Philip and Bastian are lovers. Philip has taken the responsibility to help his older brother’s family in the slums. However, when Bastian pursues painting and can no longer provide for Philip, Philip resorts to hustling in order to help his brother’s family. When Bastian catches Philip being picked up by a gay man in a car, he decides to keep everything inside. Can Philip and Bastian’s love prevail despite the odds?
It’s a melodramatic depiction of a poor young man named Philip (Jun Jun Quintana) who makes his living as a callboy. He has a longer-term relationship with Bastian (Mark Gil), an older man who has just left the world of banking to be an artist. The film is mainly this miserablist exploration of the main character’s life, which involves him having to get into terrible situations in pursuit of money. And then the film takes an even more melodramatic turn as the story contrives an even deeper source of tragedy.
Philippino Story is anchored by strong lead performances. But the film surrounding the actors rarely lives up to the risks taken by the cast. The story doesn’t get deep enough into the relationship between the characters, indicating their closeness through the trite device of having one of them fall ill and having the other act as nursemaid. There are trickier emotions to explore, but the film ends up playing too safe by falling back on the clichés of its plot. It’s a sturdy enough film in the end, but it isn’t very exciting. (clickthecity.com)
T.S. Eliot, that great theorist of the modern, purportedly prescribed impersonality in art, preferring expression over expression of feeling. On the other side* is that other great modernist, Hart Crane, him of the heroic verse, the voice of the intense force of desire. Eliot’s kids abound, it seems, these days when reticence in emotion is considered a virtue and sentimental is a pejorative. Once in a while, though, Team Crane scores, and there comes a work that foregrounds, fearlessly, great depths of emotion.
Ostensibly, Philippino Story (Benji Garcia, 2013) is about Philip (Jun-jun Quintana) and Bastian (Mark Gil) who “are lovers” according to its synopsis on my festival brochure, about Philip who “reverts to hustling,” and about Bastian who “decides to keep everything inside.” This is not accurate, I don’t think; it points us at the wrong direction.
The film begins with Philip and his girlfriend Maria; pregnant, she talks about the future. She would not appear again until near the end, and not for long, but her re-appearance achieves three things: first, it establishes a pattern of grieving left-behind lovers (the married man, then Maria, and after her, Bastian); second, it opens a tiny window that gives significance to earlier events in the film and molds the coming events; third, it overturns portraits of people, replacing them with portraits of emotion.
Viewed retrospectively, the crude expressions of despair by Philip’s old married lover in their encounter become acts of self-preservation. He asks the why left-behind lovers ask, but preemptively prefaces the question with perhaps the answer he wants to hear (i.e. did his wife talk to Philip? Was that why he left him?), which ultimately is the answer he gets.
Maria meanwhile does not seem to be coping well with her loss. The film evokes the magnitude of her grief by turning it into a metonym; her all-consuming grief becomes a curse that consumes Philip and eventually ruins him.
But with all this, the film is far from suggesting that Philip is a horrible person. What he is, the film suggests, is a great improviser, almost too ready to be molded by his interactions (great uncle, great brother, great lover) that even his resistances are molded by how other people view them; his intentions for leaving people are not made transparent, but are significant to the ravaged parties. Precisely because he is too malleable makes him a perfect object of crazy desire, makes him Crane’s sailor, makes him therefore very dangerous.
Bastian extends the pattern set up by Maria, and the portrait of his grief is most staggering because it is the most private: there will be no Philip anymore to confirm his rationalizations. No one would validate a comforting story he tells his friends that Philip left him because he, Bastian, cheated on him, Philip.
In front of Philip’s brother, Bastian bravely announces that Philip is a good man. But in private, he is reduced to a man at the bottom of the cruel sea; any second and his lungs would prove no match to the water. The surface is only a few inches from him, but emotion that far too much exceeds its cause magnifies the distance, and from under water to the surface is a complete journey, a tough choice between the comfort of nothingness or the agony of breathing. (J. Chew, Bananachews.com)