“Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa explores the intersection and divergence between feminist and gay concerns in the third world context. When Marlon, a college student, stalks Karen, his literature professor, he finds out that she moonlights as a choreographer and dance teacher in a dance studio. Frustrated over his performance in her literature class, he plans to impress her instead by learning to poeticize his body movements and enroll in her dance class. He hires his classmate to teach him the basics of dancing. As Dennis, his tutor, teaches him how his body should move, Marlon begins to understand the intersections between the art of poetry and dance.”
Unlike my previous Cinemalaya blog posts where I posted the synopsis made available by the official website prior to talking about the movie, I chose to cut the one they provided for Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. One, because it’s very long; and two, because it contains scenes that never actually happens in the movie. Unless it happened after the credits stopped rolling, and the audience members have already left the venue.
Writing about my first three Cinemalaya 2011 films was a blast–because I completely enjoyed them. I wish I could say the same for this movie.
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa exists on subtext: glaringly loud, neon-colored subtext emblazoned on billboards with flashing lights. Each line of dialogue, each framed shot screams its subtext with such obviousness that I actually don’t want to call it subtext anymore–but what else can you call the things that are left unsaid?
Now, understand that this is just the opinion of one person. I could be reading the whole film wrong, so feel free to surf the net for other reactions to the film. I’m sure there would be people who’d rave about the film and say it’s the best of this year’s batch. But for me, it wasn’t. And I sort of blame the material.
One of the important things I learned in the world of Philippine television is that your work must be able to transcend bad direction and bad acting. So when the acting of two of your three main actors (that of Miss Jean Garcia and Rocco Nacino) were well done and suitably understated, and the direction was good (if a bit common and full of tropes, complete with still framed shots of people going up and down the stairs), then there must be something in the material that isn’t connecting with the viewers. Well, with one particular viewer: me.
In the story, we have a woman who speaks cryptically–unless when the story dictates for her to be blunt; we have a male lead who is in love with an older woman, but not really because he’s only discovering his sexuality through the poetry of words and dance; and then we have a guy who is in love with our male lead, but only gets focus in the second half of the film before being cut off by an abrupt ending.
I feel as if the movie wants to say something profound, but got so caught up with the juxtaposition of word poetry and dance poetry that it forgot the story it wanted to tell. We lose our handle on our persona when our anchor in our male lead gets passed on to the older woman in a few sequences, before it is passed on to the pining guy–before it decides that it needs a more omniscient point-of-view. So that in the end, we get a confused story about the confusion of two guys and their confused feelings for each other and their teacher.
I wanted to enjoy the film. I really did. But when I started writing my reaction, I couldn’t find a reason to justify why I would say that the movie is good. It was okay, but it was dismaying compared to the three films I watched prior to this–and I only saw the latter half of the movie I watched before this.
But who knows? Maybe you’ll like it better than I did. You still have today and tomorrow (Saturday, July 23) to catch this film in CCP or Greenbelt. Why don’t you watch it for yourself and tell me if you disagree with my reaction.
Edited to add: There will be a screening of this movie at SM Megamall on August 23, at 7 in the evening.