Cinco (Frasco Mortiz, Enrico Santos, Ato Bautista, Nick Olanka, Cathy Garcia-Molina, 2010) July 24, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.
Directed by Frasco Mortiz, Enrico Santos, Ato Bautista, Nick Olanka, and Cathy Garcia-Molina
Cast: Jodi Sta. Maria, Pokwang, Zanjoe Marudo, Rayver Cruz, Maja Salvador
Five points on Cinco:
1. The stories are intended as five frighteners but as a whole they turn out more like tried and tested, tired and tethered, toilet-trained thrillers. Not bad, to say the least, since Star Cinema already had its quota for misfortune after KC Concepcion’s second movie last month. Having said that, Cinco fulfills the promise of thrill because it thrives in the language of short films—that is, “sit back, don’t fret, a segment is soon to end”. It’s a clever, if not original, concept that may go on until every filmmaker is left with only a-minute worth of storyboard. Think of Mano Po or Shake Rattle and Roll, and how producers will never run out of numbers to differentiate one film from another, as if setting them apart would make them less insufferable. Cinco reveals qualities that are more individual than whole; hence, it’s bullshit to force a verdict. How many stars? Well, the stars are blind.
2. Non-diegetic tokenism is not a proper term, but tokenism doesn’t suffice either. Frasco Mortiz, the son of Bobot Mortiz and nephew of Charo and Malou Santos, is the director of Lilok Pelikula favorite Banana Split. Enrico Santos is the man behind some of ABS-CBN’s hit primetime shows. Ato Bautista has come close—at least in one film—to define indie spirit. Nick Olanka crisscrosses his way from UP and Cinemalaya to MMK and Virgin Labfest. And Cathy Garcia-Molina—who wants to dumb her down?—sits in good company with Rory Quintos and Olivia Lamasan. (On an interesting note, the three of them made butch haircut synonymous with ten years of Star Cinema love stories.) Star Cinema always has good intentions, but who cares? Intent and outcome are so rarely coincident. A matter of symbolic effort, however worthy, is a little equivocal.
3. Kriz Gazmen, the creative associate of Cinco, is a huge fan of Krzysztof Kieslowski. I am thinking somewhere in the development of the film—or perhaps right before it was conceived—a threshold opens to a possibility of paying respects to his beloved auteur, as every film graduate dreams of doing. Cinco feels like Three Colors without the hues, which is like watching The Double Life of Veronique without Irene Jacob. The ferry accident that concludes Red brings the three ladies together, which comes out rather anti-climactic but utterly devastating after a few minutes of reflection. Cinco does the same connection among the five stories—a unifying element (and mood) that possibly encouraged a writer from Philippine Online Chronicles to call it “a milestone in Pinoy horror cinema”. Come to think of it, isn’t Kieslowski’s trilogy also deemed a cinematic milestone in the 90s? In some twisted analysis, Cinco fares better than Three Colors because it does not presume depth, whereas the latter intimidates just with the mere mention (hence, significance) of its title. Cinco sounds more like a failing mark, though in some universities it is actually the contrary. My friend Kriz graduated from the University of the Philippines.
4. I’ll be an honest jerk here at number 4 and say that Cinco is not a bad film. For the most part, it’s almost a good film. It is wary of the fact that since every director is given only 15-20 minutes to begin a story and end it, no shot should be wasted. There is precision, but an inconsistent one, understandably because five directors can’t have one treatment in mind. Inevitable is to touch on each film and relate it to each other, hoping the respective parties would realize that there is flattery in any criticism.
First, it surprises me how Star Cinema has managed to make a gay film, albeit short, through “Braso”. The surprise comes with admiration, especially how Frasco Mortiz brings his Banana Split credentials on board. Three neophytes (Sam Concepcion, Robi Domingo, AJ Perez) are brought into a morgue for the final part of their initiation. Frightened by corpses, they carry on frightening themselves even more. The usual horror stuff. Annoying is how the boys cannot complete their sentences without “Pare” or “Dude” at the beginning or end, as if they need to prove they’re really all pares and dudes. The fun, however, is not with the script; it’s with the actors who are required to wear only boxer shorts, not to mention brassieres and panties. Frat humiliation, remember? Anyway, everyone knows that Sam Concepcion is a little on the soft side, and that charm/weakness/nature is willfully exhausted here. He is given to scream all he likes, and he does it like singing in a church choir. I wonder, is there any objection on Sam’s part? Immediate answer: doesn’t seem like it. In other news, Baron Geisler plays the horny frat leader because it’s the most effortless role for him. When his girlfriend refuses to have sex beside a corpse, there is quite a remarkable wit when he says, “Bakit, idedemanda mo ‘ko ng sexual harassment?” But the most brilliant scene is reserved near the end. It happens when the severed hand walks toward AJ’s crotch, walks because it seems to have a direction a mind, a dirty gay mind in itself. Of all possible angles, the camera focuses on the bulge, and the hand in the foreground grasps his brave little soldier, accompanied by shrieks of panic. Then, it cuts to the caretaker turning his music player on. It plays “Hawak Kamay”. And as the boys struggle to remove the mysteriously clingy hand on AJ’s soldier, the song continues, Mortiz does a slow-mo, and the audience, boys and girls alike, roars in disbelief. Ingenious, if we need to say the word. The best scene of the year.
(Damn, I realize I just devoted a long and rather convoluted paragraph to queer studies.)
“Paa” is the best segment. It feels like watching a Kapamilya teleserye, filled with its share of layered plots and emotional railways. (I doubt Charo would be brave enough to allow quick editing and jump cuts in primetime, but she did allow a finale of Krystala without score before. Murphy’s law, anyone?). Jodi Sta. Maria is in her element. There is grace in her fear, beauty in her confusion, and allure in her paranoia. I can’t help but be awed when she’s in closeup, more so because her character requires her to make an ultimate mess of herself. She’s as pale and panicky as a suicidal tarsier. To counter Jodi is Joy Viado, who is capable of bringing the house down with just a few scenes. Director Enrico Santos knows his material very well, evident with the way the coffin scenes are meticulously framed and edited, and how the cut-away of reflections provides both chill and confusion. His details also stick out: the pus in Jodi’s wounds, the worms that come out of them, the blood that drops in the container of water and is eventually drunk by another woman—all of which scream for attention. Santos wants loud, including the retribution in the end, and I come out of “Paa” deaf with delight.
“Mata” and “Mukha” share the same problem: their directors. Ato Bautista cannot let go of his experiment. We already get it the moment the second set-up happens: the narrative is not linear. But where is it dragging us is the more important question. His segment ends and my thoughts on Jason Ivler and Marlene Aguilar still haven’t changed. (No, Maja is not Marlene. And no, it wasn’t Bautista’s intention to remind us of them.) Nick Olanka, on the other hand, cannot seem to control Mariel Rodriguez. The elevator is a better actor than she. The expression of the old man in the photocopies conveys more credibility than she does. The line between acting and hosting, as Toni Gonzaga proves in her movies, is in a daze once again. It would’ve been better if Ketchup Eusebio were given more punch lines, although that would confuse publicity.
Cathy Garcia-Molina directs “Puso” and it’s Cathy Garcia-Molina all right. Fresh, funny, flippant. Zanjoe Marudo from Kimmy Dora meets Pokwang counting her warts warrants rolling on the floor for a good minute. Again, Zanjoe has his campy charm working for him, teeming with slow-mo scenes of running and grinning, malicious and full of lust. Pokwang, like Baron, doesn’t need to do anything. When she falls in the pit after running away from Zanjoe’s zombie, it shames Sandra Bullock for doing it with obvious droll in All About Steve.
5. Sound check: is it just me or banking on noise is just the most desperate way to suggest fear? What year are we in? Is this an inception?