I WATCHED Mel Chionglo's new movie Twilight Dancers yesterday at Robinson's Malate with my old friend Julie. I initially thought she might not be into watching yet another movie about the conflicted lives of macho dancers, but then she reminded me that she had written her college thesis on macho dancers, in 1982 and at Ateneo de Manila!
With a screenplay by Ricky Lee, the story is about the eclipsing of an aging macho dancer Alfred (Allen Dizon), who at 28 and increasingly picky about whom he sleeps with, finds himself one night unceremoniously fired from Mr. Big, a seedy but typical gay bar that looks like it is in Recto. His best friend Dwight (Tyron Perez) is a young and fresh dancer who having been an orphan owes his life to Alfred for having taken him off the streets and allowed him in to live with him.
The film is the usual depressing mish-mash of impoverished young men selling their bodies to make a living, and the various characters who either enjoy or exploit them. William Martinez plays a loaded OFW who is a regular at Mr. Big, and in a funny scene after having passionate sex with Dwight says: "Here you go. Fifty dollars that I earned in Saudi Arabia, and here's another $20 for making me so happy!"
Cherry Pie Picache, who seems to be a veritable fag-hag of gay Filipino movies, is Madame Loca, an extremely rich and corrupt businesswoman who has a regular table booked for her at Mr. Big. She of course lusts after Dwight and embroils him in her venemous tentacles.
The most thought-provoking line in the whole movie is uttered by a hilarious Arnel Ignacio, who plays the mama-san of Mr. Big, when upon hearing that most of his dancers are leaving the club cries: "Please don't leave us! The club is about to close down already because of the dwindling number of customers. It used to be that when one wanted to have a guy one went to a gay bar. But nowadays you can find them in the malls, on the streets, and in the parks!"
He forgot to also add "on the Internet."
Joel Lamangan, the famous film director, plays a very corrupt and gay mayor in Twilght Dancers, and is of course the best friend of Madame Loca. His acting in this film, along with Cherry Pie's, is completely shrill and over the top. In one scene he even appears in drag at his own birthday bash.
The shady picture quality in some of the scenes cannot hide the fact that Twilight Dancers was filmed in video that was then transferred to 35mm film stock. More annoying were the abrupt jumps between various scenes, which begged for a better film editor.
The third in a trilogy of films on macho dancers by Chionglo, following Midnight Dancers and Burlesk King, it certainly seems to be a swan song for macho dancers. While the film was enjoyable to watch despite the over-acting by several of the actors, I couldn't help wonder how the same story would have been handled by the late director Lino Brocka, whose Macho Dancer in 1988 still remains the original film on macho dancers and the often tragic lives they lead.