Monday, June 15, 2009

Macho Dancer (Lino Brocka, 1988)

During the heady moments of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, a film critic asked director Lino Brocka if he would be happier to see President Ferdinand Marcos kicked out of office. The feisty director said, "No, because I wouldn't have any one to fight against anymore."

It wasn't long before Brocka found another enemy to fight: the incompetent administration of President Corazon 'Cory' Aquino. The latter half of the 1980s saw Brocka with two excellent films, Macho Dancer and OraProNobis. The films denounced the dehumanizing poverty, widespread corruption, and rampant human rights abuses under the Aquino administration. Both films feature lead characters taking the gun as a last resort to rectify social injustices. Who knows what else Brocka would have recommended if he didn't die on May 21, 1991?

Macho Dancer is the first Filipino gay film to gain recognition around the world. However, it is more than a mere gay film. It is a scathing indictment of the Aquino administration. Graffiti in the male rest room reads 'We are for Cory.' Yes, the Filipino people sided with President Aquino. But, what had she done for the people and the country after two years in power?

Brocka showed that not much had changed since the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution. Corruption is still rampant as seen in the scope of police officer Kid's illegal activities. Poverty continues to drive poor people to take squalid jobs such as call boys, macho dancers, prostitutes, and porn stars.

The movie is an eye-opener to the world of macho dancers and call boys. They are portrayed as fashionable and well-groomed men living in decrepit apartment rooms and doing despicable acts. In the first reel alone, the audience gets a glimpse of what happens inside a gay bar. A new recruit named Pol (Alan Paule) is being interviewed by the owner. The latter then asks Pol to take off his clothes and show his penis.

After the interview, Pol goes downstairs and sees the main show of the gay bar. Seven nude men are seated on stage. All of them are busy playing with themselves while horny foreigners in the audience ogle at them. A new acquaintance, Noel (Daniel Fernando), persuades Pol to transfer to another gay bar that has a 'cleaner' and 'less degrading' main act. It is 'cleaner' because two nude men take a shower together on stage at Mama Charlie's Bar.

Alan Paule and other actors playing macho dancers were trained by a real macho dancer for three months. Paule, in his debut film, did an excellent job portraying a naive-looking macho dancer. He was able to play a courteous character slowly getting jaded by the things he saw in Manila. Jacklyn Jose was effective during her character Bambi's breakdown scene. It was heartbreaking to hear her narrate how at a young age she was abused by her own father.

Daniel Fernando won a well-deserved Gawad Urian Best Actor award for his stunning performance. He was a natural during the carinderia scene. He was a lusty performer during his macho dancing/shower scenes. I doubt any actors today can do what he did so well in the film.

After a mammoth retrospective of Brocka movies at mag:net Katipunan in May 2009, another Brocka retro is being cooked up for Cinemalaya Cinco in July 2009. The late director deserves all the tributes and retrospectives he is getting these days. Macho Dancer is one of top films of Brocka that should be seen by moviegoers.

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