Back To List
Language: Tagalog (English subtitles)
Directed by Lino Brocka
Starring: : Allan Paule, Daniel Fernando, Jacklyn Jose, William Lorenzo, Princess Punzalan
Back To List
Synopsis: Pol (Alan Paule), a young Filipino, has been sexually involved with a G.I. to financially help his family. When the serviceman's tour of duty is over, he is left needing money. He leaves his village and heads for the big city of Manila.
Exclusive Review by Larry:
The film starts right off with two guys getting it on in bed. We learn that Larry's tour of duty in the Philippines is over. Larry has arranged with Jim, an associate of his, to have Pol take care of his sexual needs. The arrangement with Jim occurs but must be unsatisfactory because the viewer is subjected to a jarring edit to Pol's home.
His home life is one of poverty. His single Mother looks after three younger siblings. She takes in laundry to eek out a living. She suggests several alternatives for Pol to consider since using Larry as a meal ticket has stopped. Unfortunately, all of her suggestions are ridiculously unrealistic if she wants Pol to continue to contribute to the family financially.
Pol is invited to a cousin's party. At the party, the cousin, Gene, invites Pol to go to Manila with him and make some big money. (Doesn't everyone think they can get rich in the sex trade? Either that, or they are having to support a drug habit!) Of course, everyone lies to the people closest to them; particularly in the home -- especially as to the nature of how they plan to make big money. The elders of the village probably know the truth but everyone goes along with the lies or deceptions.
In Manila, we receive our first glimpse of the gay bar scene. I hesitate to use the word gay
bar, as Asians' sensibilities are portrayed as such, most of the men have wives and children
at home. Male sex bar is probably a better description. A stage full of naked boys soaping each
other up serves as the club's opening act. These washing soap shows are a common practice in
the film and probably, common in actuality. Some of the actors attempt to cup their hands and
cover their genitals. This is only halfway successful. I must admit the shows are quite
Pol is introduced to the house Madame. I've never seen anyone so eager to see his prospective employees naked so quickly and aggressively. When Pol seems to be a little slow, the Madame just grabs his crotch and cops a feel of his dick. Madame describes its size as one which can reach the Bay of Manila. This must mean large by Philippine standards. Next, we get an interlude of 6 guys sitting on stage jacking off. A fight commences in the bathroom. After the fight is over, Pol meets Noel who suggests a bar with better business -- Mama Charlie's. This does seem like a better club -- not quite as vulgar or animalistic as our introductory club.
While I may have some major complaints about the editing, lighting and subtitling, the cinematography of Manila is very good. We get a sense of a very hazy city. In the daylight one can see and feel the seamier sections. Unfortunately, this is where Noel lives. Gene has brought Pol to Noel's and just leaves him while he supposedly goes off to Japan. Little time passes before Pol works his first trick.
For those of us who don't live in a metro area, the wash and soap shows -- complete with bubble machine -- are quite a turn-on and the director provides us with a very sensuous and lengthy one between Noel and some other dancer. Depending on your experience with gay features and especially foreign language films, the level of sophistication may be questionable. However, the film's storyline is a strong one, worth your time and effort. The friendship development between Pol and Noel is very good. Both actors are attractive and talented. Noel warns Pol about a character known as Dennis and a dirty cop who claims the gay clubs as his extortion territory named Kid.
Eager to make money the best way that he can, Paul asks Noel how to be a macho dancer and we go to a rehearsal. Afterwards, off to the bar. We find out two callboys have been murdered. Then as to reinforce the viewer of the gay-for-pay motif, we get a particularly distasteful interlude with a bunch of drunken broads. Pol meets and falls in love with Bambi. Another major subplot is added when we learn about Noel's search for his only sister. To facilitate the search, Noel starts to deal drugs in order to raise money for admittance fees to check out the working girls in the many Manila cathouses.
An arousing interlude occurs when Dennis, who normally does the spotlight wash dance with Noel gets sick and Pol serves as the substitute. The dance becomes so affectionate and sensuous I'm surprised customers don't ask for private wash dances instead of the usual massage and fuck sessions which seem to be the standard sex service.
Pol is mistaken for Noel and is given a serious beating because Noel is late for a drug payment. Bambi rushes to Pol's aide and they get it on at Bambi's place. Bambi proves to be the hard-edged but beautiful tart with a heart.
Noel finally has his worst fears confirmed: his sister is prostituting herself. He gets drunk. When Pol returns to Noel's apartment after finishing up at Bambi's, he finds a drunk and inconsolable Noel. Pol feels compassion for Noel (After all, he has been staying at Noel's apartment all this time). Pol returns Noel's drunken kisses and affectionate actions but is shocked when Noel goes down on him. What an example of the commonplace device of having the protagonist, who has been involved with massive amounts of man on man sex -- shown to be privately heterosexual, while his sidekick hustler is actually gay.
After Noel is reunited with his sister, the melodrama reaches a fever pitch. They meet up with Dennis who offers them $75 each to do a gay porn film. Needing the money, they agree to do the film. When it is time to be paid, they are screwed out of half the amount because Dennis has charged an agent fee.
Noel gives a Christmas party with lots of alcohol and stripping. Shockingly, there is also a gun at the party. Pol only now notices how deeply into drugs Noel is. One of the guest likes to cut himself. Russian Roulette is played. Eventually the Kid, a character lacking any subtlety, substance or appearance, murders Noel. Pol seeks to avenge the death Noel and succeeds in killing the Kid.
I'm sure you will recognize all the components of "Macho Dancer". What it may lack in novelty, it makes up in giving the viewer an interesting view of Asian life. If you like Asian men or Asian cinema, this classic gay film will be of value.
The only DVD extras are chapter interactivity and additional trailers for other Strand Releasing films.
DVD Features: Interactive Menu; Chapter Selection; 4:3 Full-Frame format; Tagalog Dolby Monophonic Digital 2.0, English subtitles; Trailers; No regional coding for worldwide playback.
Back To List