Wednesday, September 22

Bold movie history rewind

Let's call this my tangential Martial Law post. Cat of points us to this rather dated, but still relevant essay by Roland Tolentino in Bulatlat that traces the development of the Pinoy bold movie genre. It's a progression of how much flesh one can bare, and the various female film archetypes who exemplified each period.

It's interesting to note how the development of bold movies coincided with Marcos rule. The bomba film exploded around the time of the First Quarter Storm; then it was followed by the bold film, wet look stage (1974-1976); bold film, daring stage (1976-1982); FF (fighting fish film) films and pene films (1983-1986); ST or sex-trip film (1986-1992); and the TT films (1992-1998); and the PP films (1998-present).

These movies, according to the Tolentino essay, parlayed the dominant power structures of its time, as well as epitomizing the female archetype that viewers found desirable. Thus the wet look was personified by Gloria Diaz and the rise of the magic camison, the daring stage upheld young nymphets in the Alma Moreno mold, and the stars of ST movies were colegialas from good families like Gretchen Barretto and Cristina Gonzales.

Each period showed more and more skin, culminating perhaps with the actual penetration shown in pene movies. But these movies were not the mainstream ones shown in first rate cinemas, but rather in the dilapidated ones, and usually these are the supposed inserts made after the approved draft. I'm familiar with all of this, as the Tolentino essay is mostly an English version of his "Rosanna Roces at ang Maingay na Babae" essay from his bida ng pelikula book that analyzes how our pelikulas bidas are archetypes of wo/manliness.

What caught my attention is the "fighting fish" category. What exactly do they mean by that? Given that this kind of movie proliferated between 1983-86, way before I was able to watch movies, not to mention the bold ones for that matter, it also bookmarked the era right after Ninoy Aquino's assassination and up to the time of the first Edsa Revolution. The only movies that come to mind from this time is Scorpio Nights which starred Daniel Fernando and Anna Marie Gutierrez, and there's also Boatman which starred Ronnie Lazaro. There were no fishes in those movies, so I can only assume that it refers to the ferocity which the protagonists attacked each other in bed. Or something like that.

The Bulatlat article also describes the current bold movie scene as being PP. From 1998 onwards, this period is characterized not by partially exposing the private parts, but these are "simply laid bare to linger on screen and into the eyes of audiences." Joyce Jimenez leads the pack with her remake of Scorpio Nights, then Patricia Javier (Kabit ni Mrs. Montero), Sunshine Cruz (Ekis), Ina Raymundo (Anak ng Burlesk Queen) and Klaudia Koronel (Hubad sa Ilalim ng Buwan). These are movies that were made within the reign of deposed President Erap Estrada, once a movie star and typified the macho man in the movies and in office. A number of films of remakes of originals from previous bold eras: Ina Raymundo's remake of the relatively tame Burlesk Queen included full frontal shots, the new Scorpio Nights starring Joyce Jimenez carried the marquee "Peque Gallaga's Scorpio Nights," and the remake of Isla was a bolder, brighter version of the Celso Ad. Castillo one. According to Tolentino, these films "artistic attempts to savor the pleasures of seeing the female form in sexual action, as these are reworkings of recent classical films or new artistic endeavors. The stars themselves embody an umbrella coalition of disparate backgrounds--Filams, mestiza, local beauties co-dominate. However, the lean form, showcasing the enormous breast and humpy hips and buttocks, predominate the body type."

Bold movies in the time of Gloria Arroyo have yet to be characterized. The post-Edsa 2 bold scene (2001 onwards) is dominated by younger women, former teenyboppers who, after turning 18, shed off their clothes and bared their nubile bodies for everyone to see. Assunta de Rossi (Red Diaries, Sisid, Hubog, Bahid) and Rica Peralejo (Dos Ekis, Balahibong Pusa, Hibla) were two of the major proponents of this period, at least before they announced their "retirement" from taking off clothes for a living. Both were teenstars known for pa-cute and decorative roles in television until they decided to give the bold genre a try. Currently, the ones enjoying the spotlight tend to be younger and have that look of innocence and experience. Francine Prieto and Aubrey Miles are veteran cover girls of FHM, a lad mag whose popularity also zoomed up in the post-Edsa 2 era.

There's also a rise in girl groups like the Viva Hot Babes, who not only make bold movies singly or in groups, but are also involved in the current phenomenon of the direct to video "anthologies." These videos at first masqueraded as videokes where the girls gyrate to "My Way" or other OPM karaoke classics, then as "instruction manuals" on "the art of undressing," as is the case of the Patricia Javier's Bare Naked video. Viva Films now makes more videos than they do actual movies, partly due to the decrepit state that the Filipino movie industry is now in.

That's compounded by the recent backlash on bold movies. SM Cinemas ushered it with the ban on R-18 movies in their cineplexes. Which is why a lesser known group of bold starlets known as D'Bodies staged a protest wearing nothing but t-backs and plastic raincoats on Roxas Boulevard several days back. When the local police came over to arrest them, they handed over their transparent raincoats to the attendant police officers. They're now facing charges of public scandal and obstruction to traffic, among other things. It wasn't really a very smart move, and their arguments go along the lines of "if you ban bold movies we won't be able to make a living, sniff sniff" but it is a cause for concern. Do you ban bold movies because they cause the decay of our moral fiber or because a big bad mall said so?

As we have pointed out, historically, bold movies movies echo the economic and power structures of the day. Then does it mean that a presidency under Gloria Arroyo also translates to a superficial defense of public morality while diminishing everyone's capacity to make a living? This we have yet to see.

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