Friday, July 11, 2008

A Slice Of Gay Lite

Do not be deceived into thinking that Kambyo is another one of those shallow, pretentious digital dreck that serves no sensible purpose except to gratify the director and the public's insatiable lust for a gay fuckfest and gratuitous nudity. Yes, there is nudity in Kambyo, yes there are torrid sex scenes, yes there are gay issues, and surprisingly, yes, there is a lot of heart in this movie.

Kambyo is the current cinematic oblation of Joselito Altarejos and Lex Bonife, the director-writer tandem that helmed the bittersweet, lyrical, identity-searching Ang Lalaki Sa Parola and the sympathetic view on a crude coming of age in Ang Lihim Ni Antonio. Both previous films pushed the boundaries of what's permissible in local gay-oriented film making—a very discouraging landscape riddled by hawk-like vigilance of all-purpose Catholic guilt, scissor-happy censors and the public's thickening disinterest in local movies.

Altajeros and Bonife braved these challenging elements and emerged as consummate Quixote-Pancha cinematic anti-heroes that delivered works that are provocative, resonant, compelling and achingly honest. Whereas the two previous flicks treaded the frail, darker and ponderous nature of sexuality, it is refreshing that in Kambyo they made a crisp twist into the lighter side of alternative lifestyle.

The movie follows the summer road trip of cousins Macky (Rayan Dulay, Bathhouse) and Manuel (Kenjie Garcia, Ang Lihim ni Antonio), their joie de vivre-bursting friend Xavier (Harold Macasero) and an unacquainted trick named Aldo (Gabz del Rosario). Macky initially impressed on everyone that the trip is all about experiencing the surfing rage in La Union but (it was eventually revealed that) what he really harbors in his heart is the pursuit to reunite with his long-lost college buddy Philip (Johnron Tanada). They ambled on in a ramshackled mint green van and as they inch out of the metropolis to the bumpy roads of the provinces unspoken fondness, nursed secrets and latent desires explode into an almost-casual, sometimes solemn-sometimes funny send up to the pristine rural landscapes.

I must admit that the movie crawled on a torpid start. Following the bedraggled van onscreen from Quezon City to Tarlac made me recall The Death March. A mild migraine threatened to clench in, which was thankfully dispersed by the crisp zingers tossed by Xavier.

I will not reveal much of the story as I highly suggest you go out and watch this movie. It is an earnest love letter for anyone burdened with a search for closure, identity, an exploration of friendship, love, and desire all delivered in brisk openhearted sincerity. The movie is agreeably stripped of superficialities and puffiness which makes you concentrates on every story each character tells. This is where the potent persuasiveness of Altajeros and Bonife lie: the facility to tell plausible plots, believable dialogues and scenes that are not too contrived but fall smoothly into a cohesive narrative. The whole movie is speckled with many gentle, almost-placid moments without boring the audience to tears. In fact the writer and director understand the subtleties of when to crack a comical dribble and when to hush up the crowd with the most tender line, all orchestrated with unassuming deftness.

Another great thing I have observed in the works of Altajeros and Bonife is how they can pen characters and treat scenes and actors with sympathetic dignity that makes you root for their well-being and happiness. True, their characters are clumsy, awkward, confused, pining, hurt and flawed, but the way they were conveyed makes you feel like you are standing in front of a huge mirror and you witness your very own thoughts and emotions tossed out with non-glossy candidness.

Also notable is the growing confidence of the director-writer in the technicalities of film making. Essentialistic and sometimes tipping towards minimalistic production design and art direction is made up for by the clever, poignant script, compact framing in cinematography and the gorgeous lighting (especially in the steamy scenes) that seems obsessed to reproduce the masterful chiaroscuros of Caravaggio, Rembrandt or Van Eyck.

It also helps that casting is almost pitch perfect. Ryan Dulay navigates the confusion and yearning of his character with quiet desperation and suspended optimism that attests to his confidence as an actor. Kenji Garcia is the epitome of restraint and self-assured talent, that his lines, if uttered by lesser mortals would come off hysterical or melodramatic but he tosses his lines with naked authority that makes him a talent to watch.

Harold Macasero crackles with precision with punchlines that hit the pinpointed mark. His heartrending scenes were equally-delivered, proof of his versatility (no pun intended). Gabz del Rosario carries his end with disarming naiveté and unsettling frankness that in his disclosures you behold his bare struggles without milking for saccharine sentimentality. Then there's the smoldering Johnron Tanada who made the confrontation scene simmer with elegant truthfulness, which got lost among overeager horny fags who strain their necks to see past his pubic region

Kambyo is a refreshing cinematic cocktail of friendship and love—heartwarming without being cloying. It is veracious minus the moralistic sanctimoniousness. It is Gay Lite with weighty resonance. You laugh along its antics, you ponder along its confusions, you sigh with its instances of newfound tenderness, and you get out of the theater buoyant, your faith in humanity and independent films restored.


Misterhubs said...

A gay indie movie that loudcloud actually liked?

What has the world come to now?!!

Seriously, it's nice to know that they still make movies like this.

Bit Torrent, here I come. :-)

loudcloud said...

misterhubs! maybe it's an indicator that the universe is collapsing into something unpleasant. not! hahaha.

well, movies are subjective. while i was totally engrossed (despite the slow beginning) the two fags behind me were bitching and moaning and making pithy comments over the proceedings in the film i so wanted to drop kick their gums in.

for the record Datu made me watch Ang Lihim Ni Antonio and I loved it. I've seen Lalaki Sa Parola and was awed by the lyrical storytelling. I haven't blogged about the previous films because at that time I was so busy. maybe a DVD review. mmmmmm. let's see...

kris said...

excellent review, made me more hungry to watch it. have you written a review about Serbis? i watched it maybe two weeks ago and i have to say its impressively done.


loudcloud said...

kris - thank you. and thanks too for leaving a comment!

i did write a review of serbis and i am afraid we have polarized views on the film. please feel free to scroll down in my recent entries and disagreement of views is welcome :)

Richard the Adventurer said...

Ei Loudcloud!

Thanks for the review... Napanood ko na po ito last Wednesday lang... I like it!

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loudcloud said...

hello richard and rimewire!

sorry i was out of the loop for a few days; was busy elsewhere so your comments just got approved today.

richard: it's neat that you paid attention in the story and not just the torrid scenes! hehe.

rimewire: if you meant the illustrations, then, thank you ;-P

gibo said...

thanks for this review. i will include this film in my list to watch.

saw an advert of this film somewhere, was skeptical about the it but after reading this review, i thought i should give it a try.

loudcloud said...

thank you for your comment gibo! do give it a shot, and i hope you enjoy the movie. cheers! :)

Loura said...

Good words.

loudcloud said...

thanks for dropping by and for the the complement loura! :-)