Several times at a Cinemanila screening of Serbis I was ready to bolt from my seat. The very first scene, in which a naked teenage girl preens in front of mirror as if she were starring in a porno. Undue attention was paid to her genitalia, I thought. What for? Cheap exploitation in the guise of art?
Shortly afterwards, a young man is bandaging a boil on his derriere. Do I really need to see a purulent sore on someoneâ€™s ass? Is this an excuse to show the actorâ€™s derriere? When another young man is shown masturbating I thought I had become inured to the directorâ€™s shock tactics, but then there is the scene of the overflowing toilet, inviting viewers to disgorge their dinners.
It struck me as I looked around for the nearest exit that the movie was daring me to walk out. The filmmakers were calling me a wimp, a delicate coward who cannot look directly at the decay and squalor around her. Because that is the subject of Brillante Mendozaâ€™s movie: Ugliness. He is aiming his camera at the rotten core of society, the sleaze that surrounds us, the filth we refuse to see. We pretend that itâ€™s not there, and the more we pretend, the more it spreads and festers. We take refuge in illusion and artifice, the gloss and prettiness of the movies.Â
But the movies have failed us.
My review of Serbis in Emotional Weather Report, today in the Star.