Saturday, June 29, 2013

NYAFF ’13: Rigodon

If fame is an aphrodisiac, this married former reality show contestant has made the most of his third place finish.  He has had much less success monetizing his fifteen minutes, but to be fair, he has been rather busy juggling all his action on the side.  Karma will do as it does in Erik Matti’s very adult drama Rigodon (trailer here), which screens tonight during the eagerly awaited 2013 edition of the New York Asian Film Festival.

Clearly, the American-born Riki Torres appreciates voluptuous women.  He is married to the wildly insecure Regina (Reg) and picks up the rebounding professional Sarah Dilag in a club.  Torres plays it cool though, manipulating Dilag into making all the first moves.  Their illicit affair quickly gets hot and heavy, but his acting career remains as cool as Vanilla Ice.  Deeply in debt to loan sharks, Torres promises his wife a big break is just around the corner.  Yet, despite his love for their young daughter Pammy, he allows his domestic life to crater. Meanwhile, his secret life with Dilag becomes more demanding.

In the Philippines, Rigodon was hailed as the return of the erotic drama. You might be surprised to hear they ever went away, even in the predominantly Catholic country (which brought the world Hubad a few years ago).  Regardless, Rigodon holds up its end with some of the frankest sex scenes viewers will see while still feeling confident they are in a festival-worthy film. 

Matti’s vibe of detached foreboding and Ricardo Buhay III’s sensitively framed cinematography largely offset the film’s potential sensationalism.  The primary cast also manages to make the characters convincingly flawed but messily human.  Obviously the camera loves one-time rock drummer Yan Concepcion, but she is also quite impressive portraying Dilag’s evolution from innocence to obsession.  Likewise, Max Eigenmann’s work as the wronged wife is quite powerful.  Even John James Uy taps into something tragically human and almost sympathetic in the caddish Torres.

Taking its title from a traditional dance, Rigodon is a stylish but mostly restrained examination of infidelity that saves all the melodrama for the final ten minutes.  If Michael Mann were to remake an Adrian Lynne film in Manila it might look a lot like this.  There is a great deal of honesty in the film and also quite a bit of nudity.  Recommended for adult adults, Rigodon screens with Matti’s creepy little short, Vesusius (which kind of-sort of suggests you had better pay attention to what the Church has to say about apparitions), later tonight (6/29) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of the 2013 NYAFF’s special focus, Manila Chronicles: The New Filipino Cinema.