There are many things "wrong" with this straight-to-video erotica, beginning with the premise. Another instructional on the art of sensuality? We never really believed it when the trend started, did we?
But the things that are wrong are exactly what's enjoyable about Erotika M2M. I have come to love the fake premise of teaching something as an excuse to showcase male bodies. It's terrific. They can teach applied physics with stripping professors, and I'm there.
If you've been wondering where the hell Pinoy camp has gone to, look no further. Erotika M2M is not a clone of the slick Viva Hotmen productions, but almost a bad simulacrum, a refreshing send-up. It looks cheaper and more naive, funnier and on a class of its own. The choreography here is straight out of the gayest dance number from That's Entertainment, 1980's -- tacky, cheesy, an exercise in overacted "gracefulness". The romantic episode, especially, is set to an unbearable, sappy song, and it would have been a pain if it weren't also hilarious. There's also a synth tune somewhere that's bogus rock with bogus 'tude. In an office interview lap dance number, the boy applicant pulls down his pants to reveal... a scary bright ugly-orange brief. The boss pulls down his own pants to reveal... more or less the same brief but blue. That, my friends, is inspired campiness. A number in which all the boys, buff-naked, gyrate behind wooden crates is also so outrageous, it's awesome.
The boys (Dexter Castro, Gael, Ivan Maxwell, Seff Posadas, and Rojer) are cute but rather ordinary, and the hotness lies in the trainwreck spectacle of ordinary boys doing extraordinarily limp flights of showmanship. They're ultimately lovable.
If there's one fault I can't easily forgive, it's the videography. I often found my eyes straining for clarity. The shadows that cloak the delicate body parts are garish. A tease is supposed to make good on a show. Even if it doesn't show us what we want to see, what's onscreen should look good enough for us to stay glued. But the more important question is: Why hide the goods at all? If this disc included a behind-the-scenes feature similar to Masahe M2M (from the same makers), with wall-to-wall naked flesh, it would be unquestionably satisfying.
Erotika M2M is flawed and an easy target for whiners, but it actually shouldn't be missed.
The "X-rated" shots that were deleted for the theatrical version are thankfully present in this video release: Harry Laurel's erection; Justin De Leon beats his meat; testicles-on-testicles grinding; jewels and pubes. Plus, no one talks about it, but Xeno Alejandro goes full frontal in his very brief appearance. I don't think we've been treated to this much male goodies in a legitimate Pinoy film.
The added sexiness really does make for a more pleasurable viewing, but it doesn't really make it much of a better movie. You may discover the money shots are quick and enshrouded in cliche romantic "tastefulness". Sadly, the narrative doesn't hold up to repeat viewings; Performances and scenes betray an amateurish weakness. But so what? The male exposures are gold, and a treasure in any collection.
This Israeli-produced documentary, directed by Israeli Tomm Heymann, follows a group of Filipino drag performers, known as "The Paper Dolls", who also work as caregivers for the elderly in an orthodox suburb in Israel. The early moment when Giorgio, a Filipino hairstylist, started conversing in Hebrew, the movie had me enthralled. This is one fascinating, revealing, ultimately great portrait of my fellow Filipinos and fellow gays who are also living in a more extreme otherness.
The journey takes us deep and far, with highlights such as a dream performance at a famous Tel Aviv nightclub that turns into sad disillusionment, an offbeat intergenerational friendship between a caregiver and his charge, and the ominous fear of deportation that depicts a larger view of the plight of immigrant workers. Through it all, the transsexual Pinoys display an admirable and inspiring dignity, and so does the movie. I fell in love with it.
Bagets (with a B) was a movie phenomenon that defined the youth culture of the country in the 80's. The word is slang for "youth" and is still widely used today. The new title Vhagets, a corruption of the term to sound gayspeak, suggests we need a movie that will be as definitive to kids today who are growing up gay.
In 2005, Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) introduced us to a feminine adolescent boy who lives in the slums. Maxi was an instantly iconic character, and, depending on where you live, was also instantly familiar. There are quite a number of boys his age who dress and act like him. It was about time we saw him on the screen. What few people may remember though is that Ang Pagdadalaga never really addressed Maxi's homosexuality or transgender as an issue. (His family and community generally accepted his ways.) That movie was an otherwise traditional story of romance versus family, cops versus robbers. It skipped the part about the usual specific fears, pains, and confusions connected to gay identity -- the internal aspect of being gay at 13.
The new movie Vhagets fills that gap -- somehow. Three adolescent friends survive individual dillemas that spring directly from their being gay. One fears coming out to his father; another is beaten up by his; the third gets constantly nagged by his mother for his girly behavior. All of them are taunted by bullies their age. Their stories whiz by with lightfooted comic panache, especially in the first half, that the movie is mostly funny and fun even as it tugs at deep hurts surely recognizable to many of us. Vhagets is the stylistic reverse of Ang Pagdadalaga: The former documentary-like neorealism gets replaced by broader comedy, subjective narration, hyperbolic fantasy sequences.
There's a lot going on in Vhagets, for better or worse. It's hard to see the integrity amidst the storytelling shortcuts. As it turns out, the movie is really centered on one gay old man whose house is like a refuge for the troubled boys. SPOILERS AHEAD!!! His murder, which the boys witness, acts as the miraculous solution to banish all issues between parents and their gay sons. There are speechy expositions here and there, a dash of how domestic anti-gay violence is passed on to generations, how repressed gay emotions can lead to crimes of passion, and of course, a schoolboy crush who's so close yet so far to touch.
Alas, the best reason to watch Vhagets is Jordan Herrera. The hunk plays "pantasya ng mga bakla" (gay men's fantasy), and he fits the bill perfectly. We first see him sweaty playing basketball, then with drinking water assaulting his full lips and cascading down his body. He's a force of sex throughout, even by just the simple act of walking in jeans, but most especially when he's showering in his black briefs and when near-naked in bed. The only other scene to rival any of Jordan Herrera's appearances is an opening number in which four guys in briefs and shorts bathe themselves on the street, in full view of our three young heroes and the old gay man up in his house.
The conclusion should have had a little more balls. After all that is done, our boys grow up to the realization that they're more men than real men. ("Mas lalaki pa.") I rather wish they had advanced to eschew the language of machismo, which is to say in their own terms and not in society's imposition that the best values are necessarily masculine. It kind of dillutes everything back to zero.
The movie kicks off in classic romantic comedy fashion: Boy meets girl in a bus, the pregnant girl suddenly goes into labor, the boy is mistaken to be her husband, and they decide to uphold the lie, all the way unto the girl's rural hometown. It's all very pleasing, funny, and convincing, but what really motors the comedy is a twin mystery: Is the boy a criminal-on-the-run? And, Is he gay?
SPOLIER AHEAD! He's gay. The press releases don't hide the fact, so it's not exactly a spoiler, but part of the pleasure of watching the comedy lies in the ticklish way the movie only hints it, withholding the confirmation till the very end. It's also its sly genius. In asking us to be involved in the "love" story, with the usual sturcture and pratfalls of the genre, but also pushing us back to say don't get too comfortable because the guy could be a homo, Maling Akala is really inviting us to pick apart the mind of a certain gay guy. And okay, the girl too. The movie, although entertaining in familiar ways, is actually a thoroughly modern, original double character study: of the woman who falls for the gay man, and of the man who's embracing a new self as a means to escape -- not only the chaos of the city and the crime he committed back there, but also the nature of his sexuality. Although he doesn't seem to be in denial about his homosexuality (and this is refreshing), he is in a different kind of gay crisis: How is he to practice this sexuality, especially with the convenient alternative to pose as someone straight? And what is it at the core of many gay men everywhere that drives us to consider a relationship with a woman when clearly it isn't our preference? The movie is more progressive yet also subtler than it appears. It's practically essential viewing.
Victor Basa, model-turned-hearththrob-actor, is himself the subject of the big is-he-or-isn't-he controversy in real life, and casting him in the role of JP, the man-with-a-mystery, only adds to the movie's playful allure. His JP is easily one of the most fascinating and fully-formed gay creations in Philippine cinema. I do wish there were more visuals of the one-and-only man-to-man sex scene (we hardly see it) and more of the country hunk he's fooling around with, but that's the horny me nitpicking.