Death by Artichoke in Cathy Garcia-Molina’s A Very Special Love (2008) August 30, 2008Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.
Directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina
Cast: John Lloyd Cruz, Sarah Geronimo, Irma Adlawan
If I were to make a study on how the idea of kilig is projected in Philippine cinema, its evolution or lack thereof, and the model to be used is the factory of Star Cinema movies released in the last ten years, I suppose I would have some trouble in reaching a noteworthy conclusion – – noteworthy in the sense that it could come across a striking argument, something that would elicit change in the boring landscape of mediocre full-length plots that could pass as short films and team-ups forcibly paired by its network, or at least an enlightenment that would lead to that change, no matter how slow, no matter how close to hopeless it is – – of course that’s too much for writers, isn’t it? what am I thinking? change? is it even imaginable? – – because as a disturbed viewer of these films, it makes me wonder, in these long years of putting up with the sweet poison, if a certain work lacks substance, what is there to impart to its audience?
Yes of course, the kilig – – the only thing there is.
Ten years is a long time I tell you, and remaining stagnant for that long is not only a sign of a dreadful illness but also of a lifelong affliction that bears resemblance to cholera – – profuse diarrhea, sleepiness, depression, vomiting – – it spreads to everyone and subsequently kills the values of our times. I picture it would be an interesting case study, but interest is the only virtue it has – – like Bob Ong’s books getting read over and over again in the shelf, its pages discolored by dirty little hands and fingers, and when its amused reader finally reaches the last page, he leaves the book, massacred and unsold, he is so amused he carries a smile as he leaves the bookstore. No one is willing to sacrifice a peso – – one thing that A Very Special Love succeeds in implying, that the local publishing is sadly going down the drain.
A website defines kilig as “that certain rush that one feels immediately after something good happens. . . especially pertaining to love(d) ones and relationships.” It is romantic thrills so to speak, a pleasure derived from observing couples who are affectionate, who profess and display their love in public. Cinema is the closest purveyor of this cheap gimmick – – you pay for it to get kilig. The English words shudder and shiver are poor translations, except if you consider the air-conditioning turned to the maximum so you can forget about complaining. But does it always work? Does it always make you feel good? Is kilig worthy of the 120-peso price of admission? (Stupid questions indeed. Rule out the last – – I saw it for free.)
A Very Special Love is marketed as a kilig movie, something really out of the box if Star Cinema’s past releases are concerned because Cruz and Geronimo is not a loveteam (they were together once in a drama program but nothing more than that) – – a multi-million risk to challenge local viewership. But that doesn’t make it any different to its previous offerings. It is still a product of disillusionment that the Lopezes and the Santoses are trying to perpetuate, like a fairy tale romance except the fairy part; the magic is still there, the magical manipulation of events, the magical ending void of surprise, void of anything special, it’s even worthy of a puke.
Okay, so I’m not buying it, the temporariness of entertainment it offers, the stale conflict of the narrative, the drama of the rich, the dreams of the poor, the love that binds them oh how sweet – – but I’m also against the narrowmindedness it promotes, the idiotic values of romance masked by a handsome groom and a happy ever after premise, how it underestimates the heart – – the things it can do, the things it cannot do – – its weakness always emphasized in the beginning but how miraculously it succeeds in the end, against all odds, against all wicked stepmothers and stepsisters, again, disillusionment wrongly presented. This kind of deception is lethal, fatal – – not escape but undignified harakiri. I’m not even asking for depth, I’m asking for reasonable values, for not relying all its defenses on make-believe, because yes, these things happen but do these things happen all the time? It gives a lame excuse for hope, and in the grand scheme of filmmaking I deem it blasphemous, downright horrible.
Molina has not made any bad movies; in fact she’s doing just fine. Someone has to do this thing so she’s doing it, like the unlikely hero who has to save the ship from sinking by sinking the other ship – – misguided sacrifice. She stays in the box and gets asphyxiated by her own air. The only consolation is that she enjoys what she’s doing and her movies make a lot of money; sadly in this industry, that’s all that matters. As Star Cinema maintains its stature as the proud chemist of romantic cyanides, she has mixed another one in the open sea to prove that dope, indeed, springs eternal. * *