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The difference between telling lies and keeping truths in Dennis Marasigan’s Tukso (2007) October 15, 2007

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, Noypi.


English Title: Temptation
Directed by Dennis Marasigan
Cast: Soliman Cruz, Ping Medina, Diane Malahay, Sid Lucero, Shamaine Buencamino, Irma Adlawan
Cinemalaya 2007 Winner for Best Screenplay

Dennis Marasigan’s Tukso is a good film. I am tempted to call it great, with the director’s subdued precision and maturity, but his preference to form and not to his characters, plus the fairly disappointing closure, is an impervious handshake of luminous disparity. I would like to express this early how much I enjoyed watching it, as I believe a film need not be profound to be beautiful, and so this film is.

Too bad it suffers from comparison — everyone’s eyes are expecting a flow of rashomonic elements: the dead woman and the people around her before she dies, the trees, the truth, the lies, the overlapping of testimonies, and the emotion. Except that there is no rain, or even a drizzle. The truth is, Tukso is not Rashomon. The question of originality is quite absurd because to state the obvious, Rashomon is not an original work — it is based on Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short stories In A Grove and Rashomon — and somehow, most of us are indebted to it for opening the doors of Asian Cinema to the West (aren’t the doors wide open way back then?) after winning the Golden Lion in Venice. It may be the first film to popularise truth subjectivity, but we never know, as films are considered commercial ventures in general, if somewhere else around the globe a work like Rashomon has already been made then. Furthermore, the resolution in Tukso, that someone is accountable for the crime and we know who, feels like Marasigan is trying to steer his work away from its supposed clone — why use special effects for that scene?, I wonder — which in my opinion is successful. It is inevitable that remake films, even song revivals for that matter, are questioned for their motivation, or the lack of it, in redoing a work either through adapting and revising parts of it to make it look modern, perhaps fitting its story to its chosen mileu (Laurice Guillen’s Salome or Paul McGuigan’s Wicker Park), or an exact copy, frame by frame, shot by shot, of the original (Gus Van Sant’s Psycho). Countless, different ways of making a film, countless, different ways of singing a tune: interesting world.

Tukso is a satisying thriller, if a thriller is supposed to thrill then it is, and fares even better than some of Claude Chabrol’s boring murder tales. The Capiz windows, women taking their baths and washing their clothes in a brook — the stream of water itself — echo those glints of cinematic gems in Oro, Plata, Mata. Silently beautiful. Also, it is the powerhouse performance of the cast that exemplifies the moving force of this film — Soliman Cruz, Ping Medina, Sid Lucero, Ricky Davao, the great Shamaine Buencamino, the inconsistency of Diane Malahay which turns out to be helpful, and needless to mention, the Irma Adlawan. Watching Michael Haneke’s Piano Teacher, a work that defines cardiovascular death, I thought only Vilma Santos, among local actresses, can pull off a difficult role similar to Isabelle Huppert’s. (Interestingly, Tukso is shot in Lipa, Batangas, where Santos served three consecutive terms as town mayor before getting elected as Governor). Apparently not because Irma Adlawan, who can reveal a universe of emotion by doing less, that stare at Ping Medina while he takes off his sando, her uneven and meaningful gaze, is already a goddess not only in theatre but also in the silver screen.

A scene likely to be remembered because it mentions the nature of temptation itself remains the singlemost shot in Tukso I adore: the character of Bing Pimentel talks about their daughter’s boyfriend away from her, a wavering sin she can already smell. In the foreground a fish comfortably swims, while Ricky Davao looks at the aquarium (or is he?), his eyes, those moving eyes peer contemptuously. Overreading that scene wouldn’t help.

Other details also invite critique: modernising a town through malls and commercial projects, Orocan politicians, the stupidity of coño brats, and conflicting shades of urban anthropology. These sociological insights are for us to unravel; they are never mentioned explicitly. But instead of rambling on “how a cliché film can be saved by a great acting ensemble,” I believe more important things are worthy of discussion, a totality to look beyond in this film. * * * *



1. Oggs Cruz - October 15, 2007

Great review chard,

Although I still stand my ground on why I can’t consider Tukso as a great film or even a better film to Sa North Diversion Road, I understand the intriguing subtleties to the film (which I thought was ultimately more interesting than the murder mystery — but to turn it into the film’s centerpiece would be betraying why it’s so intriguing in the first place). Interestingly, the subdivision is real (during the film’s premiere in Cinemalaya, several persons were offering flyers to the real estate development).

About the comparisons — the film begs to be compared (through the several advertisements) and although originality is never an issue (especially in our present age wherein nothing is purely original), an attempt should at least elicit satisfactory results. True, it isn’t Rashomon because it is not a single story told from different points of view. It is a story fragmented like shards of glass, molded together by Marasigan with exquisite precision. It’s technically involving. It’s subtelties engaging but that centerpiece (and really, the computer graphics is outright silly — less is more?) is disappointing.

2. lilokpelikula - October 16, 2007

Thanks Oggs. I actually like the way Tukso manages to be engaging despite the expectation that we are about to see a story reminiscent of Rashomon. Its musical score, which I believe is a bit overdone, is quite effective and the cutting between scenes, the overlap, the transition (is that called editing?) is commendable. weird, because the article that came up why it was given a “B” instead of an “A” is because of its technical flaws. And to think that CEB is credible on its ratings, one must assert that Now That I Have You is a good film as well (it received a “B” rating also).

True — it’s disappointing that Marasigan decided to focus on the murder mystery, in fact there’s a lot to look at in this film, the manifold elements in its peripheries are more interesting to get seen. Sounds like we’re nitpicking and inconsistent — but Tukso is far better than the tribe that won Best Picture. Endo is still the best but Marasigan’s humble work also deserves praise.

Too bad I haven’t seen Sa North Diversion Road yet. Any copies?

3. Oggs Cruz - October 16, 2007

I think Sa North Diversion Road is available in Astrovision. VCD lang nga though. I really don’t believe in any rating system (seriously, films aren’t school projects that are submitted for certain merits) and justifying ratings makes it even sillier. Give all Filipino films tax credits (producers are already overly taxed, anyway), if they really want to save our cinema.

4. lilokpelikula - October 16, 2007

haha, i remember a statement from Pauline Kael: The critic is the only independent source of information. The rest is advertising.

Sadly, it’s all about the money. Down to capitalists! Haha. Individual ratings are fun though. :D

Thanks for the VCD info, will have to look for that.

5. Oggs Cruz - October 17, 2007

Individual ratings are the best. I had to abandon it because I tend to justify my ratings rather than analyze the film in my personal way.

6. lilokpelikula - October 18, 2007

I am quite liable to that. Haha. But I guess it’s a nature to justify our indulgence, and ratings are not as serious as other people might think they are. They are just childish instincts, difficult to refrain from doing, and of course the review could attest to that. Hehe.

7. Maximus - December 20, 2007

I would like to see a continuation of the topic

8. lilokpelikula - December 20, 2007

what continuation?

9. straycat260@lycos.com - March 25, 2008

I agree na mas maganda ang North Diversion Drive kumpara sa Tukso. Yun nga lang di naman sila patas ikumpara dahil magkaiba sila ng atake. Isang suspense na may pagka detective at isang kwento ng ibat-ibang uri ng mag-asawa. Pero kung papipiliin ako sa dalaw mas malalim para sa akin ang north diversion drive. Mas lumabas pa ang galing ni Irma Adlawan.

Sa Tukso naman ang maganda lang ay yung paraan ng pagtatagpi-tagpi ng kwento. Yung paggamit ng ibat-ibang anggulo ng kwento. Pero sa huli parang mahuhulaan mo ring si Irma Adlawan ang tunay na salarin.

Kumpara naman sa Endo mas gusto ko ang Tukso. Actually akala ko ito ang magiging Best Picture. Gusto ko din sana yung Kadin ni Adolf Alix.

10. Richard Bolisay - March 27, 2008

Sa tingin ko, oks lang naman magkumpara kasi opinyon naman ang basehan. Di ko pa napapanuod ang North Diversion Road kaya kating-kati nako makahanap ng kopya. Sa Tukso, gusto ko yung trato ni Marasigan sa kuwento bagama’t may ilang sabit nga lang.

Mas trip ko ang Endo. May mga anomalya nga lang na hindi maiiwasan, pero para sakin madaling mapatawad.

11. straycat260 - March 28, 2008

Manuod ka na ng North Diversion, sa Video City available na.

Tanong ko lang yung anomalya. Anomalya na mali sa pelikula o anomalya sa pagpili ng best picture? Pasensya ka na klaro ko lang.

12. Richard Bolisay - April 5, 2008

Anomalya – – may mga sabit sa pelikula. Tulad nung eksena sa may gate, yung gusto nang makipagbalikan ni Leo kay Tanya. Sayang un. Misplaced highlights, ika nga ng kaibigan ko. Saka para sakin hindi masyadong bumagay ang cinematography at editing. Pero sa pangkalahatan, maituturing ko pa rin siyang isang magandang pelikula. Matino, may laman, at maabilidad.

13. straycat260 - April 6, 2008

Ah ok. Naisip ko kasi sa Cinemalaya yung iba may koneksyon din sa may posisyon sa CCP man o Cinemalaya mismo. Kala ko yun. Kasi di ba Feleo, balita ko anak ni Guillen na bida sa Endo. Tapos yung Tukso naman asawa ni Marasigan si Adlawan tsaka anak nila nandun din.

14. Richard Bolisay - April 6, 2008

ah kunsabagay, sa lahat naman ng kompetisyon may pulitika e. hindi nawawala. pero tingin ko deserved ni ina ang napanalunan niya, ganang akin lang naman. hehe.

salamat sa patuloy na pagbisita straycat a! nakakatuwang isipin na mayron akong mambabasa na patuloy na bumibisita rito. :D

15. straycat260 - April 7, 2008

I agree na si Ina Feleo rin ang deserce na manalo. Halos napanuod ko rin kasi yung last Cinemalaya at mukha namang siya ang stand out. Anyway pamilya naman yan talaga ng mga aktor. Yung ate nga niya ang galing din sa Sarswela na pinalabas sa CCP. Tapos nanay pa award winning director.

Oo naman bibisita ako lagi dito at minsan pag nanuod ka sa cinemalaya man o cinemanila kahit pa cineuropa, e magkataong magkakilala rin tayo ng personal. Yung blog ko nga di naman para sa film yun, parang journal lang e mukhang magrerebyu na rin ako.

Continue blogging..

16. Mike - January 14, 2009

Maganda raw talaga ang movie na ito :)

17. Telling Lies Movie - January 14, 2009

Astig ang mga shots at locations na pinaggawan ng movie

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