An Old Song Well Sung
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is a reason this film from the Philippines has garnered so much attention and audience approval at festivals around the world. Yes, it is a very low budget film (and technically that shows), but the message is a sound one. Not just another film about the massage parlor antics created to titillate the viewer, THE MASSEUR (MASAHISTA) as conceived and written for the screen by Boots Agbayani Pastor is a close examination of the old conflict between father and son, expectations and disappointments, needs and failures to fulfill, and in the end the mourning for a relationship that never succeeded. Director Brillante Mendoza has found the balance between sensual imagery and social comment that makes this little film work very well indeed.
Iliac (Coco Martin) is a handsome young lad who, because his alcoholic and carousing absentee father cannot support his family, has left his home to work as a masseur in Manila, assuming the financial responsibility of his family. Iliac works in a massage parlor - rooms like closets so close that conversations are easily heard - where he has his regular clients as well as newcomers, each of whom pays for massage an tips for all the 'extras' the boys are more than willing to offer for a price. The film moves back and forth between Iliac's home and his work in Manila and after his father dies, Iliac must return home and be the one who must assist the mortician in preparing his father's body for burial. This tradition becomes an analogy for the work Iliac performs on the massage table and the conversations and physical involvements between Iliac and client mirror the ministrations at the funeral parlor in a powerful and deeply moving way. Iliac is able to cope with both sides of his lot until he discovers some secrets left in his deceased father's belongings. At this point the concept of the film becomes touchingly apparent.
Though the cast is well known in the Philippines, only a few of the faces will be familiar to most viewers. What Mendoza is able to achieve with his cast is a feeling of honesty and ensemble work that allows both sides of Iliac's life to be credible. The film is in Tagalog with English subtitles and though the DVD cover would suggest this is a gay film, in reality it is a study of family life and the consequences of distance between father and son. It is worth viewing. Grady Harp, November 07
Rub Down in Manila
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 07/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
Rub Down in Manila
Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride
"The Masseur" (Picture This Entertainment" finally makes it to DVD after having been on the festival circuit for two years. Illiac is a twenty year old masseur in Manila and considered to be the best there is. He works in a gay massage parlor where a massage is considered good when the massage ends in sex. Good sex is what defines a good massage. Illiac loves his job and is very happy at the massage parlor. Everything is going well for him until his father from whom he has been estranged and is a total philanderer, becomes very seriously ill. Familial duty causes Illiac to return to his home village but he does not make it on time to give his final farewell to his father His father died before he got there and when he arrives, his family is preparing for the funeral. Illiac begins to realize that he must reconcile his life as a worker in the sex industry with his role as a son and a brother.
The film is shot as cinema verite and is a beauty to watch. Coco Martin as Illiac shows great intensity and amazing talent for a first time actor.
Even with the graininess and jerkiness of the film it is an amazing look at gay life in the Philippines. It is a drama that is serious and portrays what the poor of Manila do to get ahead, Illiac, even though he as a girlfriend is in constant contact with the male clients that he services as a masseur cum prostitute. The death of his father shows why he became involved in the sex trade; he needed to help support his family. Illiac is in a quandary when his father dies as he has ties to work, his family, his girlfriend and his one main client who continuously returns to him for more.
This is a very strong look at survival and shows the real life of a young masseur. The challenges that Iliac faces are very real and very hard. Made n a small budget, the movie realistically shows the way one young man struggles to survive poverty by using his sexual charms. It has the look of a documentary and it completely engages the viewer. One scene that shows where Illiac moves from his life as a prostitute to a dutiful son, to preparing his father for burial and back to the massage parlor is particularly moving.
There is a lot going on in the movie and the film is cunning in structure. Temporal unity is destroyed here and several other scenes aside from the one already mentioned are unforgettable. With great depth, this is a daring movie which titillates the viewer with a dark tenderness and a great deal of melodramatic sadness.
Powerful film about Filipino massage boy
Bob Lind | Phoenix, AZ United States | 09/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After a couple of years on the gay international film festival circuit, where it won several audience awards, THE MASSEUR (2005) finally made it to DVD, which was my first opportunity to see it.
The Phillipine-produced film tells the story of Illiac, a 20 year old young man from a small city, who is working in Manilla at a gay massage studio, where tips are based on the sexual favors given to the customers. Illiac seems to be good at his work, and relatively happy being in demand, although he is indeed heterosexual and has a girlfriend back home. One wonders about the "back story" that led him to that line of work, and this is soon revealed when he receives an urgent text message to return home. It seems that his father is close to death. Illiac doesn't make it home in time to say goodbye, but they hadn't really been on speaking terms since his father had deserted his family years ago, leaving Illiac as its sole breadwinner.
Although shot on a tiny budget, the film showcases the skill of the writer/director, Brillante Mendoza, who gives it remarkable pacing, including some initially confusing flashbacks and fast forwards, as well as some unforgetable touches, such as segueing between Illiac assisting the undertaker in preparing his father's body and a flashback showing him giving a sensual massage to a man about his father's age. Later, Illiac has an emotional revelation when helping go through his father's possessions, and considers his future plans. As Illiac, Phillipine actor Coco Martin shows significant range and sincerity, well deserving the acting award he received for it. As a tribute to an earlier Filipino gay classic, "Macho Dancer" (1988), Mendoza cast one of the actors from that film as Illiac's obsessed customer Alfredo. Mostly in Tagalog with English subtitles, the DVD includes scenes from the film's premiere at the Toronto film festival. I give the film four stars out of five."
bigboyone | johnson city , tn | 12/05/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"not as good as i thought it would be
description of film doesn't come through on my dvd copy
seems like a lot is missing ( don't know if true, but i have read that
40% of film was cut to get it released.
would like to have originional verison for sure"