MONDOMANILA (Khavn Dela Cruz)

MONDOMANILA is sure to shock unprepared viewers. Those who are so polluted with Pinoy mainstream romcoms may find themselves walking out of the theatre. Even die hard fans of that relentless Regal horror franchise will curl up and die, just die.

Raw, uninhibited, and unforgiving, Khavn's 28th feature is a fitting tribute to those films which have tackled urban catharsis (Brocka's for example) serving as well as an artistic adaptation of Norman Wilwayco's triple Palanca-winning short story, novel, and screenplay.

As Khavn stated, MONDOMANILA is not about realist cinema nor a faithful adaptation of the novel. From my point of view, what it is instead is an absurd and surreal interpretation of present-day Manila that never loses its angst or its sense of credibility. Believe it or not, MONDOMANILA depicts our modern society better than recent films claiming to do so. What it does is to make a social commentary underneath all that cussing, graphic sex and violence, and seemingly unrelated mess of a plot. Que in some catchy tunes and lots of memorable musical numbers dubbed as "GLEE ON SHABU", I know I got more than what I paid for.

The assortment of characters, both bizarre and plain hateable, serve to highlight the film's many messages. You have Tony D, a youngster wearing a T-shirt that says "Baby Jesus" who serves as the film's main protagonist. He has this aura which is a mashup of Ace Vergel/ Philip Salvador/and all other notable actors who played a vengeful lead in Pinoy action films that is so thrilling to watch.

Then you have Marife Necessito playing Tony's mom INANG MARIYA, dressed all in white gown and matching dangling pearl necklace. Her archnemesis, the scary Lovely 5-6 (Whitney Tyson), the arsonist drummer cum shineboy Pablong Shoeshine (Palito) and disgraced Sgt. Pepper who has no abs and has a gay son named Donato AKA "Naty" provide equal comic relief from all the blood splatter, foul language and whatnot. I mean, how can you not love a daringly original film with characters having such names?

Everything is exaggerated, meant as an inverse, or metaphorically presented in MONDOMANILA. Recent Filipino idiocies are more or less touched upon. Reproductive Health Bill is in a glimpse. So is the famous family from down South who should not be named, as well as our tourism efforts.

What's good about the film is Khavn's original music which accounts for much of the lively energy. The ending musical scene ought to have taken Regal's ass to school.

I just wished that the narrator had closed the film, sort of an opening-closing style. The narrator, dressed in American colors clearly denotes that MONDOMANILA is from the point of view of America, or rather a Pinoy with an American perspective. The images presented are depressing, but true.  

Subtlety is not in Khavn's vocabulary; he likes to confront the issues head on, but at least he has some style. Like Nolan's INCEPTION you have to dig further.

On a sidenote, some characters were confusing, such as those in Tony D's circle. However, those things that are vivid in Khavn's film will stick with your memory. I mean have you ever seen a blind man who likes porn? Or a midget named "MUTYA" who is by the way, a grown man who sells "balut" during daytime?

Pity you if you haven't seen this film. Oh and Khavn's Travis Bickle character from Squatterpunk is here as well.

Rating: 4/5


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