ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
Jeffrey Jeturian and Armando Laos Tuhog (Larger Than
Life, 2000) is, simply put, a film about screwing - about a mother
being screwed, about her daughter being screwed, about the story
of their life together being screwed over by an unscrupulous pair
of soft-core porn filmmakers.
The two women
in Tuhog, mother (Irma Adlawan) and daughter (Ina
Raymundo), sell their next-best commodity - their lifes story
- to a director and his writer. Months later, the two women and
their friends go on a day-long trip to the nearest Metro Manila
mall cineplex to watch the results, and realize just what it is
that they have done: sold their lifes story, the story of
who they are, what they are, how they came to be, to a group of
strangers who proceeded to put that story - exaggerated, caricatured,
distorted out of all recognition - on the big screen. They realize
that everything has been reduced to the ridiculous, and that they
have been shamed and humiliated, and in a far worse way than ever
is possibly one of the best (and ironically, least seen) in recent
Filipino cinema (she played a crucial role in what I believe is
Tikoy Aguiluzs best work, The Last Wish, a docudrama about
Flor Contemplacion, the domestic helper executed for murder in Singapore).
Here she gives a wonderful performance as the mother - vital, effortless,
heartbreaking. Hers is a supporting role, but its her story
that gives the film its bite, its moral edge.
She is hurt
the most, not because she has been lampooned but because her character
has been oh-so-subtly subverted - as played by the more obviously
sensual Jaclyn Jose, she wasnt exactly forced to have sex;
she asked for it. Adlawan can only watch helplessly as this monstrous
lie is played out on the big screen, and the worse thing about it
- the crowning irony - is that the change was probably made simply
to give Jose more sex scenes in the film. Gratuitous? Youre
goddamned right it is.
is very good as the daughter, which is surprising (no - astonishing),
having seen her give one wooden performance after another in just
the kind of cheap sex flicks - Sobra-Sobra, Labis-Labis (Too
Much Is Just Enough), Burlesk Queen Ngayon (Burlesque Queen
Today) - that Tuhog makes fun of. Here she has the fragile,
innocent quality of a newly-hatched chick, something Ive never
seen in her before; when her breast is finally bared, late in the
film, it comes across as an acute shock, like a child stripped naked.
ingenious script has almost everything you can ask for - intelligence,
wit, care for characterization and the telling detail - that it
seems almost churlish to complain about flaws. The cheap sex flick
being made, titled Hayok sa Laman (Greedy For Flesh), features
clichés from almost every bad Filipino film in recent memory
- sex flick or melodrama; comedy, intentional or otherwise - and
there are plenty of them, no mean feat to collect and condense into
one hideous parody.
at times reflects and reinforces the feelings of the people watching
it, at times cruelly ridicules them; its a delicate balancing
act that Jeturian and Lao somehow manage to maintain for about three-fourths
of the picture, until mother and daughter walk out. Once they do,
balance goes right out the window and their friends (who stay behind)
are treated to the travesty thats the rest of the "film"
- an unholy mix of - gothic melodrama and slasher movies, as if
Douglas Sirk had directed an installment of Friday the 13th, a chop-suey
of the worst excesses of some of our most pretentious Filipino filmmakers.
fun to see Lao and Jeturian rip open a new orifice in the decaying
carcass that is contemporary Filipino cinema, they do so at the
expense of characters they had so carefully prepared - characters
we have come to care for, and resent being shunted aside.
Jeturian and Laos best work to date, I think; that would be
their previous film, Pila Balde (Fetch A Pail Of Water),
a lighthearted yet precisely observed drama about life among slums
and housing projects. Still, Tuhog is one of the best, most
daring, most imaginative Filipino films to come out last year.
Note: First published in Cinemaya Magazine, Issue # 54-55, Winter-Spring
2002. The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic After Dark:
A Review Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
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