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The Masseur

Atmosphere trumps character development in Brillante Mendoza's debut feature "The Masseur," co-winner of Locarno's video competish. Largely set in an all-male massage parlor/brothel, pic contrasts the sexual ambivalence within its flimsy walls with a masseur's family life in the provinces.

With:
With: Jaclyn Jose, Alan Paule, Coco Martin, Katherine Luna, Paolo Rivero, Kristopher King, Ru Miranda.

Atmosphere trumps character development in Brillante Mendoza’s debut feature “The Masseur,” co-winner of Locarno’s video competish. Largely set in an all-male massage parlor/brothel, pic contrasts the sexual ambivalence within its flimsy walls with a masseur’s family life in the provinces. But constant time shifts are clumsily handled, and the dramatic arc, meant to circle around on itself, ends up going nowhere. With visuals lacking the sensuality of “Midnight Dancers” and its ilk, pic’s adorable star can only go so far in bringing in biz beyond targeted fests.

Accommodating charmer Iliac (Coco Martin) journeys to the family home to bury his father. He approaches his duties with mixed emotions, more concerned with supporting his mother (Jaclyn Jose) than grieving for a deadbeat dad. Helmer Mendoza intercuts these scenes with the previous evening at the massage parlor, where Iliac presses the flesh of a new client (Alan Paule, from the superior “Macho Dancer”). Nice matching shots of Iliac undressing his father’s corpse and undressing his client fail to make a statement. The weak script leaves characters like Iliac’s preposterously trashy g.f. (Katherine Luna) underwritten. Vid quality is mixed, with occasional sound problems.

The Masseur

Philippines

Production: A Gee Films Prods. Intl. presentation a Centerstage production. (International sales: Ignatius Films -- Canada, Mississauga, Ontario.) Produced by Ihman Esturco. Executive producers, Fedelyn T. Geling. Lourdes Gnileg, Marissa Cua Dante, Venus Mungcal. Directed by Brillante Mendoza. Screenplay, Boots S. Agbayani Pastor, based on an original story by Ferdinand Lapuz.

Crew: Camera (color, DigiBeta), Timmy Jimenez, Monchie Redoble; editor, Herbert Navasca; music, Jerrold Tarog; production designer, Benjamin Padero; costume designers, Dang Sering, Jean Retiro; line producer, Coco Simo. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Video Competition), Aug. 10, 2005. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Tagalog and Pampango dialogue. Running time: 76 MIN.

With: With: Jaclyn Jose, Alan Paule, Coco Martin, Katherine Luna, Paolo Rivero, Kristopher King, Ru Miranda.

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