Tuhog (Larger Than Life) (2001)

148733-larger-than-life-0-230-0-345-cropThe ’90s brought us Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Eraserheads, Rivermaya, Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, AND—Carlo J. Caparas movies. The last on that list is an embarrassment of riches: great acting, rape, murder, massacre, drug addicts, and Kris Aquino—all based on “true to life” stories. Couple that with sensationalist TV programs masquerading as public service, and you got surefire box office hits.

Add to that the softcore sex films of the mid ’90s to early ’00s and you get Tuhog (Larger Than Life, 2001), a drama-softcore-comedy film satire on filmmaking malpractice, starring Ina Raymundo and Klaudia Koronel, playing two versions of the same girl, who was raped by her grandfather. Hmm. That last sentence was long.

The film starts with filmmakers interviewing the victim and her mother (Irma Adlawan), who turned out to be a victim herself, propositioning an offer to turn their story into a movie. They were reluctant at first, but eventually gave in. When asked who she wanted to play her character on-screen, Floring (Raymundo) answered Judy Ann Santos. Well, she’s a fine actress. And this is the closest we’d ever see of Judy Ann Santos in an erotic film, playing a rape victim’s character in a movie within the movie. But the filmmakers and the producer, had another thing in mind. (The producer, by the way, agreed to produce the director’s pitch, with one condition, the movie should contain nudity and sex, lots of it.)

Instead of offering the role to Judy Ann, they gave it to Klaudia Koronel, whose previous movie credits include lurid titles such as Pisil, Kesong Puti, and Anakan Mo Ako. Nothing could prepare Floring and her mother for what’s to come. Though the title, Hayok Sa Laman (Lust For Flesh), should have been a dead giveaway. Coming to the city all the way from their hometown, just to see the finished film supposedly based on their lives, they walked out of it before the end credits roll. It’s an abomination—with great bad acting from both Jaclyn Jose and Dante Rivero, and shockingly nuanced and mostly nude performance from Klaudia Koronel.

That is, Hayok Sa Laman is what you’d get if Carlo J. Caparas and Wenn Deramas (RIP) had a child, who turns out to be a tianak (demon baby). This movie within the movie is so bad—you’d want to scrub yourself afterwards. If Pila Balde is sex comedy-Lino Brocka social drama hybrid, Tuhog is a cross  between a Mike de Leon satire and softcore drama comedy. Definitely one of the best films about films in the whole wheat multiverse.

Pila Balde (1999) / Burlesk Queen Ngayon (1999)

pPila Balde (1999) is a soft core sex film about the people in a low-cost housing development and the neighboring squatter area. Those in the housing, relatively more affluent and gainly employed, takes what the slum dwellers delivers: water, laundry services, cheap labor, even sexual services. Those in the slums depends on their more affluent neighbors for employment. Imagine the new Bong Joon-ho film Parasite, but instead of the very rich Park family, you get people from the lower-middle class living in low-cost but decent housing. Instead of the Kims, you’ve got really poor people living in shanties. Written by Armando Lao and directed by Jeffrey Jeturian, Pila Balde is actually a social realist drama in the vein of Lino Brocka—but with heaps of comedy. And sex. Lots of sex—which, I think is forgivable. Or at least understandable. In a time when movies about social ills don’t sell like pancakes anymore but sex flicks does, can you blame the producers if they insist on having more of the latter? That is, Pila Bilda is like those Lino Brocka films set in the slums (there’s even squatter fire near the end of the movie) only it’s more than a bit twisted, mutated and eroticized. But it’s also less despairing.

 

t58491dlchrIn Burlesk Queen Ngayon (1999), Ina Raymundo plays a young single mother who works as stripper to raise her child. Not a remake of the Celso Ad. Castillo/Vilma Santos classic or anything. Sharing a title with the latter really does it less favor, drawing comparisons that makes it automatically the lesser of the two. And it is. And why it shouldn’t be? It’s a sex flick that cashed in on the then hot fad and Miss Sabado Nights’ popularity. Though it’s not blatantly campy, and treats its story with some sort of reverence not unlike in those serious, well-received Rosanna Roces movies like Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay Ni Selya and Babae sa Bintana. And it has a story to tell, no matter how well-worn or perfunctory. The worse one can say is that the story is just there to hang all the scenes with Ina Raymundo in varying state of undress. But that story isn’t nothing. And once you get past the phase of memorizing every naked this and that, that’s what remains—the story. At least that’s what I remember. That and Ina Raymundo coming out of a huge box cake, wearing only two-piece made of icing. Sweet.