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Laman (Flesh)

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  • noelbotevera
    Musical beds Noel Vera Maryo J. de los Reyes Laman (Flesh) is his latest sex flick, and-- surprise, surprise--it s pretty good. Well, maybe not so much of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2002
      Musical beds

      Noel Vera

      Maryo J. de los Reyes' "Laman" (Flesh) is his latest sex flick, and--
      surprise, surprise--it's pretty good. Well, maybe not so much of a
      surprise--de los Reyes has always been a competent craftsman and I've
      always thought that given good material (or at least material that's
      solid, without any embarrassing flaws), he can come up with a solid
      genre job.

      In this case the job he comes up with is solidly in the genre of
      erotic "noir" drama. A married couple (Yul Servo, Lolita de Leon)
      come to Manila from the provinces to look for a job; they end up
      rooming in the house of Servo's best friend (Albert Martinez), who
      finds himself lusting for the ripe young wife. Albert plays a
      gigolo, and one of his most loyal customers is a successful
      businesswoman (Elizabeth Oropesa) who, in turn, develops a hankering
      for the young husband (Servo).

      Seductions, revelations, realignments follow; it's the kind of
      melodramatic brew de los Reyes has done before, nothing radically
      new. But unlike "Paraiso ni Efren" (Efren's Paradise) there are no
      gauzy attempts at dream imagery, no unlikely subplots involving NGOs
      (the script and presumably the dream imagery were by Jun Lana).
      Unlike "Red Diaries," starring Assunta de Rossi, he isn't required to
      showcase some skin-flick diva's "thespic prowess." "Laman" is
      simple, small-scaled, and surprisingly honest. It doesn't make any
      pretense of aspiring to be more than what it is: a well-made example
      of itself.

      Yul Servo as the husband is persuasively young and innocent--and
      later, innocence lost, persuasively idealistic; he proves with his
      sophomore performance that the potential he showed in "Batang West
      Side" (West Side Avenue) was no lucky accident, though his role here
      is far simpler. Lolita de Leon as his wife is refreshingly, 100%
      real (no surgical enhancements, her); she's good at playing exactly
      what she is, a young provincial lass corrupted by the big city.
      Elizabeth Oropesa is equally good as the sexually voracious employer
      with a caramel core (think of the whore with the heart of gold become
      successful entrepreneur)--she makes you believe she has the
      ruthlessness to succeed in business, yet can still be attracted to
      Servo's goodness.

      Albert Martinez is possibly the gamest actor in the industry right
      now. There's nothing he won't do, apparently, from wearing women's
      clothes ("Scorpio Nights 2"), to performing gay sex ("Gusto Kong
      Lumigaya" (I Want to be Happy)), to playing unmitigated bastards
      (everything from "Segurista" (Dead Sure) to this film). This may be
      the best role he's had in years, though, if only because it's the
      first role he's had in years where the character is clearly and
      carefully drawn. We come to understand Matrinez's gigolo; we know
      the need he has for security that leads him into relationships with
      wealthy women like Oropesa, the same time we know the maddening itch
      he feels when faced with de Leon's tremendous breasts. The one
      instinct is his best hope for a long and happy life; the other is
      trouble, pure and simple.

      De los Reyes, who's in his fifties, needn't feel embarrassed when
      compared to the "Young Turk" filmmakers coming out of the woodwork
      nowadays; he is every bit as adept with shock cuts and innovative
      camerawork (overhead, handheld, what-have-you) as the best of them.
      He uses the "bleached-bypass" effect you saw in the battle sequences
      of "Saving Private Ryan," the one that leaches out colors; he even
      includes the trick in "Ryan" where anyone in motion looked as if he
      were moving under a strobe light. "Laman" is well-edited, well-shot
      eye candy, yoked--and this is where de los Reyes has an advantage
      over all the so-called "Turks" in the business--to a solidly written,
      realistically plotted script (co-written by de los Reyes himself,
      with Wally Ching).

      I've heard of "Laman's" tussles with the Movies and Television
      Ratings and Classification Board (the MTRCB, or, in short, the
      Censors)--how it was "X'd" twice, and how Regal Studios finally gave
      in and submitted a shortened version. It's idiocy like this that
      makes me doubt the sincerity of government's interest in the arts;
      all they really seem to care about is in keeping it all clean and
      neat and toothless, like a travelogue. Granted "Laman" has no
      positive moral lesson to impart to adult Filipinos--a characteristic,
      truth to tell, common in noir--why do the morons in the MTRCB insist
      in denying us the privilege of judging the film for ourselves (what
      makes THEM so special? "Higher moral standards," perhaps, or some
      self-perceived immunity to smut?)? "Laman" is definitely no film for
      a child--problem is, the MTRCB seems insistent on treating me and
      every mature member of Philippine society like one.

      (Comments? Email me at noelbotevera@...)
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