Friday, September 22, 2006

Darkness Falls

After Sibak (1994) and Burlesk King (1999), director Mel Chionglo comes up with his third movie on macho dancers, 2006’s Twilight Dancers. Is it a case of third time’s the charm, or three strikes you’re out?

Dear Direk, let this movie be the twilight of peep-flicks disguised as social commentaries. Oh sure, the issues are updated. But still, when you train your camera onto those gyrating boys in their skimpy underwear and caress them longingly with your lens, one cannot help but wonder: what’s the difference between watching this movie and watching the real thing?

And when you go to the issues portion of the movie, you just show them but often don’t delve deeper. Your movie looks like a smorgasbord of appetizers. Do you need to tackle that many issues in one movie? Maisingit lang ba yung mga isyu tulad ng strikes, gun smuggling and institutionalized corruption?

Good thing Tyron Perez is engaging enough to watch. He is easy on the eyes and interestingly, registers very lightly on screen. This serves the movie well since it is he who threads the whole movie; put someone too intense or “heavy” and he’ll bog down the movie. And he really tries his darn best in this role; the effort sometimes shows though. But overall he manages to pull off a believable character who despite his background still has a level of innocence and naivety about him.

Allen Dizon has cornered the market for aging-sexy-actors-who-can-still-disrobe-but- thanks-to-age-and-experience-can-act-a-little-better-now. Just a little. Still Papa-licious for those who like their men a bit more mature and with heft, Allen’s character is supposedly a hot-headed guy trying his best to change his ways. Unfortunately his performance is too laid-back; his occasional outbursts make him look more sullen rather than ill tempered.

Lauren Novero is yummy to look at if you’re into swarthy “er”-types. Period. Too bad he only disrobes once. But he also has a playing-with-myself scene that stops short of masturbation.

Ana Capri acts up a storm as the mute wife of Allen Dizon. Acts up a storm even when only a drizzle is required. Her hands are incredibly all over the place—don’t mutes who do sign language have this economy of movement in their gestures? And what’s with all the grunting?

Joel Lamangan plays another one of those closeted-but-not-really local politicians with a penchant for cross-dressing and crossing off enemies permanently.

Was this film shot on digital? Was the cinematography purposely murky, like the world inhabited by macho dancers? Or is that more a lack of budget? And don’t get me started on the camera work. In the climactic scene wherein Cherrypie Pecache points a gun at one of the guys, the camera—obviously hand-held—is positioned near the ground. Then inexplicably it moves up, walks closer towards and to the right of the actors, and then settles down again. It’s as if the cameraman got tired of squatting and shifted positions arbitrarily. What the hell was that for?

Ah yes, Cherrypie Pecache. Thank god she’s in the movie. For the first time we have a strong female baddie in a film like this. She can convey the danger and the steel under her seemingly harmless exterior. But, but, BUT. There’s still something lacking. Is it intensity? Ruthlessness? She still looks like Cherrypie playing yet another character.

Direk, this whole macho dancing genre has grown tiring under your gaze. No profoundly new insight is presented, nor anything unexpected happens (one can spot the eventual murder of the union leader as soon as you gave him dialogue, for chrissakes).

Stop-dance ka na, direk.

"Burlesk King" by Mel Chionglo is marketed internationally as "Midnight Dancers," so I thought this movie is the same as "Twilight Dancers" until I compared directors.

The film was not so bad, thought it's narratively cliched. The guys looked rather stiff--their dancing I mean.
hello mr. mcvie... i featured your review in my site... hope you don't mind. idol kita eh :)
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