Saturday, May 16, 2009

macho dancer, twenty years later


i was able to catch Lino Brocka's Macho Dancer (written by Ricardo Lee) last night at mag:net katipunan (this month is Brockamania, in commemoration of the film god's 18th death anniv)and i would say that the realities presented by the film which was made twenty years ago, are still very much the realities of today. but of course, that's stating the obvious.

but i want a stretch.
the 80's Ermita in the film may no longer be the same that we see today but damn it, everywhere we turn now, as darkness bites, there frolics whores of all types, class and colors (whore, being a metaphor)and even worse. the streets of inner manila is still very much the same: squatters' areas, stinky streets and folks from the province who arrive in the big city of M for greener pastures but will actually eventually find themselves in a deeper poverty and will after everything, return to the province, still the same them if not worse. manila's underworld is still as dark as it was two decades ago.

well, Macho Dancer is about the lives of people living in the underworld, particularly prostitutes in metro manila, seen through the eyes of a provincial callboy, Paul (played by a fresh, raw and very handsome Allan Paule, this is his first film, actually) who went to the big city for better opportunities as a male prostitute with the help of his fellow, well, callboy, Greg.

in the big city of M, Paul will be introduced to characters he never imagined himself to be with: macho dancers (male strip dancers) Noel (played by Daniel Fernando,who, amid everything, is a lonely soul in search of a lost sister Pining [played by Princess Punzalan]), Dennis (played by William Lorenzo, the club's hustler who juggles dancing, pimping and drug pushing) Kid (the cop who controls ad protects the underworld operations) and Bambi (the woman he will love. played beautifully by a young, raw, but already very good Jacklyn Jose).

instead of better opportunities, Paul will experience horror, terror and all the nightmares that spell everything but better life.

macho dancer, as told from the 80s may be quite common for us now. but the kind of story telling is still something we definitely haven't had enough of or maybe have had too little of: sharp, direct, powerful, flawless. And the direction, well of course, this was a much much experienced Lino Brocka. This is classic pinoy noir that perhaps, no one can ever equal although through the years, we've seen some younger directors' attempts not only on the style but even as far as making films out of the storyline of Macho Dancer.

true, there are flaws in the movie such as Paule's sometimes lack of intensity in delivering some of his lines (but even that is forgivable as that was his first film and we would witness him emerging as the country's better performers albeit underrated and often a typecast) but he made up through his facial expressions and strong credible presence.

some scenes may be for many, are overrated such as the strip dancing. but then again, it's about the lives of macho dancers. enough said.

william lorenzo and daniel fernando (who actually won a Gawad URIAN best actor trophy for his work here) showed their depth and dedication as actors. it is just a wonder why daniel fernando did not become an established ead actor when clearly, he delievers. well yes, in this side of the planet? i take it back, it's not a wonder.

all the actors had their moments and that i guess was one of Brocka's stronger edges, having the power to squeeze out of his actors the right emotions at the right time and let their facial expressions, particluarly their eyes do the talking.

in this movie, it was definitely Jacklyn Jose (who also received an URIAN for best supporting actress here) who had the best "moment" and that was in the latter part of the film when for more than ten seconds, the camera was just on her face and had she been a lesser actor, it was easy to falter. (in 2006, i watched Jacklyn Jose in Sarong Banggi and she made my bones chilled and now, i can say, well, good acting is sometimes evident early on, even as Macho Dancer was one of her first few films)

the difficult part in watching a pinoy classic such as this one is that there is an existing bias and it's very overwhelming just by watching a film by a great director, much more a Brocka. It is a rare experience indeed.

so, the tendency for me, is that it's very hard to notice the flaws. was that a technical glitch right there? but hey, that was the 70s or 80s. was that underacting or was that just being subdued or the other actor is just hysterical? Then again, that was a classic Brocka, just having watched it is already something to be proud of.

eventually, Macho Dancer took me back to the main reason why (in my opinion)it should be watched: it is an eye-opening, reality-presenting film that tells us, shows us, ushers us into the world that is always in front of us. it's just that we refuse to see.

it is not a movie just to be entertained although it does serve that purpose too.

Macho Dancer is a gem of Philippine cinema as much as its writer and director.
sadly though, there was only six of us watching the film. two more arrived, just to laugh at the dancing parts.

*catch more of Brocka at mag:net katipunan this month

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