Friday, October 16, 2009

Slumdog Male-O-Mares

Cinemas are abuzz with independent films recently offering wide-ranging persuasive propositions that I’d like to view as stick-the-middle-finger-up-the-nostrils-of-Mother-Lily mockery. With the exception of Brillante Mendoza’s incurable stage of Auteuritis Extremis—a terminal syndrome marked by a director’s inability to use a tripod or a steady hand—local independent movies are getting better and better. Be it the craft in storytelling, the stark realism, the convincing narratives, the indies are getting more compelling with skewed perspectives and provocative ideas not beaten to a quivering pulp by the bland-headed executives of ABS-CBN/GMA Films.

Eponymous Pipo is not one of those movies and I wondered what kind of parent would name her son something that, when pronounced (pee poo), gives a disagreeable image of combined liquid waste and solid excrement. Later it became apparent: given the back draft of the movie it dawned to me that the name seems apt because all throughout the film I avoid staring too long at waterlogged backyards of floating shanties in the slums out of fear that something would surface from the murky waters that would make me lose interest for three consecutive dinners.


Pipo (Tyrone Perez) is a story of a reluctant hustler. We see him at the crossroad of his life when the call for familial responsibility outweighs the mandate of decency. Pipo’s best buddy, Mark (Marco Morales), a seasoned hustler/online sex performer, have been pressuring him to do an orgy scene for a dubious B-Movie. In this B-Movie Pipo is required to have sex with the very willing Mark and Mark’s live-in slash cybersex partner (who happens to be the kind of girl Pipo have a soft spot for). This is the cinematic equivalent of a fantasy breeding in the mind of bi-curious FHM magazine readers whose best buddy and his girlfriend are reason enough to digress from heterosexuality for a moment.

To milk out our communal sympathy it is essayed that the Pipo is a gallant brother and judicious son who would do great lengths to help the family he loves. He is a handsome chap concerned with the welfare of those he loves whose only crime is sporting a hurried Ricky Reyes buzz cut. His second crime would be not flashing his pubes or his dick onscreen, which is a grave misdemeanor if you have to consider the loud gripes of four fags seated behind me. (To appease this agitation, and as if on cue, Marco Morales yanked his briefs down thereby thwarting a likelihood of disgruntled riots by hormone-crazed viewers who would otherwise feel shortchanged).

Being the eldest child, Pipo is conflicted over trading his wang for moolah. The pressing needs of living, sacrce food, electricity and the litany of school necessities of his younger siblings torment him to no end. His mom struggles tremendously to make ends wave at each other by selling fish in neighborhood slum areas.

This is the main thesis of the movie: Poverty is the Autobahn to prostitution.

How many times have we seen or read about this argument before? The movie stakes this issue as if prostitution is the exclusive career of slum dwellers. (A concept my condo-dwelling, high-maintenance hoe neighbor would easily debunk. But a condo-dwelling whore is less cinematic, therefore not a saleable film concept?) Whenever I see a movie that says Look At Him He’s So Destitute He Has No Choice But Rent His Balls I begin to feel like I am being punished for not finishing my overpriced soup at Italiannis.

Of course a radical aleck would certainly point out: The way prostitution is viewed in this country is such a terrible thing. The hypocrisy is such that one thanks his lucky stars every day for not having to auction his penis. So what if someone is getting paid for sex? He’s not robbing you of your money, he’s giving you the pleasure and what is so bad about that? Isn’t every job in every antiseptic office a form of whoring, too?

The Philippines has no absolute claim on this “Poverty shortcut to Prostitution” complex. Colombia, Brazil and India have bazillion tales of poverty as reason for commercial sex and their hustlers look like they leapt out of GQ or wandered in from casting call of Dior Homme whereas our local movie’s version offers a sad coterie of folks spotted at D’Mall and slapped them with acting contracts. You go to Las Vegas, Berlin or Amsterdam and you’d meet jolly chaps who seem like they are having a lot of fun doing something they do exceptionally for cash. No histrionics, no pseudophilosophical bullshit. It just is: a job that pays so you might as well embrace and love it.

And here are my other questions: is it imperative that all the independent gay movies coming out in the past two years would require a filthy slum or a super seedy bar to illustrate a gay piece? Would a poignant gay story cannot be told without getting intimate with fifth generation E. Coli/Salmonella co-leasing dilapidated housing and soggy alleys? Are slums the new Petri dishes of homosexuality?

Aside from those mind-boggling questions I must say Pipo is not necessarily a reasonable piece of distraction. The direction was not entirely faulty and you can sense commitment and sensitivity but it appears strewn. The tale is not spectacular, nor does it offer fresh insights on the predicaments of prostitutes or the triumph of the human spirit but it has a candid perseverance that attempts to win you over. Tyrone Perez labors to convey the turmoil and acceptance of his fate with a visible struggling grasp of material. Marco Morales delivers his role with lackluster candor though certain instances in the movie there were glints that he can be convincing with fitting and challenging roles in the future.

Pipo is a cinematic manhole (no pun intended). On one hand you’ll avoid looking under the lid for the darkness and grime. The other hand seduces you into a different kind of mirror where you’d see a sullied version of humanity stare back with unflinching eyes.

1 comment:

Q The Conqueror said...

tsk tsk... from burgos hoes to man hoes. LC talaga. :P