Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister (1981)

Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister (Lino Brocka, 1981)
English Translation: The Wife's a Bachelorette, the Husband's a Bachelor'

Doria (Nora Aunor) is a professional singer. Dick (Christopher de Leon) is an advertising executive. Although married for closing to three years, they have agreed to have a liberated union, giving Doria the time to concentrate on her career and Dick the leeway to play around. The arrangement seems fine until their third year anniversary when Dick gets caught up with flirtatious go-go dancers, leaving Doria alone all night, waiting for her husband on what she thought was a very special night for them. That night’s heated argument forces Doria to leave Dick, leading to the comedic events and encounters that comprise much of what makes Lino Brocka’s Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister such an entertaining film.

The success of Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister is more a product of the witty writing and the endearing performances. Brocka’s direction, while still predictably dependable, is more perfunctory than anything. Scenes are dutifully sequenced and serviceably framed. Humor is obviously not Brocka’s cup of tea, forcing him to delegate most of the comedy to the humorous dialogue written by screenwriter Butch Dalisay and deliciously delivered by Brocka’s reliable stable of actors and actresses.

Aunor gamely plays the spitfire wife who can no longer take her husband’s infidelities. De Leon, on the other hand, expertly clowns around, allowing himself to be ridiculed as the careless playboy whose immaturity has him trapped in an illicit relationship with a sixteen year old aspiring commercial model that goes out of hand. Carmi Martin, who plays De Leon’s sixteen year old lover, mixes sexy and naive, alluring and annoying, and becomes the one character that makes De Leon’s side of the story the more interesting one in the film. Supporting Martin is Bert Olivar, who plays Martin’s perpetually drunk and extorting father with immaculate gusto. Joel Alano, who plays Aunor’s lover, an up and coming singer in Aunor’s show, is tame, colorless, and perhaps the only character who does not add anything to the film, driving Aunor’s featured escapades with him in the sidelines.

Brocka may have a chance to explore the intricacies of marital discord in a Philippine setting that is more and more moving towards the conservatism that marriage represents. However, Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister settles to be just a display of the hilarious consequences brought about by a relationship that was not serious right from the start. While it is interesting to see Brocka strip himself of the heavy burdens of society and just have fun in the film, one can easily judge the film with all of its missed opportunities of stretching the material further to be a satirical reflection of the hypocrisies of the supposed modern Filipino marriage rather than just an admittedly engrossing series of funny scenarios involving ex-lovers and their respective paramours are just too much to be left ignored. Perhaps the real burden of Brocka is not his need to lace his art with social relevance but that he has become too associated with social relevance that all his films will be judged as to how much they shake society to its very core.

That said, Dalaga si Misis, Binata si Mister is not a Brocka film in the same vein as Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You were Weighed but Found Wanting, 1974), Insiang (1976) and Maynila: sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975). It is more a showcase of the director’s competence, of his ability to stretch his reach beyond the comfort and crutches of social relevance. It is guiltlessly enjoyable. From the opening song sung exquisitely sung by Aunor to the stupendous finale involving Aunor, De Leon, Martin and Olivar in a word war, the film was clearly crafted not to arouse thinking but to fascinate and titillate. Brocka’s clever use of star power (Aunor’s role as a singer allows her to belt out a couple of Rey Valera tunes), of Aunor and De Leon’s then indefatigable love team, of Dalisay’s adept appreciation of what is funny in what is real, are all blended together into one product that is so satisfying, one can just immediately forget about all the seriousness in the world and get drowned in laughter.

(Cross-published in Lagarista.)

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