Friday, April 07, 2006

LA VISA LOCA (home video redux)

By Reymundo Salao

A year ago, the film LA VISA LOCA was released in theaters. Although the film was released by a production company that seemingly cannot afford the kind of intoxicating marketing campaign other local production companies can do to its movie, this film wasn’t exactly popular by mass appeal. But unflinchingly, without a doubt, LA VISA LOCA proves to be one of the best Filipino movies that has been released in a long time.

The home video release of this film was launched around the later months last year. But for those who haven’t watched it, now is just the right time to go rent it or buy the DVD/VCD of this truly spectacular movie, since its storyline is set upon the upcoming Holy Week season. I am now bringing back my film review for this, one of my favorite movies, of all time. A film us Filipinos can be proud of.

Robin Padilla plays Jess Huson, a driver who, like many Filipinos, has always had that lifelong dream of being an American citizen. He lives with his father who spends most of his time watching television and calling up a radio call-in program and expresses his angsts about society. Jess does hope to be reunited with his girlfriend who has moved to work in the US, but his aspirations crumble when his application for VISA is denied. Until he meets a foreigner named Nigel Adams (I failed to get the actor's name but he also played his part very well) who just may give him the opportunity to finally work abroad.

This is one film that has a lot to say about us Filipinos and our oftentimes-misguided colonial mentality to consider working abroad as an aspiration in life. Although some of us may not be like that, we would feel a certain familiarity with the film's characters like Jess, who longs to be reunited with his girlfriend in the US, like Mara (played by Ruffa Mae Quinto) who has been somewhat abandoned by his former boyfriend who has long left the Philippines to work abroad as well, and like Jess' father (Johnny Delgado) who would soon feel that sense of longing if and once his son would leave for the US. There is also a sense of relevance in the character of Nigel Adams, the foreigner (who seems to be British because of his accent) who initially has that admiration for the Philippines, but tends to lose that admiration when he gets the impression that he's just being suckered by opportunists that want to cash in on his being a foreigner. And lastly, is the unpleasant colonial mentality of some Filipinos who think ill of their nationality. The ones who credit every bad human trait as a Filipino trait, to the point that they deny being a Filipino at all. Certainly, this film of yours is rich in relevance, a profoundly made story of our culture.

But more than just that, it's a rib-tickling comedy that taps on real issues and realistic incidents. It's hilarious without the slapstick. From the naughtiness of Jess' senior citizen father to the bizarre world of Agimats, the film never leaves any room for dullness or cornball lameness. I also like the "choral" excerpts by Marissa Sanchez, Tessie Tomas, Noel Trinidad, and Isay Alvarez, for it is very Pinoy (one groundbreaking element making it very original). The only thing I didn't like about LA VISA LOCA that I could think of was its poster. Everything else is solid perfect.

In totality, the film is well balanced. It possesses just the right amount of intellectual and artistic substance, and the wit and humor that could entice each and every kind of audience, from the coƱos (slang for the upper-class bourgeoisie), to the sosyals (slang term for those who pretend to be "upper class") to the masa (to the masses), and even to scholars. I couldn't do much but salute to those who made this film and hope that it would be nominated for the prestigious Academy Award's BEST FOREIGN FILM because I would daresay that it deserves it. The Philippine Daily Inquirer calls it “Fresh and Feel-good”, The New York Times calls it “A Lively, Genuine, and Heartfelt film with a convincing portrayal by the charming Robin Padilla”, I call LA VISA LOCA one PERFECT Pinoy film.

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