagarista was played by a woman.

loudcloud said...


that must have explained why none of them was awkward about the scene! hahaha. i thought it was some kind of tranny. LOL