A stunning canvas of urban blight
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2012 - 12:00am

Film review: Pinta*Kasi

MANILA, Philippines - The most remarkable thing about Lee Meily’s Pinta*Kasi is its departure from the conventional storytelling.

I thought the film is perfect for children as it starts with an animation about someone’s foray to some forbidden place. The presence of hip-hop music will make it endearing to the young but then it turned out that the film is a journey to Lower Depths.

But with hip-hop music all over the sensitive and violent scenes, the old generation of moviegoers has no reason to complain.

Watching the indie film is like following the transformation of an aspiring painter named DJ (John Wayne Sace) and many things about his work-a-day world he tries to capture through his canvas.

But his latest destination is no Walt Disney or a guarded subdivision.

It is an island where the denizens of the underworld live and let live: Thieves, drug pushers, pimps, part-time prostitutes and full-time girlie-girlie performers.

The island is ruled by one Tikboy (JM de Guzman) who has since then been hardened by the harsh realities of life. He styles himself as the island’s Asiong Salonga and he thought that was the real good life. With the arrival of DJ in the island, Tikboy sees the new visitor as a threat to his fiefdom. But he befriends him, even initiates him into the rites of manhood through the island whore and even teaches him a thing or two about defying law and order. In the end, DJ became a rival in his conquest of Josie (Erich Gonzalez), the fairest lady in the island.

The ways of life in this island are jarring but with animation scenes here and there, the violent sides of life in this Godforsaken place are somehow visually neutralized and thanks too for that hip-hop music. But one doesn’t forget the fact that the film is about the underbelly of Metro Manila where the likes of Asiong Salonga and Baby Ama once led defiant and bloody lives.

In the island, the kingpin is DJ played with startling blood-and-flesh realism by JM. The truth is the film has a stable of Grade A actors from JM to John, Giselle Sanchez, Alwyn Uytingco and William Martinez, among others. With all the negative characters in the film, the presence of Josie (Erich) as the love interest in the film was most welcome presence. You can see that this lovely face represents hope in the island and the actress played  the part with highly spontaneous result.

The big surprise of the film is Boots Anson-Roa playing a “religious” sari-sari store owner and who turns out to be a closet drug dealer. Boots pulled off the part with realism, doing away with her soft side in real life to really look “pious” but vicious in the inside. Even her delivery of Tondo street language nearly made me fall off my chair with its amazing realism.

Pinta*Kasi deserved all the recognition it got in the last Metro Manila Film Festival and certainly JM was deserving of the Best Actor trophy (in the New Wave category). I am no longer surprised that it is getting endless invitations from festival circuits all over the world.

Behind the film is Gov. Imee Marcos who also was behind such cinematic gems as Oro, Plata, Mata and Himala.

With Pinta*Kasi, La Marcos shows she is in touch with the times, she is in touch with social reality (the film is not about the “the good and the beautiful”) and she knows the pulse of the times.

There is a lot in her artistic foresight that many self-proclaimed saviors of Philippine cinema can learn from.

You can help promote fresh and invigorating ideas in the film industry by patronizing Pinta*Kasi when it opens in your favorite theaters this month.

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