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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 surprise in Porno is not so much the sensory assault that teeters on the indulgences which will turn whoever toys with the genre tremulous with each step; the thrill is the cognitive choreography 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 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, an actress’s mammaries are just those, lactating embarrassments; Rosanna Roces has got nothing left to conceal from hereon, except the forlorn recollection of those years of relentless rosiness. 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. And so there it goes, a dismemberment.  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. 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 and onto narrative, the device pursues a counter-intuition to one’s perspective of what a frame is.

There is something thoughtfully tropic in this Alix film.

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jasonJ. 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.

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

 

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