Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tukso (2007)

Tukso (Dennis Marasigan, 2007)
English Title: Temptation

There's so much to admire about Dennis Marasigan's sophomore feature Tukso (Temptation). The performances are all terrific: Irma Idlawan's lust and love-starved widow; Ping Medina's sweat-drenched barrio boy; Soliman Cruz's insanely jealous patriarch; Sid Lucero's city boy trapped in a fast-paced love affair; Ricky Davao's protective father and boss; and finally, newcomer Diana Malahay who plays the film's barrio lass whose centripetal force causes everything and everyone to revolve around her.

Touted as a murder mystery by way of Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950), the film details narrations by its characters surrounding the fall and death of Monica (Malahay). Shamaine Buencamino plays the investigating cop who tries to weave a coherent story out of the characters' bits and pieces. The film actually plays like Dennis Marasigan's outstanding first film Sa North Diversion Road (2005) which consisted of several episodes of a married couple's road trip through the titular highway; revealing along the way many facets of a marriage being eroded by marital quarrels and infidelity. In Tukso, the episodes are the stories of those close to Monica; their respective contributions interweave to build fuller scenes and an adequate understanding of what happened.

Marasigan doesn't quite live up to the thematic consistency of Sa North Diversion Road, as the film's subtleties are overridden by the narrative conceit. As a Rashomon clone, Tukso feels pointless and repetitive; a mere exercise of complex storytelling and coherent editing. It doesn't really say anything about points of view; the characters' versions of the story aren't really versions as they interweave wonderfully like perfect puzzle pieces. That missing piece, Monica's own re-telling of the story, no longer serves a vital purpose as the picture can already be discerned without much challenge.

However, the film hinges on that mystery; which as mentioned, turns out to be a non-event. The whodunnit fizzles due to unnecessary special effects (the graphics look out of place in a drama set in the provinces) and an unsatisfactory climax. It feels that Marasigan may only be using the fractured narrative, the investigatory approach to the case to dwell on an interesting subtext --- that in the grander scheme of things, dead woman's testimony is utterly pointless and impertinent. Against that rural town's need for advancement, of impending professionally-motivated marriages and modes of profit, the completion of the tale is merely an unwarranted annoyance.

The film seesaws from one point of view to another; all centering on Monica's abrupt death but differentiated by various wants, or in the film's language, temptations: Adlawan's discreet sexual admiration for her new home worker; Medina's quiet longing for the victim; Lucero's balancing of his early career and his short-lived love affair with the victim; Cruz's fear of the victim leaving him; Davao's designs of using the subdivision construction project as a net for corporate profits and for his daughter's happiness. These temptations center on the victim and are pulled together in an operatic mesh of misplaced longings; but in the end, that pulling force will fade and be forgotten: just another tombstone in a cemetary of unknown names and personalities; just another case solved or unsolved among other files decaying with age.

This film is in competition for the 3rd Cinemalaya Film Festival.


Dennis N. Marasigan said...

Thank you for taking time out to watch and write your insightful commentary on Tukso. I hope you will continue to support Philippine Independent Cinema!

Dennis N. Marasigan

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Dennis,

I may not like Tukso but I thought Sa North Diversion Road is wonderful cinema.

Dennis N. Marasigan said...


it was a pleasure to meet you.

i was rereading your review (as well as yoiur reviews of other films), and i was actually very happy with your TYUKSO review because you got everything right. that you did not agree with some points that the film presented only meant that it was successful in communicating these points across. whether these were subtexts or the main points is clearly open for debate, as are most of the film's story elements. as i mentioned during the sinetaktakan, i am more gratified that you found cause for discussion in tukso.

continue reviewing!


Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Dennis (and congratulations on your screenplay win),

I wasn't able to attend the Sinetaktakan, but I'm glad there's much discussion on the competition films. It's good that audiences are starting to grow up from mere admiration to actual digestion of films as literary pieces (all ripe for criticism and interpretation).

I'm curious though, and I believe the ads for the film are misleading (which compared it to Rashomon). There's really one truth presented in Tukso; that one truth is just fragmented into different points of view; which is actually a non-case since what really happened was an accident (there's really no murder mystery, thus, no need for an all-out investigation that would lead the audience to believe that there's a twist in the end).

I especially liked how everything happened in the midst of progress; and that theme of progress against humanity was subtly fleshed out (although very much, covered by the fragmented narrative). Lastly, and I hope you don't take offense in this: was the use of CGI in the last sequences deliberate on your part? In any case, congratulations on your film and I'm surely waiting for the next one.