thanks to cinema one i finally got to watch Die Beautiful (2016) and i must say it deserves all the awards and rave reviews. buong buo ang loob ng pelikula — walang takot, walang hiya, walang patawad — kudos to director jun lana who also wrote the script with rody vera. a very complex story told in zigzagging flashbacks, no particular order, framed only by a week’s wake that sees trisha in death transforming nightly into a favorite persona, last run kumbaga. and, yes, brimming with stereotypical stuff, but mere nods to, not lingering, much less wallowing in the cutting slices of macho oppression. rather, sashaying on, bravely, and beautifully.
perfect casting, too. paolo ballesteros more than carries off the transgender trisha role, s/he runs with it (as does christian bables aka best friend barbs)! it helps of course that we know ballesteros as the eat bulaga co-host who transforms himself and impersonates iconic beauties a la drag queens of the sixties (her julia roberts is awesome). even better, he is a seriously good actor pala and his trisha is both funny and sad, and very much her own person on that rocky road to transformation. that his man-size makes her a big woman works in her favor, making trisha larger than life, and difficult to ignore and forget.
i love how trisha and barbs address each other “bakla,” fondly, lovingly, embracing and transforming what was once meant (by the macho world) to hurt and put-down into a term of endearment, warm, soothing, malambing. way to level-up, mga bakla, mabuhay kayo!
i’m reminded, of course, of national artist ishmael bernal’s (1938-1996) dream films, one on juan luna’s crime of passion and brother antonio the general, one on emilio aguinaldo and felipe buencamino, and the one closest to her heart, on filipino homosexuality.
but of course ishma and writer jorge arago (1943-2011) were off on a totally different take in a super wayward world. bernal was thinking a series of gags a la Working Girls 2, but outstripping it.
JORGE. We talked as much about the gay film as about the Luna project and it is difficult to say which one had faced bigger impediments. In the case of the gay film, one interior battle had created an inescapable contradiction. It was going to be truly gay, Bernal knew, an unending string of hilarious “misadventures” in which all gay roles – and there was nothing else to be sure – were to be played by non-gay actors, none of whom was to behave like the stereotyped sissy that Philippine machismo was constantly wishing away and factoring in. [“ISHMAEL BERNAL Last Full Show.” Manila Out. 1999 July.]
imagine if you will. the “inescapable contradiction.”