Porno’s prelude takes us to a room in a motel where a closed-circuit television peeps into a couple engaging in the rigors of sadomasochistic practice. The role play takes an awful turn when a murder occurs off-screen and the murderer refuses to pull her gaze away from ours. The blood in her hands is almost black in infrared light.
This scene serves as the zero degree of the pornographeme.
Such is the advance guard for a cinema whose diaphane between the erotic and death itself has become by turns porous and rigid.
Then, the ultraviolet in another motel scene provides us with the languorous milieu that entitles voluptuary non pareil Rosanna Roces to minister to the needs of a client (Yul Servo), who is paranoid with the thought of voyeurs in the adjacent room. After going through the motions of a rather awkward sex, they try to exchange post-coital pleasantries syncopated by existential meanderings until they have nothing left to say and we can no longer ignore the television frame above them depicting ecstacies infinitively. Yul Servo, we discover, has failed to deliver death to an archbishop. When Rosanna leaves, the operative tasked to bring Yul back to jail kills him.
One less hitman to terminate this terminologist.
The vignette that proceeds brings the video of the coitus between Rosanna and Yul to the studio where voice talents like Aleks (Carlo Aquino) would substitute mournful sentences with euphoric vocal pyrotechniques. His director (Allan Paule) complains that his talent’s skills are limited to monotones; Carlo, it seems, can only be distracted. The mis-en-abîme tells us that a certain social script is attempting to deduct the pornographeme from the speech acts of sex by supplementing sounds which although are culled from a sensual syllabary are not allowed to make sense as ejaculatory passages. Words should not interrupt moans. They get in the way of the sex.
Pornophoneme is hazardous to pornographeme.
Aleks compensates his lack of energy at the studio in the social network. His chatbox is riddled with the signs of a consciousness both allured and alluring: jokes and puns drown the oohs and the aahs. Conversations extend to telephone calls of unlimited expense. His room is lit under the cool tinge of a lurid green. And it is this dark room of desire that makes up for the privations of an “excitable speech.” His desktop is a frame of the “society of the spectacle” where the self regains whatever aspect of it has been rendered as effete in the public sphere. This savvy is undercut when Aleks witnesses before the screen the suicide of a jilted lover. Aleks suffers a seizure as soon as he leaves the dark room.
Carlo Aquino offers a most attuned performance in his adult career by tackling a premier pornographer. His face possesses a vacancy of possibilities. The way he gives absolute licence to pleasure in a span of a third of minute sums up the totality of pain a body must deal with at various cusps of desire desiring itself and its alternate affects, including that irreducible life between enervation and rage.
And Carlo Aquino as Aleks is punctured by Angel Aquino as Alex.
Years after the seizure, he becomes the queen of Club Mwah, which runs the most fantabulous drag show in all of queer Manila. Alex keeps an Australian lover, and on the eve of the latter’s trip to Sydney, they watch the video of Rosanna and Yul that Aleks had dubbed at the studio. Alex and the Australian dismiss the monotone. And then, we only see the hard core of movements in the bedroom shot through a soft lens.
Aleks is father to a son. The mother calls up Alex from abroad, telling her the son wants to see Aleks on skype on the former’s birthday. That proxy self has long gone, so only Alex can show up.
Could this be a scandal of the pornographeme?
Angel Aquino seizes this opportunity to be, at every turn, riveting.
And then, one night, after missing out on an exotic finale, Aleks finds herself running toward a hall of mirrors: her face framed by her own, her tears wholeheartedly her own.
After Jover and Alix’s Porno, what else can cinema in these parts inhibit?
J. Pilapil Jacobo is Assistant Professor at the Department of Filipino in the School of Humanities of the Ateneo de Manila University. He holds the Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and the M.A. in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he was a Fulbright Scholar from 2006 until 2011, and the A.B.-M.A. in Filipino Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he teaches Literature and Literary Theory in two languages. He is currently preparing manuscripts on the colonial letter and on the poetics of tropical reverie.