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Framer Framed Framing

13 Jan

A critique of Porno (Adolfo Alix, Jr., 2013): First of two parts

J. Pilapil Jacobo

The key to understanding an apparent inconsistency in the cinema of Adolfo Borinaga Alix, Jr. is a  kind of almost vulgar unpredictability that does not allow a film in his oeuvre to proceed from the previous and augur what could be apprehended as sensible in the next.  What on earth can cathect the “prison-house of  actresses” (a colleague has quipped) in Presa to the aquarium drama that is Isda? And even within a piece, nothing is ever quite certain to be pursued in the same habit. When one is grudgingly convinced about the cellophane that stood in for water in Death March, the expressionism would revert to Capas, in full realist grain, but the incandescent angelology was there to stay!

The surprise in Porno is not so much the assault that teeters on the indulgences that will turn whoever toys with the genre tremulous with each step but on the thoughtful grace that persuades the viewer to grapple with the tightrope act from that voluptuous space between the wire and the net. Slyly, and almost too shrewdly, the film veers us away from the skills set of the sex-acrobat who is no longer so svelte to bend ligaments just to exceed the curvatures of the erotic. The pornography in Porno is frustrated every step of the way until what remains is a dimension of the surface one never expected to be there in the first place. The surface that is exploited in the mode is then relieved of its superficiality. The sex is never merely a matter of zooming in and out the skin in question, but a means to apportion to cinema in these parts in these so-called vanguard days a scale of inquiry it has not quite known to rehearse after exhausting, pace Bataille,  “visions of excess,” during a time of dictatorial duress. Some hard core of discourse should be banging on this sly surface.

porno

Of course, various angulations of genitalia colonize Porno’s screen.  The penis and the vagina once again take over the face and the voice as loci of a primary cinematic articulation. And yet, these organs appear sans the orgasm that must complement them. Hence, the Titania of titillation’s mammaries are just those, lactating embarrassments; Rosanna Roces has got nothing left to conceal from hereon, except the forlorn memory of those years of relentless roses. And when the other characters are shown to be naked, their heads seem to have been severed from their own bodies. The picture of pleasure is incomplete; the harlot and the hustler are denied the chance to be seen with their faces. Outside sartorial sanction, and within bordello premises, an actress is obviously substituted with a body double whose corporeal proportions do not cohere with her optimal embodiment of prurience. And when a certain phallus imposes its amplitude upon most of the screen’s quadrants, its prosthetic tumescence cannot quite come to terms with the accuracy by which the pendulum swings of testosterone rage is portrayed. When the luridity of the exercise has been exhausted, so that things are reducible only to the tedium of technique, what can be magnified should be left as such, a body part that does not refer to the rest. Porno is no allegory of resistance, then, when the opportune metonymic moment is invalidated.  Nor is it spectacle of defeat, when hyberbole never quite appears to be bold enough to exhibit its convex effrontery.

The pornographic tradition is hailed from the literature on the lives of prostitutes and their purported métier, fornication itself. Pornography is the writing of sex. And further, sex writing itself.  What cinema has done to this premise is to disavow for the genre its intimacies with indeterminate erotique by removing the bar that seeks to signify pleasure incompletely, that is, again, through the synecdochic arc of metonymy.  Pornographic cinema promises to disclose the totality of the sexual act and remove the reluctance of the sexualized body. Every angle, even when marginal or posterior, is a frontal absolute. Nothing  is ever spared the violence of exposure. It is here where the prostitute becomes uninhibited. And the client who must face up to this figure demanding a reciprocal frontality. The writing that enables the vision of sex to gain the suppleness of flesh provides for a time to buy the prostitute out of the reifying conditions set in high relief by the obscene gaze. It is this time-lag of visibility that separates the pornographeme, the word that serves as signifying fundament of sex-writing, from the pornographic signified, the scene of sex summoned upon reading the sex-writing. For example, the reverie of silken neglect that would possibly be let loose after one reads “négligée” is no longer possible when the video forces its intended voyeur to see the tightest red spandex lingerie.

Alix deftly interprets the zeal that hovers above Ralston Jover’s screenplay by foregrounding within the mis-en-scène a mis-en-abîme. The scene encloses a version of itself that seeks to enlarge a discourse of the cinema through the ruse of the diminutive.  Pace Trinh T. Minh-ha, the framer is framed, and we catch him at a significant moment: framing. Alix has employed this trope in Chassis, to refute a supposed movement inherent in national progress, particularly when the subaltern is forced to reckon with scavenger ethic as the only way to apprehend the cusps of hunger and thirst. Porno departs from the kind of pornography that entitles itself to gain full scopic control over that kind of poverty by removing from the chassis the stasis that destitutes the political from the paradigmatic. The frame within the frame intrudes in the enclosure as it calculates a pace that would turn the picture to implode, and look the part of the disseminated. Porno is progressive in the sense that the mis-en-abîme is a true recursive. The frame acquits itself well as a vortex that can engineer iterations across vignettes in the diegesis. Turning to and fro into image onto narrative, the device pursues a counterintuition to one’s perspective of what a frame is.

There is something thoughtfully tropic in this Alix film.

 
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Posted by on 13/01/2014 in Film Review, Philippine Film

 

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