Pinoy Indie Sundays: Confusing Summer

Review: Kaleldo (Summer Heat)

I was in Video City yesterday, deciding on which Pinoy indie film to rent when I realize how limited my options are. Either the filmmakers didn’t bother putting their films to video or Video City didn’t bother to offer them to their customers.

What’s in fashion, apparently, are gay “indie” films. All featuring scenes of gay lovin’. Now, I have nothing against gays. In fact, my best friend is gay. But the notion of producing movies for the express purpose of making gay love scenes that can be called art film instead of porn is abhorrent to me.

In all fairness, I have not seen all these films so I can’t say for certain that all of it are indeed gay-porn in disguise but from what I did see, like the film, Ang Lalake sa Parola (Man in the Lighthouse), the gay-porn industry have infiltrated the indie scene. I don’t know what possessed me to rent it; the title alone screamed phallic!

I was considering Brillante Mendoza’s earlier works since I have yet to find a copy of Kinatay (Butchered). Video City had two of his earlier movies – Kaleldo(Summer Heat) and the other was Masahista (The Masseur). I guess before Kinatay, Mendoza was riding the explicit-sex-scenes-for-art wagon. I haven’t seen Kinatay so I’m not sure if he used sexually graphic scenes there too.

I decided to see Kaleldo since Masahista had that gay-porn action I was talking about. One of these days, I’m gonna summon the courage to rent more gay-porn/gay art films to see if I’m right. For now, Kaleldo will have to do.

The Story:

The story centers on the family of woodcarver, Mang Rudy, played by Johnny Delgado. Mang Rudy is a widower who had raised 3 daughters with an iron fist. The eldest daughter, Jess(Cherie Pie Picache), is a lesbian with a girlfriend, Weng, played by Criselda Volks. She’s the favorite punching bag of her father who can’t accept her for her unusual sexual preference.

The second daughter, Lourdes(Angel Aquino) is the favorite, although in one scene, she didn’t escape her father’s very fast right palm. She’s married to Andy, a feeble mouse of a man who fails at everything he does. Lourdes seemed like a perfect wife and daughter but later shows that she can be ruthless in getting what she wants.

The story actually begins with the youngest daughter, Grace (Juliana Palermo) who married Conrad, a quintessential mama’s boy. She’s conflicted about leaving their ancestral house to moving to her suffocating in-laws, so she escapes whenever she can. Conrad obeys whatever his mother commands of him while Grace willfully defies her father.

Kaleldo is divided into chapters with each chapter taking the point of view of the different sisters. Each chapter also represents the elements of the earth: Wind, Fire, Water. There was no mention of Earth but the audience can glean what it represented at the end.

First of all, I’m suspicious of this movie making device of dividing a film by chapters. I thought the whole idea was a bit hokey. I mean, the four earth elements? I don’t get it. Sure if your philosophized real deep, anybody would see insights as to how it relates to the characters. But I’m a lazy movie-goer. I need for my movies to make sense at least a few seconds after the whole concept is presented.

I was avoiding gay love scenes but apparently, when the premise includes a lesbian, then they have to show that they are indeed, lesbians. There really are plenty unnecessary scenes here than I can count some of them are the sex scenes.

I like it when indie films show a slice of Filipino life instead of the film showing the whole messy cake. Kaleldo tries to bite more than it can chew, I think. I mean, the Filipino life is so full of drama, you have to anchor yourself or you’ll get dizzy.

The actors were superb most of the time but with the intense scenes, they could dial the over-acting down a notch. I’ve seen this before in Filipino actors, some wouldn’t know subtlety if it bit them in the ass. The very great actors can convey emotion through very slight movement and in the eyes, but our actors have to have big gestures and erratic movements. They exaggerate their lines instead of talking normally.

This movie is confusing. There are a lot of elements crammed together and I did not fully comprehend the characters’ motivation and actions.

The good thing about Kaleldo is I watched it to the end. I did not feel the need to think about it after and was not excited enough to blog about it immediately but I did not give up on it. For a Tagalog film, that’s enough for me.


2 out of 5 reels


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