Director: Crisaldo Pablo
Stars: Jet Alcantra, Ray An Dulay, Andoy Ranay, Rey Pumaloy, John
Available on DVD - order here
Finding the whole gay experience a bit depressing? Need something to tip you over into a suicide attempt? I’ve got just the film for you.
This interminable pile of crap from the Philippines takes us inside the catacombs of Klub Hombre (a members-only sex bar presided over by a shrill, fat minstrel named Genesis who looks like Imelda Marcos and talks like Jar Jar Binks) and into the wretched lives of the cursed losers who meet there. Sappy love-addict Rico (Ray An Dulay) instantly falls in love with Cris (Jet Alcantara - also the film’s screenwriter) at “loincloth night” where they dry-fuck unrealistically on the roof of the club.
That’s pretty much the only part of the storyline that’s relatable as the rest of the “movie” is a mish-mash of intertitled vignettes about sms dating and public park sex, trite voice-over monologues about loneliness and emotional disconnections, and so on.
Mismatched eye lines and bottom-of-the-barrel production values including dreadful acting and a total lack of any consistency across style, story, mood and pitch clunk the whole thing along with the grace and comfort of a broken banana chair blowing down a beach in a typhoon. Even the politics are schizoid, with the main macho gay the nucleus of all charm and power and feminine guys slotted further and further down the food chain with the biggest flamers excluded from any and every potentially-meaningful interaction and instead, spending their days engaged in ear-splitting cat fights with each other, before hissing down a darkened hallway in vain pursuit of yet another trick they unwittingly repulse.
The Klub seems to be the most vile and self esteem-destroying place on Earth, so why everyone clamours to be a member is a bit of mystery. There’s a bunch of interesting and relatively classy venues for homos in Manila, and not all are pitched at expats and tourists. In any case, a movie about poor Filipino guys and the tacky dungeons that are in their price range has absolutely no business being this dumb and embarrassing.
The late Lino Brocka’s fine films about love, sex and poverty in Manila were erotic and evocative. Brocka was a skilled and astute film maker with patience and vision and his films - which screened at Cannes and which are now secured in the archives of the New York Museum of Modern Art - continue to resonate twenty years after their release. If Bathhouse is any evidence, Crisaldo Pablo is not fit to be Brocka’s bootlace.