Dance, poetry and desire commingle in “The Dance of Two Left Feet,” an elegantly assembled drama about an unconventional love triangle that springs from a college student’s infatuation with his much older teacher. Filipino helmer Alvin Yapan confirms the promise of his 2009 debut, “The Rapture of Fe,” with this technically sophisticated exploration of romantic yearning that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging. Released locally Oct. 26, pic is a natural for fests with dance sidebars and has offshore potential on specialized tube outlets.
An atmosphere of restrained eroticism lingers from the opening segs in which Marlon (Paulo Avelino), an underperforming student from a rich family, gazes longingly at Karen (Jean Garcia), his classy, 40-ish literature professor. Following her after school, Marlon discovers Karen works nights as a dance teacher and choreographer. Eager to be noticed by her, Marlon hires Dennis (Rocco Nacino), a fellow university student who attends Karen’s dance classes, as his private tutor. Marlon plans to enroll as a newcomer and impress Karen with his natural ability, after learning moves in advance.
What follows is a delicately constructed dance of desire. A hint of homosexual attraction emerges as Marlon’s lessons with Dennis intensify, producing the hoped-for result of attracting Karen’s attention on the dance floor. Wise to Marlon’s every move and to the potentially explosive dynamics between him and Dennis, Karen casts both in her upcoming production of the “Humadapnon,” an epic poem with parallels to the real-life drama playing out in front of her.
A university professor and acclaimed author, Yapan has taken the potentially risky step of infusing his screenplay with large sections of poetry by Filipino feminist writers, plus in-depth classroom discussions on topics such as the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the nature of the cinematic gaze. His strategy pays off wonderfully well thanks to outstanding picture and sound editing, overlaying lovely dance sequences with well-chosen poetry readings and literary discussions that say everything about the suppressed emotions swirling around the main players. Only very late in the proceedings is this spell slightly broken by a couple of clunky moments of exposition.
As there are virtually no other speaking roles in the film, the three central thesps carry the day with underplayed perfs of distinction. Avelino and Nacino capture all the curiosity and naivete of young men learning the rules and repercussions of attraction; admired TV star Garcia is quietly commanding as the attractive and unmarried older woman whose true feelings remain tantalizingly ambiguous.
Well produced on a modest budget, pic sports attractive visuals by lenser Arvin Viola and an eclectic score by Christine Muyco and Jema Pamintuan that works harmoniously with poetry and dance elements to lend a metaphysical ambience to the proceedings. Other tech credits are pro.