Tatarin (Tikoy Aguiluz, 2001)
English Title: Summer Solstice
Don Paeng (Edu Manzano) and Lupe (Dina Bonnevie) Moreta are trapped in a difficult wedding; at least for Lupe who starts to feel her subservient role in the household. We first see them in bed; Paeng on top while a bored Lupe suffers through the mechanical thrusts of her husband. The couple's morning lovemaking coincides with a woman's fervent prayer for a child (followed by a steamy scene of self-stimulation), and the couple's household helps' rabid humping; with the woman (played by Rica Paralejo) erupting into an illucid trance that would define the feast day of St. John the Baptist, which also coincides with the pagan ritual of tatarin (which in English refers to chopping).
The wedding vows aren't tested due to infidelity or a lack of love, but because of the skewed sense of inequality between the sexes. Paeng's conservative views force Lupe to stand by his side. You can see the effects of that patriarchal sternness: Lupe would always look with approving eyes before trying to do anything like watching the passing parade through their manor's balcony. It is the same patriarchal reign that Paeng would like his eldest son to inherit; that women are subservient to the man's concept of order.
The tatarin ritual is an affront to that patriarchal state which the Philippines has inherited from its Western colonizers. Guido (Carlos Morales), Paeng's cousin who relocates from Europe to take part in the pagan rituals, relates that women have always been powerful; that before there were kings, there were queens; that before there were priests, there were pagan priestesses; and that the sun bows down to the moon (which symbolizes femininity). You see Lupe's surprise of her undiscovered power upon hearing those words and while her legs are fondled by the very masculine Guido while her husband peeks through their balcony.
Director Tikoy Aguiluz carefully maps Lupe's transformation leading to that final tatarin procession where she overtly disobeys her husband. His adaptation of Nick Joaquin's short story may be viewed as gratuitously perverted (the way Paralejo's breasts are lighted with erotic tenderness, and other young starlets are casted to gyrate for presumably, tittilation). However, the visually portrayed sexual energy serves an appropriate purpose. It delivers a shameful light to the subtle cruelty of Paeng's controlling nature and his mechanical sexuality. It places points of extremes in a film that is basically about the jarring battles of the two sexes --- it spells out the differences between sensual and formal, freedom and restraint, female and male.
Set in the 1920's, Aguiluz makes sure that every detail is accomplished perfectly. The meticulousness shows. The wardrobe, the setting, the props are carefully conceived to match the era. It's all wonderful, the way Micaela (Ces Quesada) and her daughter (a tepid Maui Taylor who is unused in the department wherein she could've shined) steps out of their polished antique car; or the interiors of a provincial manor with its lovingly constructed furniture and its walls adorned with Catholic paintings; or the methodology in making the noodles the Moretas' factory is producing.
More interesting is the actual tatarin procession where women (all obviously choreographed) dance and gyrate in delirious drumming, and the men (who are celebrating St. John the Baptist's festival --- a Catholic feast which figures, since Catholicism espouses patriarchal society) who strut alongside the women. It is quite easy to get lost in the orgy, and the sequence is pungent with sweat and saliva. The men fall under the spell of the women and are revealed as equal, if not weaker (especially in that scene wherein Guido stumbles into tears when Lupe abruptly ends their lovemaking, thus, revealing Guido's past in Europe wherein he wails the name of a woman he presumably loved and lost).
The final scene ends the transformation. Under the glow of a full moon, Lupe finally gets what she wants and becomes on top (sexually and emotionally) of her husband. The mechanical nature of their sexual consummation is abandoned when Paeng reveals his emotions and steps out of the formalities dictated by the patriarchal society they live in. Paeng follows the whims of his wife; and disobeys the commands of the Church (which approves of only one sexual position) while he gets consumed by the spirit he has, in his entire lifetime, rejected.