Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Peque Gallaga's Pinoy Blonde

My first Peque Gallaga movie was probably Scorpio Nights. I remember the movie because it was shown at the Film Center and I had to play hooky just to watch the film. A jeepney ride from Cubao to the Rizal Coliseum and then another jeep to the Film Center.

The building was for Imelda’s Manila International Film Festival MIFF and during construction part of the structure collapsed killing and trapping several workers. According to rumors, the organizers were so much in a rush to finish the building that they saved and salvaged what they can and immediately filled up the fallen structures with concrete, with people, who were still trapped under the rubble, still screaming inside. Rumors that are even more fantastic said that the spirits of the fallen eventually sought revenge – they caused the tragic accident of a government official, the car she was riding veered off the road. The story was, and I do not know how they have to verify this, that the said government official was blinded by a bright light in the form of a mass of arms and hands.

Soon stories, about how the Film Center was being haunted, were soon circulating across Philippine Society. Steps on the grand staircase began to appear and disappear. People began talking about the Film Center being too cold even when the air conditioners were off. Ghostly moans were heard at night.

Phantom manifestations, however, failed to discourage the people from viewing the motion pictures shown at the Film Center. This was still the era of the true, the good, and the beautiful. In addition, despite all dire predictions of karma and ghostly retribution Imelda was still Queen. The board of censor’s scissors could not prevail against the Film Center. It was only in this place that you could watch a movie uncensored, sans cut.

Therefore, it came to be, films like Realm of the Senses, Virgin People, Isla, Scorpio Nights and others were shown here in all its glory. The Film Center of course churned out and featured several noteworthy films like Himala, the French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Misteryo sa Tuwa.

In the end who would turn down uncensored films? Who would turn down uncensored films that tackle moral issues and sex?

The Film Center introduced me to Peque Gallaga through his film Scorpio Nights. The film was about sex and the lives of people living in a ill-maintained house-turned apartment. It is visceral and raunchy. Moreover, the ending was tragic. Its not one of my favourite Gallaga film.

For me I still liked Oro Plata Mata. The movie tells the tale of wealthy Filipinos in Negros, how they survived the war, and how war changed them. It was a cinematic experience. I still think this was his best work. Who can forget the scene when the people were fleeing against the backdrop of a burning field, or the rich socialites playing mahjong and gossiping while a servant was peeling watermelon seeds for them, Lorli Villanueva’s character who was always festooned expensive jewelry and only to see them in the end separated from them by a quick cut of the knife, the announcement of the family’s patriarch that Bataan had fallen and the Americans had surrendered, and the enigmatic role of Kuh Ledesma.

Now Mr Gallaga, after a hiatus of several years, has come up with Pinoy Blonde.

The story is simple its about two individuals, aspiring film makers who have penchant for quoting lines from films from the late 1970s to the present and who have an on-going debate about who is the better director between Lino Brocka and Ismael Bernal, tasked by their bed bound and hospitalized shady uncle to do a drop. As in any story, getting from A to B is not as simple as a straight line. Complications develop that leads them to zany adventures one after the other.

The film does keep you interested and it is technically sound.

I enjoyed it. The acting of the cast was stellar. I enjoyed Ricky Davao's lines about fascism, Eddie Garcia's singing and Jaime Fabregas reflexology scene.

In order to enjoy it you have to be familiar with Tagalog films from the past to the present. The movie is a canvass on which Gallaga paints a grand homage to filmmakers here and in Hollywood. Scenes from movies like Kill Bill are replicated and honored. Names of Filipino directors are used ad-libidum. There is even dialogue that sound straight from film class.

The film though seemed to suffer from its success. One is dazzled with different shots, special effects, two-dimensional animation, and Hong Kong style of stunt fighting, digital animation, and others. In the end too much homage can do damage to one’s work. It just becomes too excessive. In a sense, it looks like cinematic chopsuey.

The movie will keep you interested for one screening. In addition, if you are not familiar with Joey Gosiengfiao, Rico Mambo, Lino Brocka or Ismael Bernal you will be missing half of the joke.

My money is still on Oro Plata Mata or Unfaithful Wife or even Virgin Forest, a historical movie with sex scenes thrown in for good measure.

Directed by Peque Gallaga
Cast: Epi Quizon, Boy 2 Quizon, Ricky Davao, Jaime Fabregas and several cameos


Blogger monanoke said...

Have you any idea where we can buy the dvd's of Brocka films? Apart from the ones you mentioned, am also looking for "Itim" starring the late Jay Ilagan and introducing Charo Santos, with Mario Montenegro as the ageing villain.

12:52 PM  
Blogger juned said...

I keep going back to the cinemalaya site: Unitel plans to release in DVD/VCD format some of the Tagalog classics.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous guile said...

cool soundtrack..

11:36 AM  
Blogger juned said...

The music used in the movie is nice.

1:31 PM  
Anonymous said...

i am trying to look for a dvd copy of oro,plata, mata. does anybody know where i can find one? thanks.

8:53 AM  
Blogger juned said...

I think there used to be some VHS or beta copies about. SO far I have not seen a DVD or VCD release of this title. I will keep my eyes peeled and post if it comes up. I will post it at , a blog where I group together all my blogs :)

9:22 AM  
Blogger Janella said...

does anybody know where i can watch or buy insiang or maynila sa kuko ng liwanag?

7:40 PM  
Blogger juned said...

Janella, Not quite sure if there are beta or vhs copies available - if they are in good condition. There has been a revival of Tagalog classics lately. You can check the websites of unitel or Regal or viva (maybe visit the local video shop). Or wait for a retrospective screening on tv or during a film festival. Hope that helps. :)

8:30 AM  
Blogger Raymond said...

I'm also looking for Oro Plata Mata. If anybody knows of an available copy please email:

2:34 AM  
Blogger Raymond said...

This is where I got my "Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag."

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

do you know how will I be able to buy a dvd format of Peque Gallaga's Scorpio Nights, 1? I'm here in Sacramento, California. I prefer to buy the film on line.

2:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really loved Pinoy Blonde because of the message of the film and that is Philippine cinema is starting to be dominated by foreign movies. More of like colonial mentality in local cinema.

I was wondering, what arethe blue fishes in the cover of the cd for? It was also shown in the film. Thanks! (i was just wondering though)

11:21 AM  

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