Saturday, October 04, 2008

Room 213 (2008)

Room 213 (Keith Sicat, 2008)

The story of Keith Sicat's Room 213 is essentially about an architect (Allen Dizon) who in an attempt to infuse a bit of excitement into his marriage, introduces his wife (Gwen Garci), a photographer, to the titular room of the decrepit building he was commissioned to restore. The building has a rich history, related by the architect to his wife. From a South American millionaire's gift to his wife, the building was transformed into a hotel by an enterprising Chinese businessman. The suspect room, a luxurious suite, holds many many mysteries including a suggestion that evil spirits may be lurking within. The wife becomes attached to the room as she starts to flavor her life with sexual exploits with the personalities she meets in the vicinity of the building, including a dogmatic woman (Maricar dela Fuente) who is quick both to the allures of the flesh and the hurdles of Catholic guilt, and an enigmatic male hustler (Tyron Perez) who becomes the wife's source of both marital disdain and temporary respite.

To appreciate Room 213 with its visual stylization and narrative ingenuity, it might be noteworthy to look into Rigodon (2005), Sicat's first feature film which he co-directed with Sari Lluch Dalena. Rigodon loftily tackles the plight of Filipino immigrants in New York. Structured in a way that deviates from traditional storytelling (with visually-stylized sequences littered in between fractured scenes), the film works like a poem about the disjointed Philippine nation, abstract in its individual portions but coherent as a whole.

Sicat attempts to do the same in Room 213, covering a less ambitious theme (that of the intricacies of marriage), but fails to come up with a lucid whole. Told from the point of view of the wife who supposedly guides the disconnected scenes through a narration that sounds like second-rate poetry, the film is confused as to what it thinks it is.

To my mind, Room 213 is erotica posturing as serious art, a film genre that proliferated in Europe in the late sixties through the eighties with films like Walerian Borowczyk's Immoral Tales (1974) and The Beast (1975) and Shuji Terayama's Fruits of Passion (1981). Unfortunately, Sicat's film fails to register as good erotica. It's too beautiful to actually arouse and its attempts at cinematic sensuality is hindered by its so-called good taste. While Room 213 features a parade of naked bodies, copulating in different forms and manners, there seems to be no real substance underneath the spectacle. Thus, the sex in the film feels like a misdirected effort, incongruous to Sicat's attempt to forward anything pertinent.

Sicat gives us a perspective to view the events that ensue from, most probably to elicit some sort of emotional resonance to his stylized depictions of non-traditional sex. While the marriage, through the narrative twists and turns orchestrated by Sicat's incredulous screenplay, seems to be hopeless, loveless, and suffocating one as the wife consistently points out in her narration, we never really understand what motivates the wife to stay, hope, and upon the film's conclusion, get hurt tremendously. There are no authentic emotional or psychological investments, just spoonfed assertations of thoughts and feelings gathered from thin air. It's simply not very amusing or interesting to sit through pretentious stylings of sexual activity, if they are neither erotic nor sensible.


enuhski said...

hi oggs, lagay ka naman ng search function sa blog mo. hehe. naghahanap ako ng reviews mo, kung meron, ng torotot at roxxxane. :-)

i watched this movie on vcd earlier today. for some reason, the stunning visuals also reminded me of 2046. i don't know if a comparison can be drawn between the two though, napansin ko lang :-)

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Enuh, kamusta?

May table of contents ako...

I have links to all the reviews I wrote there.

Torotot is laughable. I haven't seen Roxxxane. I don't know if I ever will, hehe.

Regarding the 2046 comparison. Wong's visual sense has been the most emulated by our local directors, so I'm not sure if there's a connection there or if Room 213 serves as a homage to 2046, or something. Actually Room 213 reminds me more of the films of Tinto Brass, Walerian Borowcyzk, and other artful European soft core porn directors of the seventies and early eighties.