Despite two fellatio scenes, one scorching sex number, and the dishiest poster in recent years, Kambyo is a fairly wholesome affair. The third collaboration between writer Lex Bonife, director Joselito Altarejos, and Viva Digital Productions does not exploit audience's deep gay anxieties as strongly as Ang Lalake Sa Parola or Ang Lihim Ni Antonio, and that's because Kambyo doesn't treat homosexuality as a cestpool of dark secrets and moral conundrums. As four men embark on a road trip to a beach, their van becomes a bubble in which they could be whoever they wish to be. When they step out of the vehicle to encounter homophobes, the movie only underscores the utopia of tolerance that the gang has created for themselves. When two men engage in a quickie blowjob in a toilet, the act is between consenting adults, and the movie smartly acknowledges these actions as matter-of-fact. If you find this corny, as opposed to, say, the sight of one man being abused by another, then that's not the movie's problem; it's yours. This relaxed disposition is the most progressive thing about Kambyo.
However, what keeps it from being a jolly piece of entertainment is its stultifying linearity. Framed by a story where point A must simply get to point B (or how one man chalks a path to his former lover, then gets there), there are hardly any surprises in Kambyo. Supporting characters are forced to speak their interior lives whenever the dull, rigid structure allows, often in unnatural rhythms and choppy sound edit. What we get is a bag of endless musical road travel montage, lots of talk, some drama, some comedy, some sex -- and it all marches along dutifully in single file. There's a kindergarten's book quality to it.
Thankfully, the cast is cute. Smooth-skinned hunk Gabz Del Rosario should've taken off his shirt sooner to kill the drag of the first ten minutes. And, as two old pals who have sex one last time, Rayan Dulay and Johnron Tanada are a sensual full meal. With prissy lighting and wistful music, their lovemaking is tender and affecting. The quiet, pained romance is the sweet center in a bland shell.
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.
One year ago, The Bakla Review debuted with a review of Chalk Magazine's annual UAAP/NCAA basketball special. Well, it's been a year, and the 2008 edition is here. There's even less basketball content in this one, if you can believe it, but somebody must have heard my gay prayers because this time, some boys are showing some serious skin. A six-page spread on select NCAA players (one for each participating school) is fan-tastic. The editors chose some actual hotties this time, and they're styled and photographed for a rough sexy appeal. Meanwhile, the boys from the other league, the UAAP, are dressed up to look stiff and boring, while everywhere else, it's the usual girly articles and shameless product placements. What those great but scant six pages really need to do is go forth and multiply. Maybe next year.