Monday, January 30, 2006

No Small Pleasure

A LITTLE GOES a long, long way. So attests a song, though getting the knockout break is often as farfetched as fists raised at the moon. Talk about the ongoing euphoria over Pacman’s punches—to the tune of more than two million dollars— and abject is the obvious about us: We are suckers for sharks. Who wants to be a small fry forever, anyway, and runs against the tide where the jackpot—dangled in the glut of game shows and talent searches— looms like a hook for our fish-mouths?

Tragic but true: the worth of one’s hard work and dedication to duty can scarcely keep one’s neck above water. In this country, deliverance from dire straits comes more often and only when one slaves it out overseas. Or wins the lotto. Where good fortune is synonymous to a gamble, small wonder why many go with the flow of corruption and pyramid schemes.

Nobody, indeed, wants to be stuck in the shallows when the rest are breezing through the crests in the ocean. That, in a nutshell, is what Big Time, a small-budgeted Filipino film (having its last day today at SM Cinema), brings to the fore. With astonishing insights into the Pinoy soul, edgy does it as it packs a tidal wave of a wallop into our Third World theatre of the absurd.

Where Peque Gallaga’s Pinoy Blonde sank under the unwieldy cargo of Quentin Tarantino’s influence, Big Time plumbs the depths of the Filipino experience, at once grim and graceful with humor, and dares to be ingenious in unfurling its sails for international ports of call. In the tradition of heist-centered capers like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, this indie production earns its own howls by the originality of its own outrage.

Rated A by the Film Ratings Board, Big Time also boasts of a cornucopia of fine performances by Michael de Mesa, Nor Domingo, Winston Elizalde, Jamie Wilson, and Joanne Miller. But what makes this little magic of a movie smells of a Sundance hit is its storytelling audacity (it already won Best Screenplay, aside from Best Sound in last year’s Cinemanila festival of independent films).

Raring to raise the bar of their petty felony, two hustler-friends found themselves caught, along with a megastar-wannabe, in the web of a crime lord’s son who brews up a scheme out of his father’s shadow by staging his own kidnapping. Pretty simple plot, that. But it’s a testament to the kick-ass sense and sensibility of the film’s creative tandem (director Mark Cornejo and co-writer Coreen “Monster” Jimenez) that the film is buoyant with a crosscurrent of characters stirring up a sea of pop-culture references— from showbiz to mulcter’s monkey business to prayer rallies— with the ease of a ripple. It’s like seeing Lino Brocka’s claustrophobic world once again, but this time through the amused eyes of Ishmael Bernal that could have winked at the film's in-your-face vibe worthy of an MTV.

Brace for a headshake and a chuckle out of this dark comedy where the crux of the narrative takes place in a safe house where discarded mannequins share space with a cabal of dreamers. Where the joke of a wish or prayer denied resounds with a thud softened only by the sound of Apo Hiking Society crooning, “Pumapatak na naman ang ulan sa bubong ng bahay”. Where ghosts of the hopeful speak, wryly so, of what could have been from their lives no more substantial than a puddle of rain.

(From my column So To Speak in Sun.Star Cebu)

No comments: