REVIEW | ‘Triptiko’ is an uneven trilogy of shorts that explore weirdness

August 15, 2017 - 9:52 PM
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Kylie Padilla and Kean Cipriano in the 'Musikerong John' episode of 'Triptiko.'

“Minsan ang buhay medyo weird,” goes the marketing pitch of the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino entry “Triptiko.”

This trilogy of short films presents us with three unrelated stories whose only connection is director Miguel Franco Michelena’s definition of weird. The stories are definitely offbeat. They are also unnecessarily verbose and only two really fall under the weird category.

The first story “Swerte” is about Jake (played by Albie Casino) who is on his way home after getting “lucky” with a girl we only see through a phone conversation. After their chat, Jake falls victim to a spate of bad luck.

The idea of weirdness here is more wordplay than real weirdness, the idea stemming from having gotten lucky to a series of incidents that puts him in difficult and challenging situations, deadly even. It’s not so much weird as it is maybe ironic?

It plays off as extreme, maybe to evoke a sense of comedy, but it never feels funny. The film ends with a deus ex machina that comes completely out of left field and leaves us with nothing to ponder about except the fact that Jake had a bad day after “getting lucky.”

The second film,” Hinog,” falls under weird in that Jason (played by Joseph Marco) is a model suffering from horrible, exaggeratedly large blemishes, which threatens his career and social life. He takes extreme measures to find a cure, which puts the character’s morality to the test.

The morality test, in question, is the most interesting part of the film, but director Michelena focuses more on the shock and gore of the treatment. By putting the focus on the ailment and how gross it is than the choice that Jason has to make, which will define him as a character, Michelena lets slip an opportunity to set “Hinog” as a dark fable.

The final piece is, thankfully, the best of the bunch and does not just fall under weird. It also falls under the lyrical and poetic.

“Musikerong John” is about a folk singer, John (Kean Cipriano), who returns to the scene after a two-year absence as he tells the story of Ann (Kylie Padilla), who transforms into something he cannot understand. Unlike the first two, “Musikerong John” does not wallow in the strangeness of the narrative and just lets it play out.

Cipriano and Padilla are wonderful as these two characters who find themselves in a situation that is more than they can handle. Instead of focusing on the transformation, Michelena zeroes in on the emotions. The finale of the trilogy ends up saving the whole set by just not dwelling on the unnecessary.

This is director Miguel Franco Michelena’s first feature, and it’s obvious. He has mentioned his admiration for Quentin Tarantino and you can tell from the long and drawn-out dialogue in the first two sections. The scene has already made its point but he extends them, drawing out the mood until he kills it.

This sort of style works very well for his supporting cast like Jerald Napoles in “Swerte” and Art Acuna in “Hinog” but not so much for his leads. Napoles and Acuna do marvelous work, even though the scene has overextended itself.

Many of the scenes feel dragged out and could have been shot shorter for stronger impact. Another challenge is that the lighting is dark, the placements of the shadows are in the strangest places often covering people’s faces in dramatic situations. It’s a strange choice for a film with such exaggerated emotions.

Though still dark, the only one that feels like a proper film is “Musikerong John.” Cipriano and Padilla are magnificent in their roles and really make the strangeness of their story work. Of the three films in “Triptiko,” it is “Musikerong John” that really explores weirdness and makes it mean something new.