Saturday, June 10, 2006

ERIK MATTI: VISUAL PIMP (2002)

NOTE: Some time back in 2002-2003, to make ends meet, I wrote articles for a Baguio-based newspaper SKYLAND NEWS and for PINOY WEEKLY. Here are some of the articles that came out which I am sharing and saving here on my blog.

ERIK MATTI: BUGAW NG MGA BISWAL

PAKIRAMDAM ni Direk Erik Matti ay isa siyang “puta”.

“Minsan dumarating talaga sa buhay mo na pakiramdam mo ay isa kang prostitute,” ayon sa 30-taong director. “Sa sitwasyon na kinakaharap ng industriya ngayon --- krisis, kakulangan sa pera, piracy, kakulangan sa suporta ng gobyerno, pulitika --- pakiramdam mo puta ka na talaga… Isang malaking putahan ang Pilipinas.”

Hindi lang si Direk Erik ang unang direktor na nagsabing puta ang maging isang manggagawa sa pelikula. Ang premyadong Swedish director na si Ingmar Bergman ay nagsabing puta ang tingin niya sa sarili niya kung kaya’t ayaw na niyang gumawa ng pelikula. Si Direk Erik, bagamat dumaan at kasalukuyan pa ring dumaraan sa napakaraming pagsubok, ay nag-aanak pa ring ng mga mapanukso at mapang-akit na mga biswal na nagsisilbing halintularan at hulmahan ng mga batang filmmakers.

Sinasabing si Erik Matti ang nagsisilbing tagapamuno ng makabagong alon ng mga filmmakers sa bansa. Edad 26-anyos siya nang una niyang ginawa noong 1997 ang kanyang kauna-unahang pelikula, ang kontrobersyal na “Scorpio Nights 2” para sa Viva Films. Binasag niya ang makalumang tradisyon ng paggawa ng pelikula sa mga sumunod niya pang mga likha gaya ng “Ekis,” “Sa Huling Paghihintay,” “Pedro Penduko II,” “Dos Ekis,” at “Alas-Dose” (na 80% niyang dinirek pero personal na hindi pinalagay ang pangalan sa credits dahil sa hindi pagkakaunawaan sa isang miyembro ng produksyon).

Bugaw

Kung tutuusin, hindi puta si Direk Erik. Mas bugaw pa nga siya kung tutuusin. Ibinugaw niya sa ating harapan ang mga
katawan nina Joyce Jimenez (Scorpio), Sunshine Cruz (Ekis), Maureen Larrazabal (Ekis), Rica Peralejo (Dos Ekis) at Raven Villanueva (Dos Ekis) sa isang paraan na masasabi nating hindi bastos kundi mas nahahanay sa sining. Ibinugaw niya rin sa atin ang mga kakaibang biswal na sa kanyang mga pelikula pa lang natin nakita sa kasaysayan ng pelikulang Pilipino. Sino ang makakalimot sa mga maiinit na eksena ni Albert Martinez at Joyce Jimenez sa loob ng library ng isang pamantasan, maging sa isang makipot na dormitoryo sa University Belt? Ang pakikipagduwelo ni Albert Martinez sa swimming pool sa “Ekis” at ang pagsasayaw ni Sunshine Cruz sa tapat ng refrigerator? Sa “Pedro Penduko II,” angat na angat ang disenyong pamproduksyon at ang kakaibang uri ng komedya na inihain ni Matti samantalang kakaibang pelikulang aksyon naman sana ang gusto niyang mangyari sa “Alas Dose”. Sa “Sa Huling Paghihintay”, trailer pa lang ng underwater na halikan nina Rica Peralejo at Bernard Palanca ay naihanay na natin ito sa mga pelikulang banyaga, lalu pa nang mamalas natin ang eksenang may mga paru-paro sa bukid at ang unti-unting pagbagsak ng mga bulaklak sa isang kalye. At sino ang makakalimot sa sayaw ni Rica Peralejo sa “Dos Ekis” o kaya sa nakabaligtad na movie screen na tinitirhan ni Mark Anthony sa isang sinehan? Siguro nga tama ang sabi ng isang batikan na director na nakausap ko mga ilang buwan na ang nakakaraan: Si Erik Matti ang pinakamahusay na direktor sa pelikula sa panahon ngayon. At nakakatakot raw ang posisyon niya.

Prosti

Kung totoong si Erik Matti ang pinakamahusay na director sa panahong ito, nakapagtataka na ang kanyang kahuli-hulihang pelikula (“Dos Ekis”) ay noong Oktubre noong isang taon pa ipinalabas. Ayon sa isa niyang istap, “natatakot” daw kasi ang mga dati nitong prodyuser sa mga konsepto at mga eksperimentong gustong gawin ni Direk Erik sa paggawa nito ng pelikula. Bagay na pinabubulaanan naman ng kabilang kampo.

Gayunpaman, para sa isang taong minsan nang nagsabi na mabubuhay siya at mamamatay na gumagawa ng pelikula, ang pagburo at pagsakal sa kalayaan ni Erik Matti na lumikha ng sining na siyang natatangi niyang gustong gawin ay naging malaking dagok sa personal at propesyonal niyang buhay. Kung kaya, nang makasilip siya ng isang palya sa kanyang kontrata, agad siyang lumigid sa iba’t ibang produksyon upang ilako ang kanyang serbisyo at mga kuwento. Isa na rito ang pelikulang “Prosti” para sa Regal Films na nagsimula muna bilang “Bugaw” nang ang manunulat na ito (nagsulat ng konsepto ng pelikula) at ang direktor ay parehong nabuwsit sa industriyang kanilang ginagalawan.

“Ang intensyon ko talaga sa pelikula ay ipakita ang istorya sa point of view ng isang filmmaker. Na ito ay isang istorya tungkol sa akin at sa aking industriya,” paliwanag ni Direk Erik sa Ingles. “Isa itong maliit na istorya tungkol sa mga prostitutes kung saan ang mga prostitute ay hindi tinatratong mga biktima. More human, less cliché, more honest, at less politically-correct.”

Pinangungunahan ng bagong aktres na si Aubrey Miles at ni Jay Manalo, ang “Prosti” ang bagong pelikula ng Regal na magtatanghal sa ibang mukha naman ng mga prostitutes na hindi natin madalas makita sa pinilakang-tabing. Bagamat napakarami na ng mga pelikulang ginawa tungkol sa mga babaeng nagkakalakal ng kanilang katawan, ang “Prosti” pa lang siguro ang magpapakita ng mas natural na pagsasalita at pag-iisip ng mga prostitute.

“Hindi namin sila tinratong mga biktima rito bagamat totoong mga biktima sila. Lagi na lang kasi na kapag gumagawa tayo ng mga pelikula tungkol sa mga prostitute, parang ipinapakita natin na hindi sila marunong magdasal, na pinarusahan sila ng Diyos, na pumasok sila dahil sa kahirapan lang,” pagsasalaysay ni Direk Erik. “Ang buhay ng mga puta ay hindi lamang umiikot sa pag-iisip na biktima sila. May mga ambisyon din sila, may mga buhay. Umiibig sila, nagsasaya, nagsisimba, nagbibiruan, at nag-aaway. Mga tao sila at hindi cartoon character. Tao rin silang katulad natin. May mga problema rin silang tulad natin. Gusto rin nilang magka-cellphone gaya ng isang normal na estudyante diyan.”

At ito nga ang mga imahe na mamamalas natin sa “Prosti”. Sa isang advanced preview na isinagawa noong Setyembre 14 sa Roadrunner sa Timog Ave., ipinakita ng bagong obra ni Direk Erik ang iba’t ibang mukha at pagkatao ng mga prosti. May maliit ang suso, may malaking suso, may mataba, may payat, may mabenta, may hindi mabenta, may bago, may laos na, may nagnanais mag-artista, may nagnanais na makapag-asawa, may mag probinsiyanang nagpapagamit ng katawan para matustusan ang kapatid sa probinsyang nagpapabuntis naman pala, at kung anu-ano pa. Maging ang mga kostumer ng putahan ay iba-iba. May malaking tao, may maliit na tao, may mataba, may payat, may mabango, may mabaho ang paa, may nagpapakasawa, may naghahanap ng mapapangasawa, may mapera, may barya-barya, may mataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at may simpleng estudyante. Lahat sila sa putahan ang punta dahil ayon nga kay Nanay Xedes, ang karakter ni Racquel Villavicencio sa pelikula,”Kaya sila pumupunta rito ay dahil sa pantasya at kapangyarihan.”

Kepyas

Isa pang malakas na makakatawag pansin sa pelikula ay ang eksena kung saan kinukuwenta ni Jay Manalo ang kikitain ng Pilipinas sa isang taon kung lahat ay magpuputa.

“Kepyas ang sasagip sa Pilipinas,” ani nito.

Kung papasadahan, simpleng tirada. Gayon din ang eksena kung saan binabanatan si Aubrey Miles ng Governor sa ibabaw ng mesa nito (i-suspense na lang natin ang manonood at baka rin mapuna ng MTRCB). Pero para sa isang director na hindi naman kilala sa paglalagay ng mga pulitikal na mensahe sa kanyang pelikula, nakakabigla ang mga imaheng ginagamit ngayon ni Direk Erik. Ibang-iba ang “Prosti” sa mga naunang pelikula ni Matti. Wala ito ng mga nakasanayang cinematics at laro ng camera ni Erik, gayun na din ang mga smoke machine effect at madudugong tuhog na nakasanayan na.

“Mahusay si Erik Matti sa blocking. Master na niya ‘yon. Napaka-passionate niya rin sa trabaho niya pero makikita mong hinahanap niya pa ang daan niya. Sana makita niya,” ayon sa cinematographer na si Larry Manda, 2002 Manila Filmfest Best Cinematographer at nakasama ni Direk Eirk sa “Sa Huling Paghihintay”.

At mukhang ito na nga ang timplang iyon. ‘Yun e kung hindi mahaharangan ng paboritong ahensya ng gobyerno ni Direk Erik, ang sinasabi ring “Most X-ed Director” ng nakaraang limang taon.

“Excited ako na ninenerbiyos. Nakakatakot siyempre na mag-submit ng pelikula base sa mga pelikulang binigyan ng ‘X’ ng MTRCB,” paglalahad ni Direk Erik patungkol sa mga pelikulang “Laman,” “Bakat,” at “Ang Galing, Galing Mo, Babes”.

“Hindi mo alam kung ang magre-review ng pelikula mo ay marunong nga talagang manood ng pelikula. Ang problema kasi dito sa atin, konting-konti lang talaga ang marunong manood ng totoong “pelikula”. Nakakatakot para sa mga katulad kong gumagawa ng R-18 movies. Pag sinabi kong R-18, hindi ibig sabihing bold kundi mga pelikulang may matatapang na tema at medyo sensitibo at kritikal. Ang dami kasing gusting gumawa ng mga R-18 movie pero dahil sa tipo ng MTRCB natin at sa paraan ng pagbibigay nila ng ‘X’, natatakot sila baka kasi hindi na maipalabas,” dagdag pa nito.

“Ang gusto kasi ng MTRCB e ‘yung loveteam movies at slapstick comedies. ‘Yung mga R-18, ayaw nila kasi tumatalakay sa lipunan, sa human nature, sa human condition. E ‘yun ang gustong gawin ng mga filmmakers na may gustong sabihin sa mga pelikula nila. Daring structures, daring visuals, daring themes. E kaso nga binabanatan ang pelikula ngayon kasi mas madaling banatan kesa corruption in the government. Nagiging pambawi nila ang pag-attack sa movies sa kanilang mga kasalanan sa ibang departments. Sana lang, tingnan nila ang intent ng isang pelikula,” pangahas na sagot ni Matti, isa rin sa mga Board Members ng Directors Guild (DGPI).

Kung kaya, bagamat mainit ang pagtanggap ng publiko sa teaser ad ng pelikulang “Prosti” sa TV at mga sinehan at sa pangunahing artista nito na sinasabing ipapalit kay Assunta de Rossi, malakas pa rin ang kabog ng dibdib ng mga naging bahagi sa produksyon ng pelikula lalo’t ipapalabas na ito sa Oktubre 2. Doble naman siguro ang kaba ni Erik dahil may ginagawa siyang bagong pelikula, ang “Una’t Huli” na pinagbibidahan ni Richard Gomez at Aubrey Miles muli na may sensitibo ring tema. Ngunit anu’t anupaman, sanay na siguro si Direk Erik. Gagawa’t gagawa pa rin siya ng pelikula kahit pa marahas at kritikal gumawa ng pelikula sa mga panahong ito. Sanay na sanay na siya.

Para saan pang tinagurian natin siya kaninang “puta”.


ERIK MATTI: VISUAL PIMP
By SIGFREID BARROS-SANCHEZ

DIREK Erik Matti feels that he’s a prostitute.

“Sometimes, you get to a point that you really become a prostitute,” admits the 30-year old director. “Given the situation that the industry is facing --- crisis, the lack of money, piracy, the lack of government support, politicking --- you really feel sometimes that you’re a whore and the Philippines is one, big whorehouse.”

Not since Swedish director and world film legend Ingmar Bergman did someone openly declared that being a filmmaker makes one a whore. Bergman said such when asked why he decided to quit making films despite very much at the peak of his creativity. Although not a Bergman, Direk Erik has gone through a lot for somebody who’s only five years into the business. He has risked personal, mental, and emotional aspects in his life to give birth to tempting and enticing works of art that serve as measurement and model for today’s emerging, young filmmakers.

If the 70’s and the 80’s has Brocka, Bernal, and De Leon and the 90’s has Lamangan, Roño, and Siguion-Reyna, pundits say that Matti spearheads the 2000 wave. He was 26-years old when he did his first film in 1997, the very controversial “Scorpio Nights 2” for Viva Films. He shattered the conventional and traditional way of filmmaking and storytelling with his next five assignments: “Ekis” (1998), “Pedro Penduko II” (1999), “Sa Huling Paghihintay” (2001), “Dos Ekis” (2001), and “Alas Dose” (2000) (80% of which he directed but decided to pull-out his name after a misunderstanding with a major member of the production).

Pimp

If we really look at it, Direk Erik is not exactly a whore. He is more of a pimp. A visual pimp. He has peddled before us the bodies of Joyce Jimenez (Scorpio), Sunshine Cruz (Ekis), Maureen Larrazabal (Ekis), Rica Peralejo (Sa Huling Paghihintay), and Raven Villanueva (Dos Ekis) in a way that is not malicious and taboo but more closer to, if not an, art. He sold us visual feasts that we have never before partaken in the history of Philippine cinema.

Who would forget the steamy scenes of Albert Martinez and Joyce Jimenez inside a library and a cramped dormitory in “Scorpio Nights 2”? How about Sunshine Cruz’s “refrigerator dance” and Albert Martinez’s swimming pool gunfight in “Ekis”? In “Pedro Penduko II”, Erik decided to up notches higher the Pinoy’s brand of comedy and production design, while the local action genre would have finally given a different face had he stayed at the helm of “Alas Dose”. “Sa Huling Paghihintay’s” trailer, which saw Rica Peralejo and Bernard Palanca kissing underwater, was at par with Hollywood pieces what more when we viewed its remarkable photography like the butterflies in the field and the falling flowers in high speed. And have our jaws recovered from awe when Rica Peralejo’s dancing body was reflected in stage mirrors or the effect of an inverted movie screen where Mark Anthony Fernandez lives, both in “Dos Ekis”? Perhaps, veteran megman and editor Augusto Salvador was right when he divulged in a movie set a few months ago, “Erik Matti is perhaps the best director in the industry today”. He, however, added that it is not a very secured place to be in.

Prosti

If it’s true that Erik Matti is the best interpreter of the film language today, it is very surprising to know that his very last film (“Dos Ekis”) was done exactly a year ago. According to one of his staff, his former production company was having second thoughts in approving Erik’s concepts for fear of experimentation and unconventional visuals and ideas on the part of Matti. Something that the production company quickly contends.

Nevertheless, for someone who has vowed to make films for the rest of his life, Erik Matti has survived the suppression and containment of his artistic rights to make movies. He saw a glitch in his contract that gained him complete freedom. Immediately, he made the rounds of different major film companies (even minor ones) and offered his services to them. Fortunately, Regal Films opened its doors to the visual genius via “Prosti”, his latest and believed to be his best work. Initially entitled “Bugaw”, the film is a product of this writer (conceptualizer) and Erik’s disappointment over the industry they’ve been roaming around. “Ganti natin sa mga konsepto nating ilang beses na dini-disapprove,” he says.

He further reveals his real intention in making the film, ”I was looking at it from a point of view of a filmmaker. That the story is about me and my industry. It’s a small story about prostitutes wherein they are not treated as victims. It’s more human, less-cliché, more honest, and less politically-correct.”

“Prosti”, which stars newcomer Aubrey Miles and Jay Manalo, essays a different look at the lives of different prostitutes which we don’t normally see on the big screen. Despite having countless films on these female sex traders, the film is perhaps is the first to feature the most natural way prostitutes talk, think, and express themselves.

“We don’t tackle them as victims but yes they are victims. Everytime kasi we do a movie about prostitutes, it seems like they don’t know how to pray, they’re damned by God, that they’re going in because of poverty, and it’s always an excuse,” Erik explains. “Their lives don’t revolve about thinking that they’re just victims. They go on with their lives, they have ambitions, they fall in love, they have fun, they go to mass, they joke around, and they also fight. They’re human beings and not just caricatures or cartoon characters. They’re real people just like us. They have problems just like us. They also want a cellphone like a normal student would want.”

Definitely, these and much more are the images that we will see in “Prosti”. In an advance preview last September 14 at the Roadrunner office in Timog, Avenue, Quezon City (where the film was dubbed and edited), Direk Erik’s newest obra show varied faces and facets of prostitutes as we have earlier written on its first draft: “Putahan. Dito ko na nakita lahat ng hindi madalas makita ng mga tao. Malaking suso, maliit na suso, matabang suso, payat na suso, nag-iingay na suso, mahiyaing suso, mayamang suso, simpleng suso, mabangong suso, may amoy na suso.” Juxtapose that with the customers that frequent the brothel house, “Putahan. Dito nagkikita-kita ang mga taong hindi madalas nagkikita. Malaking tao, maliit na tao, matabang tao, payat na tao, maingay na tao, tahimik na tao, mayaman na tao, simpleng tao, mabangong tao, mabahong tao. Ang putahan ay mistulang lipunang walang uri. Puro ari.” All of them meet and converge at Nanay Xedes’ (Racquel Villavicencio) house of sin because according to her, “Kaya sila pumupunta dito ay dahil sa pantasya at kapangyarihan.”

Kepyas

Another scene in the film that will most probably create a stir and recall to the audience is when Nonoy Laki (Manalo) computes the annual profit the Philippine government can generate if all its population will go the flesh route.

“Kepyas ang sasagip sa Pilipinas!” he exclaims.

A simple political statement from the Bacolod-born director who has seen the crudest and scummiest of the Filipinos when he arrived in Manila ten years ago. He also showed disgust at the government in a scene when Miles gets divirginized on top of the Governor’s table. Visuals show his disgust and it surprises a loyal Matti follower who knows that Direk Erik is not somebody who really puts a strong political message on his films. “Prosti” is every inch different from his past works. It doesn’t have the cinematics and great camera plays Erik used to toy before, nor does it have the presence of Matti’s old reliable smoke effect and crane flippant.

“Mahusay si Erik sa blocking. Master niya ‘yon. Napaka-passionate rin niya sa trabaho niya pero makikita mong hinahanap niya pa ang daan niya. Sana makita na niya,” views cinematographer Larry Manda, 2002 Manila Filmfest Best Cinematographer and who has worked with Erik for “Sa Huling Paghihintay”.

And “Prosti” is perhaps the road that Manda is talking about. According to writer Simeon Espiritu, “Pinakamagandang trabaho ni Erik Matti ang “Prosti”.” With these feathers, he is left with one major hurdle, his favorite government agency. The one who has given him a lot of X-es as grade.

“Excited ako na ninenerbiyos. Nakakatakot for people like me to submit based on the films that were given ‘X’ by the MTRCB,” he divulges, pertaining to the films “Laman,” “Bakat,” and “Ang Galing, Galing Mo, Babes”.

“You don’t know if the ones who’ll gonna review your movies really know how to watch movies. Ang problema dito sa atin, konting-konti lang talaga ang marunong manood ng “pelikula”. Nakakatakot for people like me who are doing R-18 movies. When I say R-18, it doesn’t mean bold movies but films who have really strong themes and medyo sensitive at critical. There are people who plan to do R-18 movies but shy away because it might not even be shown given the ‘X’-es the MTRCB is giving,” he adds.

Direk Erik, one of the director’s guild’s (DGPI) Board Members, has also noticed the following, “The MTRCB favors loveteam movies and slapstick comedies over R-18. R-18 movies kasi say something about either society, human nature, or human condition. Filmmakers want to say something and want to do movies about these. Daring structures, daring visuals, daring themes. E kaso binabanatan ang movies ngayon kasi mas madaling banatan kesa corruption in the government. Nagiging pambawi nila ang pag-attack sa movies sa kanilang mga kasalanan sa ibang departments. I hope they see the real intent of the film.”

Although the public’s attention has been tickled by “Prosti’s” teaser ads on TV and cinema screens during breaks and at the various half-naked photos of its main star in the tabloids, members of the production are still listless as October 2, opening day, draws near. Direk Erik’s heart is even believed to be pumping doubly hard, what with his next film, “Una’t Huli,” which stars Richard Gomez and Aubrey Miles, is undoubtedly charting the R-18 shores. But knowing Erik, he is used to the tension. He’d make his film and his next film and his next, next film, despite these times being hard-pressed and critical times to create such. He’s been used and abused, battered and tattered. He’s

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