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Takaw Tukso (William Pascual, 1986) October 24, 2011

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Lagarista, Noypi, Trip to Quiapo.
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Written by Armando Lao
Directed by William Pascual
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Anna Marie Gutierrez, Julio Diaz, Gino Antonio

Sex takes up a generous amount of time in Takaw Tukso. Director William Pascual and writer Armando Lao purposely extend the lovemaking scenes and create a series of Bergmanesque erotica, letting the drama benefit and suffer from its theatrical embroideries. The film won the major awards at the Gawad Urian in 1987, but like its two co-nominees for best picture (Mario O’Hara’s Bagong Hari and Peque Gallaga’s Unfaithful Wife), only few have seen it because of utter negligence, burying it deeper in anonymity.

It’s a tale of two couples trying to come to terms with the hell that’s starting to burn between them. After an exasperating fight with her mother, Debbie (Anna Marie Gutierrez) decides to leave home and elopes with Boy (Gino Antonio), the cousin of her boyfriend, Nestor (Julio Diaz). They get married and stay in the house where Boy and Nestor live, distressing Nestor even more. Debbie’s friend, Letty (Jaclyn Jose), has been in love with Nestor for a long time and she seizes the opportunity to get closer to him. After a night of sex, they tie the knot and live in a room next to Boy and Debbie’s. Tension among the four ensues—carnal between Debbie and Nestor, fraternal between Nestor and Boy, and belligerent between Debbie and Letty—and it’s only a matter of time when the house becomes too small for them and fire starts to spread like domino pieces falling on top of one another.

Its sexual dynamics bears a striking resemblance to Scorpio Nights, Peque Gallaga’s 1985 film about a student bedspacer peeping through a hole on the floor and fancying the sight of a woman in her lingerie, whom he eventually sleeps with. Both movies depict the claws of darkness that hovers around the setting, particularly the bedroom, and in Takaw Tukso’s case, the car repair shop. These confined spaces breathe a life of their own and provide a distinct mood of claustrophobia. Debbie, Boy, Nestor, and Letty get trapped in some sort of black hole: they act according to their instincts and turn into animals when provoked. Lao is less conscious about the scruples of morality than the logic of dramaturgy, putting danger signs everywhere, and keeping track of each character’s misstep. Like most directors of Lao’s scripts, Pascual allows himself to be controlled and overpowered, yet there are crucial scenes in the film whose strength comes from his directorial command, most especially the confrontations among the four characters. The manner in which the acting is delivered to perfection—the vulnerability that warrants an explosion anytime—owes a lot to his discipline as a director.

The existing bootleg copy does not do justice to Joe Tutanes’s masterly camera work and Brillante Mendoza’s outstanding production design, both elements that grease the narrative and turn it into a visual spectacle. Even in its sad state of overexposed colors and unintentional jump cuts, the film shows proof of the skill committed to it. Similar to some of the films made in the 80s, it hints strongly at the effects of martial law, as well as the anxiety of what lies ahead. Furthermore, highbrow moviegoers are likely to admire its rigid stone wall structure, forgiving its tendency to indulge in rhetoric and extract repetitious arguments. It is too in love with its own beauty and brilliance to notice its boundaries, which adds to the discomfort of watching it. Takaw Tukso is a flawed work, but one that stands by its imperfections and makes them worthy of defense.

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