Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pinoy Film Focus: Temptation Island (1980)

Director: Joey Gosiengfiao

Writer: Toto Belano

Cast: Dina Bonnevie, Azenith Briones, Jennifer Cortez, Bambi Arambulo, Deborah Sun, Ricky Belmonte, Alfie Anido, Domingo Sabado, Jonas Sebastian, Tonio Gutierrez

Runtime: 115 minutes

There are few--if any--other Filipino films that are as effortlessly funny and shamelessly aware of its technical faults as Joey Gosiengfiao's high camp classic Temptation Island. In fact, it's the film's nonsensical wit and crudeness that has endeared it to many fans of Philippine cinema. That and the over-the-top acting, bitchfights and verbal lashings, and ultra memorable lines and sequences. Case in point: "What are bitches for, but to bitch around their fellow bitches!"

It's that time of the year for the Ms. Manila Sunshine beauty pageant, and four very different girls decide to join this batch of hopefuls: kolehiyala Dina (Dina Bonnevie); spoiled socialite Suzanne (Jennifer Cortez); materialistic debutante Bambi (Bambi Arambulo), whose family has fallen on hard times; and professional con-artist Azenith (Azenith Briones), who's not beyond using her sexuality to get whatever she wants. Each one joins for a different reason, but fate brings them together as finalists on a ship...which then accidentally blows up on the open ocean. They are believed by the public lost or dead at sea, but they actually find themselves on deserted island, where they are ultimately stranded without food and water. Completing the band of survivors is Suzanne's subservient maid Maria (Deborah Sun), gay pageant coordinator Joshua (Jonas Sebastian), his boy toy Ricardo (Ricky Belmonte), ship waiter Umberto (Domingo Sabado), and Dina's schoolmate Alfredo (Alfie Anido), who's secretly in love with her. What ensues is a hilarious struggle for dominance, food, and love, with bitter catfights between the four finalists threatening their peace and sanity as much as the lack of nourishment.

The laughter is practically non-stop once the film starts rolling. Cortez easily has the showiest role and the funniest lines, but the situations and how the characters react to them are what truly make the film a true comedic jewel. It's also fun to laugh at how campy and corny the whole thing is. Flawed and lowbrow, Temptation Island is truly a diamond in the rough.

And since it's difficult to resist, here's another hilarious exchange:

Bambi: Bitch!
Suzanne: Double bitch!
Joshua: Hahahaha... Rub a dub dub, two bitches in a tub!

Photo from Video 48

Pinoy Film Focus: T-Bird at Ako (1982)

(T-Bird and Me)

Director: Danny L. Zialcita

Writer: Portia Ilagan

Cast: Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Dindo Fernando, Tommy Abuel, Suzanne Gonzales

It could be argued that there was a time in the history of Philippine cinema when the movie-going public was divided into just two sectors: the Noranians and the Vilmanians. You were either one or the other; there was no middle ground. Both Nora Aunor (known by the moniker "Superstar") and Vilma Santos ("The Star for All Seasons") were already established, acclaimed actresses by the time bright minds came up with the brilliant idea of bringing them together in one film. The offscreen environment may have been nowhere near as exciting--definitely not as tense--as that of Hollywood's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring bitter rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but the titillatingly titled T-Bird at Ako is just as energetic an acting extravaganza.

Aunor plays a tough, no-nonsense lesbian lawyer (thus the "T-bird" in the title) and Santos a bar girl with whom she falls in love. These roles easily play on their respective personas in the industry at that time, with Aunor being the less feminine of the two and Santos being known for sexier roles. Director Danny Zialcita manages to use these personas (and of course, the sheer talent of the two stalwarts) to good effect, although Aunor's Sylvia seems much more fleshed out. It is to her credit that she plays the lesbian character without fuss; it is a highly credible performance. While the supporting actors are also effective and some sequences, particularly those in the courtroom, are well made, the movie is essentially and unabashedly a vehicle for the power coupling. It is an exploitative film, in that sense, but it is certainly a local film novelty that is worth seeing, if only for the sheer delight of seeing two acting powerhouses sharing scenes.

Photo from Video 48