Friday, August 03, 2007

Bedspacers (1980)

Bedspacers (Joey Gosiengfiao, 1980)

The late great Joey Gosiengfiao is more than a director of campy movies, he is also a very fascinating filmmaker with an eye for structures compounded with a sincere heart for his art (which translates very well into his films). There's no denying that the man has both wit and humor (as anybody who has seen Temptation Island (1981), with its shipwrecked characters and their palpable lust for both flesh and food, would agree). There's something more to Gosiengfiao though than the glamor poses of his bikini-clad beauties and the witty one-liners thrown with elitist stance.

Bedspacers is Gosiengfiao's favorite work because it allowed him to explore the wealth of themes that compounded college life (which he has fond memories of). The film juggles the stories of several university students --- Nadia (a sublime performance by Alma Moreno), who gathers funds for her schooling by prostituting herself; Margot (Rio Locsin), a social climber who parades around in posh parties to integrate herself in that exclusive social stratum; Dindo (Mark Gil), a student-thespian who is struggling with his stage role; and a lass (Amy Austria) plucked from the province to study in the city and balances the the needs of her boyfriend and her very conservative ways; and their respective partners (played by Al Tantay, the dazzling Deborah Sun, and Orestes Ojeda).

It is of course, like all of Gosiengfiao's films, has scenes overflowing with camp, like the three-way cat fight that leads to Margot's wet blouse being torn into bits; or the several episodes of all-male or all-female bonding in their respective dormitories; or when Nadia is slapped in the rain; or when Deborah Sun's professor steps on the roses given to her; or that sequence wherein Margot sneaks her way through a posh party (where she mistakenly refers to chicken as Peking duck) with her facade of elitist snobbery.

What impresses me is Gosiengfiao's very structural approach to the film, both thematically and visually, and sometimes all at once. The film is easily dismissable because of its juvenile settings and its preachy demeanor, but there's a hint of brilliance in Gosiengfiao's filmmaking here. The term bedspacers refers to those tenants (mostly students or young workers) who merely rent beds in overcramped dormitories, the purpose of course is to save money. It is that concept of proximity that astounds me: these tenants literally sleep a few inches from each other; share a communal bathroom; the male and female dormitories divided by a narrow alleyway (the bedspacers can literally see what's happening in the other dormitory).

Gosiengfiao breaks these perceived proximities. Education is supposedly the equalizing factor in a democratic nation. In Bedspacers, Gosiengfiao attacks the institution for its elitism and hypocrisy --- he, of course, takes the side of the students and unfolds their dilemmas with sympathy. More specifically, Gosiengfiao dissects his scenes with detailed reverence to enunciate severance and emotional distance: observe how he separates his characters during key sequences --- in that tender scene wherein Al Tantay's character discovers Nadia's whoring (Gosiengfiao uses a division in the wall to literally separate the two characters); or when Amy Austria's character tells her boyfriend she is pregnant (we only see the characters faces in the circular mirrors of the bar, there's a literal space in between the two lovers); or when Margot disowns her mother (we see Margot's face through the mirror, while the mother is shown in a different space); or when Lindo professes his adoration for his professor (the two are separated by a bookshelf, and later by that distance made by their ladders).

There's a visual and thematic elegance to Gosiengfiao's filmmaking that gets overshadowed by the labels we have given the man (King of Camp, etc.). True, he defers to directors Lino Brocka or Ishmael Bernal in tackling issues of supposed import and relevance (such as poverty or politics), but in that overcrowded niche of commercial filmmaking (which is most probably the reason why his praised are received belatedly) wherein he worked comfortably and at ease (with producers and other filmmakers), he has excelled and made works that transcend the limitations of profit-making. I've only seen a fraction of Gosiengfiao's ouvre, but Bedspacers definitely is one of his most accomplished works.


Jojo Devera said...

i understand how Bedspacers could be Joey's favorite work. it's a far cry from the usual Gosiengfiao fare we all came to love. i believe that Alma shines in almost all of her films with the late director. i also thought that Amy Austria gave such a commendable performance in the film. was there a lot of people at the screening?

Oggs Cruz said...

There's probably twenty (more or less) inside the cinema (again, very depressing). Yeah, Amy Austria is marvelous. I believe most of the viewers were expecting standard Gosiengfiao (wherein there's an abundance of quotable quotes and visual jokes). I loved it and I'm very glad I saw it, and it's one evidence that Gosiengfiao as more than a director of camp (his visual promptness brings to mind a less philosophical Kieslowski, far off? I don't know --- he's always compared to Almodovar or Waters, but he's really more than that). The print was terrible (DVD copy of a sad, sad print --- a whole sequence is almost unwatchable).

Jojo Devera said...

so they used a DVD copy... my VHS tape is probably in better condition. but it's such an opportunity to watch the movie on the big screen. i do believe that he's way better than Almodovar. his films are not just campy but their also fun to watch. glad to know that there were at least 20 people in the theater...

Oggs Cruz said...

Much much better than Almodovar (has a wider canvass, and can do more with less money and less independence).

TheCoolCanadian said...

I wrote the screenplay of BEDSPACERS. I was too busy writing for TV that time as well - as mainstay writer for ALINDOG (Alma Moreno's weekly drama anthology); ULILA (Rosa Rosal's wekly drama anthology); PEPING; BATA; SENOR STO, NINO & TRUE STORIES (weekly drama anthologies all starring ROMNICK SARMENTA - the child star).

When Bedspacers happened, I had to employ the help of some friends who wanted to work as writers as well. So three of my friends helped me fill in some of the scenes with dialogues. After finishing the breakdown of the script, I assigned sequences where they will put the dialogues to finish the script on time.

I don't know what you think of the RAIN SCENE where Al Tantay slapped Alma Moreno. Joey's eyes went huge as he told me: "Malandyi kang hombre ka! Masyadong mahal iyang eksenang iyan."

I told Joey to please go for it because I always loved to see torrential rains in the Philippines. It was my first film script, and therefore, I wanted to include the rain in there. Well, I won! He-he. We shot that scene on Fraternal Street in Quiapo, using 5 fire trucks. The fire trucks run out of water and we had to pack-up the shoot. We return to the site after a week and continued the rain and the slapping. It indeed became an expensive proposition, but heck, it looked good, wasn't it. What do you think? It highlighted the emotions of the characters involved in the scene.

Another thing I would like to mention here is that the suicide scene of Mark Gil was shot mid-afternoon at San Sebastian College just before he supposed to have leapt from the building. When he was lifted by the extras from below, all "bloodied and dead", it was already dark and Gosiengfiao used all the lights to make it look like day time. You guys didn't notice that, did you?

This was DEBORRAH SUN's first appearance and she was having trouble delivering the dialogues. Solution? We hired Tina Monson Palma to dub her dialogues.

Finally, when the ads appeared in the papers, the names of my firends who helped me add some dialogues, were not included. I made a lot of noise because they deserved to have that credit. They finally did later.

It opened simultaneously in 36 theaters and all of them were jampacked with people (standing room and no space to move around).

Unfortunately, I had to move to Canada a month after that, and that's how I ended my scriptwriting career in RP.

Incidentally, if anyone has a DVD version or whatever version of this film, kindly email me at

Thanks, guys.

Jose Mari Lee

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Jose,

Firstly, I'd like to thank you for writing this wonderful film. I think this is Gosiengfiao's most disciplined work (and it really shows, especially with all your stories on the production).

Second, I did think that the slapping scene is beautiful (it's quite unfortunate that the Filipino public refer to Gosiengfiao as merely a director of camp, and therefore thinks that the slapping scene was merely for laughs; I felt the emotions though, and all the emotions in this beautiful film).

Third, Deborah Sun is amazing, and sexy. No wonder she has such a deep and mature voice. Hehe.

Lastly, I am not aware of any DVD releases for this film (which is very unfortunate). CinemaOne has a copy but I'm not sure if they'll be releasing it (and the print is ridiculously in dire shape).

Again, thank you very much for this film. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

elow po..just want to have a comment..grabe tlgang naappreciate ko ung movie na ito with its theme..khpon ko lng napanood sa cinema one pero khit na mejo blurred n tlga ung movie pinanood ko pa rin..kc naman nkakaengganyo tlga xa panoorin...gs2 ko pa nga magkaroon ng copy ska ung mga bida xempre halos mga bata p tlga cla compared sa una ko sila nkita sa showbiz...nastarstruck tlga ko kay Al Tantay..di ko akalain n xa un and Amy Austria npakaganda nya nung kabataan nya..di rin naman papahuli cna Rio Locsin at Alma Moreno,.sna makapanood pa ko ng mga ka2lad nitong classic movie...meron po b kau mbbgay sakin na khit websites o pwede hiraman ng mga classic movies...ang hirap n kc mghanap ngaun..tnx po kung matutulungan nyo ko...jokay/21 email add is