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The Queer Miscarriage in Joselito Altarejos’s Lalake sa Parola (2007) March 14, 2008

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Indie Sine, Noypi, Queer, UP Screening.
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English Title: The Man in the Lighthouse
Directed by Joselito Altarejos
Written by Lex Bonife
Cast: Harry Laurel, Jennifer Lee, Justin de Leon

There is nothing new with the increasing number of local independent films released in the last few months. It just proves how well we can manage without the studio-based excrements that we used to stomach for God knows how long. The great news is, after numerous attempts of reaching out to a wider spectrum of viewers, our audience is responding quite well, joining the bandwagon of hopeless dreamers who still continue to believe that Philippine cinema will gain its glory after several decades of loss. Not that our audience is completely aware of what they are doing, but I refuse to consider that they are just watching these films out of sheer curiosity. Cinematic art is here for more than a century, so what difference does it make if it is digital or not? But filmmaking, after all, is still business — a lucrative business seen through the eyes of the Tans and the Sys and the Cojuangcos. But let’s make the Gokongweis an exception. Perhaps less evil, but still an exception. Otherwise they would have stopped doing their deeds after just a couple of months of public screening at Indie Sine. Beyond the silence of its cold seats, a sound of thunder canonises the perceptible emptiness. But it seems that Mr. Gokongwei is now getting the glorious fruits of his risks: the last four or five films screened at Robinson’s Indie Sine are box-office success, with some even getting extended screenings and additional theatre showings. The number of people who watched Joselito Altarejos’ Lalake sa Parola (The Man in the Lighthouse) and Lihim ni Antonio (Antonio’s Secret), Paolo Villaluna and Ellen Ramos’ Selda (Cell), and Adolf Alix’s Daybreak is overwhelming — with Altarejos’ third feature considered the highest-grossing independent film to date. It is not surprising, to say the least, that all these films, including last year’s Rome and Juliet, have one thing in common: their stories are about homosexuality. Queer cinema has been around for quite some time but as a critical discourse, apparently, it is quite young. And if it is all it takes to ignite the discriminating interest of people to watch our local films, so be it.

Ang Lalake sa Parola, however, is daringly disappointing. It morphs from film to TV, then after a few jagged illuminations of its setting, it turns into radio. The film talks a lot, yet it isn’t saying anything new everytime its characters speak. It feels like the dialogues are mere reflections of themselves, spoken over and over again, an incessant repetition that impairs logic or even the lack of it. Not only that it is overly talkative — it is noisy; and that’s when it transforms into radio. The visuals are already loud and clear yet they are still emphasised through the dialogue; lines are heavily dramatised as if they are not too obvious; the noisiness overpowers its dwarfed narrative — and if you are an ordinary viewer whose ears can easily get numb with just a hint of pandemonium, when you can’t even feel that you have an eardrum, then the attention span never lasts very long, except for the scenes that everyone is expecting. It pains me to think that maybe Altarejos and Bonife are working on the idea that Filipinos talk a lot — well that’s a nice observation — but their idea of talking a lot might seem too narrow. We love to share insights about things; we might even sound dogmatic at times but at least they could have illustrated the depth of our wordiness, the dimensions of our verbose lives. In Lalake sa Parola, the characters are just mouthing words; they lack the sincerity to mean them.

Of course it is not entirely the story’s fault. The film is a casting disaster. Harry Laurel, despite his physique and poise, looks like an ailing patient who forgot to take his medicine for a month. A newcomer in the industry, his decision to take risks is commendable, but he lacks everything else. Bravery is one thing; talent is another. Likewise, why bother to get great supporting actors if the characters they are supporting crumble easily? I understand the difficulty in finding gifted actors considering the extent of nudity and boldness it requires but therein lies the challenge: the challenge of not giving up until the best ingredients are bought for the most important occasion of one’s life. Attaining his vision is every filmmaker’s dream, and despite numerous personal opinions that express otherwise, Ang Lalake sa Parola has not achieved it.

Sadly, whatever noble intentions that Altarejos and Bonife have in making this film never showed in their characters. Perhaps Altarejos has immersed so much in mainstream television that he underestimates the importance of silence in film. Silence can bring his vision into a higher stature, if only he knows how to use it. In addition, the diwata substory is rather interesting but it only pushes the film into the realm of the stereos. Is it purposely paralleled to the narrative to justify the turn of events? That somehow, in every distant region in the world where homosexuality is still a taboo, history always repeats itself? If it finds a strong hold on present society and not on archaic notions of folk illegitimacy that justifies the presence of hegemony, then I guess it will work.

If anyone here wants to answer these questions, I will be very grateful to listen. When Mateo has finally succumbed to Jerome’s feelings, why does the film always have to reinforce the sexual relationship between them? Is it the basis of the relationship? Don’t they have other ways of communicating, aside of course from the usual talk and sexual intercourse? Like in any relationship, if one fails to submit to another, or if one doesn’t recognise the ability of the another to submit, it already foresees an ugly closure. But in the film, the specific turning point is when Mateo refuses to fellate Jerome, which frustrated him so much they eventually broke up. Whether it is an apparent choice from the director or the writer, it appears that sex is the moving force of their relationship. And with this, I wonder, is queer cinema limited only to highlighting the sexual and not the social aspect of a relationship? Or even the personal and spiritual? Is it too limiting?

Now that we have the niche, we better prove them right. If ever I get accused of too much intellectualising then how can we ever elevate the often-looked-down discourse on queer cinema if we don’t widen our ideas of the world? Queer cinema is just one of the books in the Old and New Testament of cinema that needs to develop; only when it ceases to be queer that queer cinema succeeds. * *

*Ang Lalake sa Parola is one of the films screened in the Director’s Cut: A festival of critically-acclaimed and controversial films by the country’s finest directors held at UP Film Institute, Cine Adarna from March 5-7, 2008.

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Comments»

1. ilayaonline - March 14, 2008

grabe chard ang dami-dami mong napapanood! intay ko review mo ng across the universe.

2. neildc - March 14, 2008

hi there, i just came across your blog and i really like it, now i have added you as well in my link page if its okay?…
Since i love films like you do, im opening my blog sections bout films too. And i agreed with you that Queer Cinema is part of the old and new testament of Cinema. Indie films like Ang lalake sa parola, ill give it a 4.5 credit since it has cinematography and nature, but of course, you know its indie film it doesnt have much resources. indeed we weed to capture our imagination so that we can have time for international film fest criteria! If you have a career on films i guess you will be one of the topnotchers!

Kisses Spain!

3. Richard Bolisay - March 14, 2008

tonet: haha, sa totoo lang madali lang naman manuod ng pelikula. pinapahirapan ko lang ang sarili ko sa pagsusulat. haha, hala sana mapanuod ko nga ang across the universe. nagustuhan mo? ang hasel ng defense! isang malaking anomalya!

abangan ko yung vidyo ng paramita ha. :D

4. Richard Bolisay - March 14, 2008

neildc: hey there. thanks. ang lalake sa parola, as i mentioned, is quite disappointing. i understand its intentions, its efforts to expound on queer relationships but it lacks a powerful story. it just reiterates the things we already know. and maybe altarejos should find good actors next time. a mature script and great vision made Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung accept Happy Together. so it should provide him the challenge. being indie doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice the quality of your work. it’s not an excuse for qualitative compromises.

by the way, thanks for the link and spread the word! we have the same template but the colors on your blog are more lovely. it reminds me of almodovar. haha. :D

5. neildc - March 14, 2008

Thanks for the reply.Im hoping that the next year round we could succeed in renassance of the filipino films in the international screens like Lino Broka did before. Yes i did saw the film Happy together shot in Argentina,but it ended up separation. anyway.I did saw pedro almodovar and Alejandro amenabar, browse my blog and you will saw my pics with them. :P So film critics like you! A pleasure to meet you!

6. Richard Bolisay - March 15, 2008

Regarding Happy Together — well I guess that’s how some (or most?) relationships go, into separation. And it’s not a bad way to end the film. After all, like in any relationship (may it be human or otherwise), all good things come to an end. And for me that makes Happy Together as a film work.

Thanks for dropping by too. Hope to see you around more often, neil.

7. ilayaonline - March 15, 2008

haha, pano mo nalaman yung sa paramita. salamat sa pag-good luck, kailangan ko yan bilang hindi pa naman ako nakakagawa ng music video (ay, minsan lang pala, nung hayskul).

oo nagustuhan ko across the universe, siguro kasi na-hypnotize ako ng mga kanta kaya kahit anong mangyari, magugustuhan ko talaga.

di lang siguro talaga ako palanood ng sine. Piling-pili ang mga pinapanood ko. Kaya mas pili ang isusulat ko. KUng susulat man, di sing ganda at sing-eloquent ng reviews :)

btw, i read from a verrrrrrrrry old Alexis Tioseco post that John Torres is selling his Otros Trilogy for P150 per DVD. Yey, bili tayo!! Sa katips daw!!

8. Richard Bolisay - March 16, 2008

haha, kay hermann. nagkita kami nung byernes. siya bang DOP mo? syempre yakang-yaka mo yan! ikaw pa. :D

bilang fan ng beatles, sa palagay ko nga magugustuhan ko rin. hindi ba parang sana-nakinig-na-lang-ako-ng-album-sa-bahay na tipo? pero tsong, 34 kanta! andame! haha.

yung tungkol dun sa otros, nabasa ko rin dun sa blog ni john. hanggang ngayon pa rin ba nagbebenta pa siya? ibili mo rin ako! bayaran ko pag nagkita tayo. hehe.

9. the bakla review - March 18, 2008

great review! i thought the film’s amateurish qualities were part of its earthy charm, though. but you’re absolutely correct too, especially this:

“Now that we have the niche, we better prove them right.”

10. Richard Bolisay - March 19, 2008

I thought so too but if you look at it closely, it did not help the story that much. Relationships, after all, are universal. I believe a wife never leaves a husband just because he is gay or he confesses to be gay – – but because she feels betrayed. Betrayal is one thing; sexual orientation is another. The film could have shown that. By the way, how’s Antonio?

Thanks for dropping by.

11. straycat260 - March 24, 2008

Sa palagay ko maganda ang film sa kabuuan. Simple lang ang gusto ng direktor at manunulat ang intrapersonal na pagtatalo sa loob ng lalake sa parola, si Mateo. Hindi ko rin kinakitaan ng kahalayan gaya ng mga pelikula na ng mga naunang tumatalakay sa usaping homosekswal.

Sa blog ko, nirebyu ko rin ito, check mo rin pag may time ka.

12. straycat260 - March 24, 2008

add nga pala kita para mas madalas ang pagbisita ko dito. Thanks

13. Richard Bolisay - March 27, 2008

Nabasa ko ang rebyu mo at nauunawaan ko ang iyong mga punto. Siguro iba-iba nga lang talaga tayo ng kinalakhang paniniwala at kapaligiran kaya iba-iba rin ang tingin natin sa mga bagay. Ganto, ang ganang akin, hindi punto ang kahalayan. Walang malaswa sa pelikula. Maganda yung aspeto ng pelikula. Nguni’t hindi nagtagumpay ang istorya sa nais nitong ipahatid. Sa pagkakasulat, sa pagkakadirek, kulang ng vision. Kulang ng mas malalim na diskurso ukol sa relasyon ng dalawang tao. Mas kumapit ito sa mga nakasanayan nang paniniwala. At yun ang nakakahinayang. Matapang nguni’t kulang sa laman. Parang isang pulitiko na alam mong may pinaglalaban nguni’t nang maihalal na ay wala rin palang nagawa. At kung tatanungin mo ako, hindi isyu ang usaping homosekswal dahil ito ay likas sa tao – – natural kumbaga. Mas bebenta sakin ang pelikula kung pinakita niya na ang relasyon sa pagitan ng dalawang lalaki ay walang pinagkaiba sa relasyon ng isang lalaki at babae. At nasa tamang konteksto.

Maraming salamat sa pagbisita at sa mga reaksyon! Balik ka!

14. straycat260 - March 28, 2008

Quote”Parang isang pulitiko na alam mong may pinaglalaban nguni’t nang maihalal na ay wala rin palang nagawa.”Quote

Hindi ang pagkakatulad ng relasyong homosekswal at heterosekswal ang nais na ipahatid ng mensahe ng pelikula sa ganang akin. Hindi ang interpersonal ang nais na palitawin ng manunulat kung hindi intrapersonal na isyu ni Mateo tungkol sa pagtanggap sa kanyang kasarian. Tatanggapin ba niya o mananatili siya sa nakasanayan ng mapangmatang lipunan?

Kung tutuusin, ang katapusan ay isang kakintalan sa manunuod dahil hindi man ginawang hapy ending, nag-iiwan ito ng tanong sa manunuod tungkol sa makahalugang wakas ng kwento ni Mateo. Ang pagpipinta niya ng diwata. Ang pagtalikod niya kay Suzet. Hindi ba isang indikasyon na iyon ng pagtanngap. Kung ano nga lamang ang susunod niyang hakbang ay iniwan na sa manunuod kung paano mas malalagyan ng kani-kaniyang tuldok ang tunay na kwento ni Mateo.

15. jp - April 3, 2008

I agree with stray cat. MAganda naman ang pelikula. isa ito sa pinakamatinong pelikulang tungkol sa kabaklaan. Napanuod mo ba ANG LIHIM NI ANTONIO? Matapang at kakaiba ang pagpapakita at pagpapakilala sa kabaklaan. Let’s encourage these filmmakers to create more. Kesa naman nilalait natin na parang napakalaki ng kasalanan nila. E tayo nga, walang napapatunayan at naiaambag sa PANGKALAHATANG KAMALAYAN tungkol sa kabaklaan. Dahil sa katapangan ng mga kagaya nila Altarejos, Lan, Alix, Bertubin PAblo, nailalagay sa kamalayan ng mas nakararami na marami tayong kwento.

“Now that we have the niche, we better prove them right.”- Tungkol dito, kailangan na naman natin may patunayan? Prove who right? MAtagal na tayong ikinulong sa paniniwalang dahil sa tayo ay mga bakla, kailangan nating laging may mapatunayan-mas magaling, mas matalino, mas mabait, etc. Tama na. Tayo ay narito at ang mga pelikulang kagaya nito ay nagbibigay ng kakanyahan sa karamihan sa atin.

16. Richard Bolisay - April 5, 2008

straycat: kung intensyon lamang ang pagbabatayan sa pagbasa ng isang pelikula, marahil lahat ng pelikula ay lalabas na maganda. pero hindi. hindi lang intensyon ang batayan. kung ganun ang nais palabasin ni altarejos, para sa akin hindi siya lumabas. hindi naging epektibo. halos lahat naman siguro ng matitinong pelikula may magandang intensyon, nagkakaiba lang sa treatment — at tingin ko dun na nagkakatalo. dun na lumalabas ang vision ng filmmaker. lagi kong inuulit ang salitang vision dahil palagay ko yun ang kahinaan ng lalake sa parola. oo, may vision si altarejos, pero kulang, hindi sapat. hindi niya nailatag nang maayos. at least para sakin. at kung babasahin mo ang aking naisulat, dun ko inilahad kung bakit. pero kung para sa’yo naging maganda ang kinalabasan ng pelikula, nirerespeto ko yun bilang manunulat. that’s what we live for. respect. cheers.

17. Richard Bolisay - April 5, 2008

jp: ito ang tinatawag nating kaibahan ng paniniwala. hindi siya pagbubulag-bulagan o pagbabalewala ng isyu ng kabaklaan. ang mga direktor na iyong nabanggit ay akin ding hinahangaan sa ginagawa nila para sa industriya — kaya nga ako nagsusulat in the first place dahil sa kanila, upang palawigin pa ang diskurso ng pelikula sa isang lokal na perspektiba. lingid sa iyong kaalaman, gusto ko rin na gumagawa sila ng mga gantong pelikula upang makadagdag pa sa yumayabong na estado ng pelikulang Pilipino. nguni’t hindi ba mas magiging maganda kung marunong ang mga taong tumanggap ng kritisismo? wala akong hangad na masama, lalong wala akong hangad na mamatay ulit ang ating industriya. ang akin lang, opinyon to, personal. kung hindi ka naniniwala, ayos sakin. kung sasabihin mo kung bakit, mas ayos sakin. mas masaya dahil mas lumalawak ang pagtalakay sa isang pelikula.

hindi isyu sakin ang tema ng pelikula. pinapanood ko halos lahat, kahit ano. at kung minsa’y hindi man maging tapat ang aking mga pananaw, sinusubukan kong ipaliwanag kung bakit. ang kabaklaan ay hindi lang nag-iisang isyu sa mundo. inaakap tayo ng napakarami pang bagay. minsan ang pag-iisip na marginalised tayo ang siyang nakakadagdag sa nararamdaman nating kawalan ng kalayaan.

hindi ko pa napanuod ang lihim ni antonio. aaminin ko sa’yo na hindi ko na siya pinlano panuorin dahil sa Parola, pero kung may extra akong pera, bakit hindi? gipit lang ngayon tulad ng lahat. at gusto kong linawin: hindi ko sila nilalait. ang layunin ng blog na ito ay isang konstruktibong pagtalakay ng pelikula. walang porma ang pagkakasulat. isang personal na istilo. ganun lang. at kung hindi mo nagustuhan, oks lang sakin. maraming magagandang local films na lumalabas ngaun, sana mapanuod mo rin sila. pabor ako sa pagsulong ng pelikulang Pilipino — patas kaming manunulat at sana’y maging patas din ang kakaunti naming mga mambabasa.

18. tonton26 - May 24, 2008

(sobrang late ng reaction ko)

hate na hate ko rin yung ibang masasalitang pelikula. buti naman sana kung pinapagana ang utak mo. hindi e. sa ‘ang lalake sa parola’, jusko lord, ayoko nang isipin pa. Kumuha ba ng basic creative writing class si Lex Bonife. Susme.

pero pinanood ko pa rin ‘ang lihim ni antonio’. hahaha

just the same, horrible acting (save shamaine buencamino), unexciting story, but lots and lots and lots of erection, masturbation, and blowjob.

hindi ko ma-grasp kung bakit ang gaganda ng mga review sa dalawang film na to.

19. Richard Bolisay - May 27, 2008

hi tonton, maraming salamat sa iyong pananaw. :D hindi ko na pinanuod yung lihim ni antonio dahil dito.


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