It's hard to believe reports that this movie was once planned for international release, or that it has a larger-than-average budget, or that the director was imported from China to do it, or that it managed to cast up-and-coming young actors who purportedly have serious careers in mind. The story -- will poor rural lass leave her poor rural boyfriend for the moneyed city boy? -- is old generic boldie junk, and so is the craft. It can easily be mistaken for any number of forgotten mid-90's cheapie.
But the sexy guys make it watchable. Torsos are on display in the way that movies set in beach resorts would deem normal. Andrew Schimmer is refreshingly non-model-like, frazzled around the edges like your neighbor blessed with good genes but isn't vain or responsible enough to forego the all-night parties and drinking that wear out his looks. Paolo Serrano and Justin De Leon, as the fratboyish buddies who are indistinguishable from one another, seem to have been cast only for their lovemaking scenes with separate women that have absolutely nothing to do with the story. Kris Martinez is the moreno fisherman, and just for his minor sweat-stained workshirt in one scene, he's my favorite among the goodlooking cast.
There's an important central theme to its old story, though. When City Boy discovers that Country Girl only loves him for the possibility that he can save her family from poverty, the movie posits that there is a thin line between utilitarian relationships and prostitution. He's a modern man who wrestles with his own principles on the kind of love he wants from a woman. Do we care? The movie is so poorly made, we only care about when he'll stop flexing his muscles to flash his butt.
"More Features Inside!" says the DVD box cover. That would be a photo gallery and short behind-the-scenes footage during dance rehearsals, shooting, and photo shoot. Unlike the bonuses in the first M2M (Masahe), made essential by resplendent nudity, the extras here reveal nothing. A couple of the guys goof off for the camera rather gamely, but that, too, is unsubstantial.
The main feature is still a thing to behold, so if you don't already own the bonus-free VCD release, you might want to snatch the DVD for its better image quality. Otherwise, this belated disappointment is an unnecessary waste of money.
You may think you've heard the story before, and maybe you have. A boy falls in love with his childhood best friend, who happens to be a boy too, and he keeps his feelings secretly up unto his adult life. It sounds like your own story or your friend's or dozens of foreign films on the subject. Afterall, isn't repression a staple on the gay literary menu? It's practically inseparable from the territory of homo experience. But there's an authenticity and richness to Sikil's portrayal that makes it one of the more evocative Pinoy gay romances perhaps ever, and especially in a recent wave of films that try to do just that but fail.
Though structured with two intercutting lives, the point of view really belongs to Enzo (Ken Escudero), the one in love. The movie's best moments are those that zing with his romantic pain. When he finds he's been left alone in the brook by his friend who went canoodling with his girlfriend, on his own bike, he's wet and naked and shouting his friend's name -- you know you have a movie that understands the double-edged nature of his love: What gives him reason to live is also what's killing him inside.
I'm still waiting for the movie that can dig into the character of the straight-guy-object with the same forceful inner reflection. Adong (Will Sandejas), the best friend who prefers the girl, though sketched with careful detail in childhood, eventually turns, at film's end, into more of the usual man of mystery. What, finally, is the shape and color of his feelings for his friend? We're left to guess from a few tentative clues. From Sa Paraiso Ni Efren's Efren to ZsaZsa Zaturnnah's Dodong to Ang Lalake Sa Parola's Mateo, with countless other macho men past, our films have always seem content on leaving the straight-guy-who-does-gay-things be. We venerate them with their inscrutability. Only the fags are battered inside out with brutal analysis. Anyway, it's our story.
Both male leads are hot, and able new actors. Ken Escudero plays Enzo like a hapless martyr child. His lust seems almost saintly. Will Sandejas has a gruff and guarded exterior that rubs nicely against bursts of open playfulness. I just couldn't get why his embraces with his best friend are always softpedaled by light taps on the back. It made me think he or the filmmakers weren't really ready for a straight guy like Adong to accept gay Enzo's love, up til the end. The actors' sweet bodies and sweet, sweet butts are nicely displayed, but the two frontal exposures elsewhere are not theirs. Some of the sexy men in the background include Rico Lazaro, Roger Little, Richard Guebar, Andrew Morgan, Harold Montano, and Marvin Ignacio.
There are glimpses of a gay underworld that leaves me more curious than enlightened: a gay bar with elaborate costumed sex shows, a garden-air bath house with a what's-going-on cruising dynamics, a bondage torture event in what appears to be a parking lot or garage, a dingy moviehouse inhabitted by one regular joe pimp and fags loudly offering handjobs, a faux video scandal porn set helmed by an over-the-top director. The two men, as working prostitutes in Manila, navigate this memorable, if not fully realized, world. The family melodrama is sincere enough to avoid histrionics, though it skids dangerously close. How can I complain about a mother who loves her gay son enough to let him go and welcome him back when he chooses to return? I do wish key sex scenes were dramatized more for maximum emotional impact, and I'm sometimes bothered by the haphazard visual style. But then, all of these can only hold a candle to what is ultimately a great story that aims at a great gay love and succeeds. As a bonus, it's also subtly the journey of a gay man who's hurled by love into a dark descent, only to come back with dignity in tact. Inspiring.
What makes a hot movie moment? Sex, of course, but not always literally. It's the context and the treatment that taps feelings from the deep bowl of our senses. This is not a list of the hottest actors, although the guys are certainly a big part of why the scenes are so worthy.
The rules: No movie can have more than one moment, so even though Ang Lalake Sa Parola had tons of memorable scenes, there can only be one. No actor can do a double either, so even though Coco Martin was hot in at least three movies this year, I had to pick his most shining minute. Only feature-length movies with theatrical screenings in 2007 were considered; the straight-to-video novelties will have their own list.
Your favorite isn't on this list? No Aga Muhlach, John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, even though they were textbook sexy in the year's biggest hits (A Love Story, One More Chance, Paano Kita Iibigin)? Not one from gay lord Cris Pablo's digital films? None of the television rookies in the numerous generic horror flicks of the year? No toddler flashing his peepee from Foster Child? Shame on you.
Some are obvious choices. (A sexy guy taking off his shirt is hot, duh.) Some may seem odd (a teen fully clothed in a pond?), but sometimes the uniqueness or the absurdity of the scene ups the heat. Even if no one seems to watch Pinoy movies anymore, the following is proof that we really should be interested again. I wish I could post the specific scenes as they are, but they're hard to find, so I posted the movie trailers instead, whenever available.
15. Denver Olivarez showers in an alley in Ataul For Rent
14. Jason Abalos asks his friend "Bakla ka ba?" in Endo
13. Michael Rivero fucks then sleeps in Casa
12. Victor Basa peels his shirt then helps farm folk in Maling Akala
11. Ping Medina peels his shirt then chops wood in Tukso
10. Joem Bascon smiles and feeds the ocean in Batanes
9. Gerald Anderson wades in wet-Tshirt in I've Fallen For You
8. Andrew Schimmer shows off on the beach in Green Paradise
7. Christian Vasquez is chased across highway in his briefs in Apat Dapat, Dapat Apat
6. Polo Ravales exposes butt through bamboo slits in Silip
5. Zanjoe Marudo steps out of toilet in towel in You Got Me
4. Coco Martin reclines after sex in Tambolista
3. Jordan Herrera drinks water in Vhagets
2. Jay Aquitania videos a sleeping Janvier Daly in Roxxxanne
1. Justin De Leon points to Harry Laurel's unzipped trousers in Ang Lalake Sa Parola