Friday, May 27, 2005

La Visa Loca

There were people queued at the entrance of Cinema 6 in Gateway Mall and they were not lined up for "Revenge of the Sith". They were there to watch the Mark Meily's latest movie "La Visa Loca".

Originally I had planned to watch it at 5.00 pm but I got too engrossed with writing and surfing the Internet that I forgot the time. I left the office at at around 4:20 and reached MRT-Ayala 4:40. Got on the train along with a sea of people leaving Makati. Fortunately I found myself situated in the area of the train where the two cars meet. This is usually the most comfortable spot when travelling the MRT. However, in front of me was a man who seemed to have been infected with a lesser and more benigh strain of the ebola virus. Needless to say he was coughing and spreading the germs through-out the car.

Poor guy was sick but I was also getting sick because of his coughing. Images from the movie "Outbreak" filled my thoughts. To be honest and fair the guy was trying to cover his mouth but he was really ill and could not help it. A few moments later the train had reached the Araneta station.

The usual scene greeted me when I left the station and proceeded to Gateway mall. I came across stalls selling children's books and other stalls selling street foods like shawarma, goto and cold drinks. Then just as I passed them by and just in front of the entrance to Farmers Plaza, an older mall connected to gateway (the malls in Cubao seem to be turning to hives), the blind troubadors welcomed me with their songs. All this before submitting for inspection my bag to the local security guard.In a few minutes after passing by several more shops and crossing over the road via an elevated walkway I was at my destination, Gateway...unto Cinema 6.

I came in late and ended up watching the 7:00 pm screening. Cinema 6 is not as grand as Cinema 5 but it was comfortable. The seats were cushy and the air-conditioner lowered the temperature to a comfortable level. Just before the preview and the screening they played music crooned by the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and company, not quite sure though if it was Michael Buble. The music blended in nicely with the cool ambiance of the cinema. A far cry from the time I was waiting for the movie to begin and was treated to music from Stars on 45.

Mark Meily's follow-up to "Crying Ladies" is a nice movie but in my opinion not as better as the first one.

The movie begins with people lined up and being interviewed by a immigration officer of the US Embassy. Characters that we see are comic caricatures of Filipinos who want to leave the Philippines. One of the applicants we see Jess, Robin Padilla. Unfortunately, his application for a visa was denied.

The same scene in the preview of the movie seemed funnier. Maybe its just the case of seeing the same joke twice. It suffers from the law of diminishing return.

The movie tells the misadventures of Jess in his quest to get a visa in order to work in the United States. Jess (I am not quite sure what is the correct term but his profession lies somewhere between a nurse and a caregiver.)works as a driver for a hotel car service to make ends meet.

Complicating and making Jess' struggle interesting are the characters and situation that surrounds him. A grouchy, brutally frank and partially deaf diabetic father who depends on him. A girl friend who is already in the US and forever supporting-badgering him to follow her there. The reappearance of his former girl,who works as a "mermaid" in a local carnival, and what he ulimately suspects as his love-child.

Through out the movie Jess tries nearly all schemes in order to get a visa. And in the end he finds himself in a situation that I guess nearly all of us leaving and working in another country has to face.

All actors in the film were credible and gave depth to their parts. Padilla ,who became famous for his anti-hero roles in action movies, validly portrays the angst and tragic but relentless determination of Jess to get a visa. Johhny Delgado also fitted the role of Jess' father to t. Its rare to see a film, a Filipino film with a very competent cast.

Like Crying Ladies the film's production values were superb. If you are going to watch a Mark Meily film the most unlikely thing to see is bad production value.

The movie itself was punctuated with several comic scenes highlighting the interaction between the characters. However, they do not seem to be as funny as the scenes or sketches in Crying Ladies. Meily also used a Greek chorus, Noel Trinidad, Tessie Tomas, Robert Cena, Isay Alvarez and, to highlight Jess's plight. The Greek Chorus here is not quite effective and funny as Jon Red's use of a guitar singer in his film short "Still Lives".

In conclusion, the film although polished technically and acting wise excellent seem to be a few shades paler than Crying Ladies. Padilla and cast gives an excellent performance and it would be a joy to see them in the future involved in such projects.

In the cinema around three people left during the middle of the screening. They were sporting baseball caps and the latest in basketball shirt and short fashion. You cannot please everyone.

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