Jun 26, 2017

[Movies] Masahista (2005) Review

So I feel like I ended up watching a lot of crap while Tobie was away. My efforts to expand my viewing range  has led me down strange roads. And this is why I ended up watching Masahista one evening.

If you've ever browsed through the iflix library of Filipino movies, you'll inevitably come across Masahista as one of the more prominently featured works alongside the likes of Serbis. This is typically in the indie movie section alongside the likes of Ekstra, so take that as you will.

This is yet another queer movie starring Coco Martin when he was doing a heck of a lot of queer indie work in order to get noticed for other stuff. I think the last review I wrote for one of his movies was the indie feature Daybreak or something. I'm not exactly a fan, but you can't help but notice his pink body of work.

Is that even a thing? I didn't know how else to phrase that. Oh fun stuff.

Synopsis: Masahista is a 2005 drama movie written and directed by Brillante Mendoza. This movie actually has awards, so that's something, right?

Iliac (Coco Martin) is a young masseur working in a somewhat seedy spa that caters to male clients. He was obviously hired based on his good looks as this endears clients to him sooner and gives him more opportunities to upsell "extra service", akin to the Western concept of "happy endings". We follow his sessions with a particular client as juxtaposed against his trip back home to Pampanga to deal with the death of his father.

Iliac is a straight man with a gift friend and is a typical example of the sort of guys who get into the male sex work industry. What he does at the spa is strictly about the money and is not something that he takes with him when he leaves the spa to meet his girlfriend or when he goes home to his province to be with his family. And how he and other masseurs try to balance the dichotomy of their lives is really what drive the movie's narrative.

What I Liked: As weird as the role is, Coco Martin is rather endearing her and he manages to convey his role as a sort of earnest, well-meaning young man in a difficult situation. You feel him genuinely trying to engage his customers on a somewhat more personal level if only to get them to lower their defenses and allow him to help them in his own way. In that sense Iliac is obviously the most developed character in the movie.

And given the time the movie was released, it was rather daring to discuss subject matter of this nature. Exploring the lives of these masseurs / sex workers to some degree.Now a lot of the stuff cited feel like exaggerations of stereotypes now that I've actually encountered masseurs of this nature, but I can totally understand how such aspects made for a good movie.

What Could Have Been Better: The story is so slice of life to the point of it feeling like it didn't really accomplish anything. We just get a limited view of Iliac as the masseur during his session and then some silent flashes of his life outside the spa. But the bulk of the time was invested in indulging in a fair amount of soft porn quality massage scenes that didn't really add all that much to the show.

There were also a number of odd narrative decisions that I didn't quite get. The best example of this remains to be the masseur who managed to give himself an asthma attack after using too much powder on his client. It's such a distinct and memorable scene but it doesn't really do much to "say" anything about the masseur life nor does it build up his character or provide further context for Iliac. It's just something that happens in the movie for no clear reason. And this is not the only bit in the story that feels like this.

TL;DR: Masahista is a quirky film that isn't quite bad but it's final message isn't all that clear either. If anything it feels like the usual sort of poverty porn flick we see over and over again but dressed in the whole spa masseur mystique. Thus the movie only gets 3 unusual massage maneuvers out of a possible 5.


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