Saturday, July 12, 2008

Paupahan (Crossroads)

Joseph Bitangcol and Kirby De Jesus

In the multi-story drama Paupahan, Allen Dizon plays a D-list actor, who's a member of an erotic macho singing/dancing group. He earns mainly by pimping other actors to gay clients, but somehow ends up getting fucked in the ass himself, even though he says he already "graduated" from the callboy schtick.

The tastiest quality of the movie -- produced by Dizon himself -- is how ticklingly close to the reality of showbiz-and-sex it may or may not be. Consider this: The most affecting image in the film is veteran actor German Moreno, as a gay stepfather, telling himself in the mirror -- with regret, loneliness, and smeared lipstick -- how slutty he is. If you don't find yourself caught up in the intended emotion, you will find yourself wrapped around the meta-implications. It's Kuya Germs declaring "Ang landi landi ko." Wow. Paupahan must be among the living legend's finest screen moments ever. His slapstick/dramatic venting of rage with Gloria Romero in a cemetery is another highlight.

Because the prostitution plot is surprisingly spare in male nudity (despite the troop of hunks on board), my favorite part of the movie goes to Joseph Bitangcol peeling off his sando wifebeater to seduce a queen hairdresser. The cute teen-ish actor, oozing with the poisonous charm of a hustler, plays object of obsession to Kirby De Jesus' swishy gay teen. The conclusion of their love story is a little less than satisfying, but there's an upside: You may want to discuss with your friends how is it that a gay boy can fall out of love the moment he finds out his crush is gay too. And while you're at it, you may also wish to discuss why in the movies, bottoming is always depicted as such a grave physical and spiritual sacrifice. Then, on the third round, we may all reminisce about the good old days when a movie with Jay Manalo is a movie where Jay Manalo is naked. Not anymore.

Populated with ageing or almost-forgotten actors starring in their own tragedies, Paupahan is unified by a sense of loss. In design, you can almost taste the influence of Magnolia, a movie strung together not so much by narrative but by emotionality. Yet Paupahan is a long way from the fluid power achieved by that film. Like many movies about the parallel tragic lives of Filipinos, it's a direct descendant of Manila By Night (some shots echo those of the Ishmael Bernal classic's), but aren't we tired of these "influenced" works already, especially when they don't even come close to craft and depth?

Other men in the cast include Mon Confiado, Richard Quan, Justin De Leon, Will Sandejas, and Tonio Quiazon. In case you want to know.


Related Links:
Movie Theme Music Video
Movie Trailer
Press Release: "Kirby De Jesus Kisses Joseph Bitangcol" (Nowhere in the movie, by the way.)
Joseph Bitangcol Forum
Joseph Bitangcol Forum 2

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