The performance of bigness
SLEEPWALKING - SLEEPWALKING By Yason Banal () - February 3, 2006 - 12:00am
Oftentimes, we evaluate a film or a play based on the caliber of acting, the performance so to speak. Drama requires the bodily presence of trained and able people whose demonstration of skills is the performance (this notion of public exhibition of technical skill is the traditional definition of "performance"). There is Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, Beat Takeshi in Battle Royale and Snooky Serna in Blusang Itim. In psychology, however, if you play someone else apart from your usual self, this is commonly referred to as "restored behavior" – a characteristic in performance not entailing the display of skills, but rather with a particular dissociation between self and behavior, similar to that of an actor and the character she inhabits on stage or in front of the camera. So even while Jericho Rosales’ behavior in Panday is the same as the one in real life, on the ABS-CBN set it is "performed" and off cam merely "done". This eureka moment when we realize that our daily routines are somehow conditioned by socially approved and repeated forms of behavior could imply that all human activity may possibly be one big performance. That is, of course, performance conducted with a consciousness of itself. Usually we do things unknowingly – perhaps Dick Cheney whistles merry tunes while planning military attacks? – but when we do think about them, this heightened awareness provides our actions with a certain level of performance. Sorry, but this distinction between "performing" something and "merely doing" it has little to do with the frame of theater versus real life (as first argued by Plato). You either know that you’re doing it or you don’t. No more using alcohol, madness or ignorance as excuses for bad acting on and off stage.

Two ideas regarding performance have been mentioned so far: one involving a show of skills, while the other also entailing exhibition but less of certain skills than of an accepted and culturally coded pattern of behavior. The third concept of performance concerns "the general success of the activity in light of some standard of achievement." Judging the success of the performance in such instances is not the job of the performer but of the observer, who makes a mental comparison between the execution of an action that she had just observed and an ideal (or accepted) model of that action.

Is Angel Locsin’s performance of Darna better than Vilma Santos’? How about compared to Nanette Medved? Does Anjanette Abayari count?

If Diether Ocampo acts all swishy in public, is that condemnable behavior? What if he does it really well? Would that supercede social norms and enter the realm of superb aesthetics?

If you, like Melody in the indie film Big Time, love to look and emote in front of the mirror (real or imagined – the film camera is an excellent substitute here ) and have dreams of becoming a starlet, and in the audition process switch between the real and the reel world in a single take, does that make you vain and shallow, or just a bit nuts like Barbara Streisand in that film of the same title?

A performance is always for someone, even when that audience is yourself.
* * *
While Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros director Aureaus Solito, producer Raymund Lee and writer Jessica Zafra are in ice-capped Sundance, filmmaker-couple Mario Cornejo and Monster Jimenez are happily warming up to compliments post-red carpet premiere of their digital feature Big Time. Both films were part of Cinemalaya International Festival – widely touted as the antithesis of the appalling Metro Manila Film Festival (Ako Legal Wife: Mano Po 4 should bag Worst Movie of Any Year). Except for the fiasco concerning the withdrawal of financial support for Francis Hechanova’s Angela: The Bading Assassin, A Musical, the rest of the Cinemalaya outputs fortunately came into fruition. And they came out good.

Among the five that I saw – Pepot Artista, Sarong Banggi, Lasponggols, Big Time and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros – it’s definitely the last one that has made the most impact (or dent, depends on which side you’re on). So much already has been written about "Maxi" during its theatrical run that I think it’s wiser for me to gush over it some more when the DVD comes out (just that once, don’t buy the pirated version). Or when Aureaus Solito comes back from the festival circuit i.e. Germany, Holland and Japan. Only an "I" country seems to be missing from that triumvirate. Could it be the same "I" that young Maximo lives in, full of squalor and full of love: his "I" land, his I-dent-ET?

In Big Time, con men Danny and Jonas (played by Nor Domingo and the excellent Winston Elizalde) are also looking for something – their next heist.

Past performances include robbing a sari-sari store and getting only about P400 and a chock full of Choc Nut; dressing up as a clown, performing magic and then stealing a dog from a fat Chinese woman; and selling fake Jolina Magdangal tickets.

In a society obsessed with quasi-heroic ideals, bogus deals and hip antics, it’s not surprising that these two small-time crooks were donning Superman and Batman masks when they charged into the main door of their kidnap victim, "starlet struck" wannabe Melody. This is a film that relishes in spectacular performance, although too knowing and heavy-handed most of the time to prompt any effective engagement amid the one-liner writing, camera work and editing. It almost looked like an extended music video.

The premiere night in Megamall made for an equally fascinating performance: big invites, promo girls, confetti, the works. Very Big Time indeed. And yes, a long time too. It’s one thing to thank the people who have supported the artist and her work, it’s another to ramble on and on and bombard the public with verbose and self-congratulatory remarks.
* * *
A performance is always for someone, even when that audience is yourself.

A MUSICAL AKO LEGAL WIFE ANG PAGDADALAGA AUREAUS SOLITO BADING ASSASSIN BARBARA STREISAND BIG TIME MAXIMO OLIVEROS PERFORMANCE TIME
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