Nov 9, 2012

[Movies] Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay (2011)

The informal game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon has become quite the source of entertainment for many movie buffs given the sheer number of films that Bacon has participated in. Of course when you think about it, the game more likely works based on the overall premise that you can connect almost any two people on the planet through six degrees of separation, as far as the theory goes. And heck, you can even run a bacon number search on Google these days.

With respect to Philippine cinema, there are probably quite a number of actors and actresses who could be the local equivalent of Kevin Bacon. With respect to this movie review however, our attention is directed towards the lesser known Lilia Cuntapay as a prime candidate for the "role." And with at least 42 movie and TV acting credits to her name (as per IMDb), this may very well be true.

Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay was a Cinema One Original that had debuted last year. For one reason or another, I had been unable to catch the movie then, but thankfully a limited repeat run ran for Halloween this year, and thus this review. And I know I hardly watch local movies, so you can understand the value I entrusted into this particular film given I made the effort to actually see it in a theater.

And in case you were wondering, Kevin Bacon has at least 75 acting credits as of the time of this post, so 42 is definitely not a bad number for Lilia! Although as I search further, the likes of Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor have a whopping 219 and 183 credits respectively - SCARY.

Synopsis: Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay is a 2011 mockumentary comedy movie written and directed by Antoinette Jadone. The movie was part of the Cinema One Originals film festival in 2011 and won all 6 awards that it had been nominated for including a Best Actress credit for Lilia Cuntapay.

The movie is presented as a documentary being conducted on the life of Lilia Cuntapay (she plays herself) - a popular bit-player among various horror movies due to the fact that she does rather resemble a witch / hag / ghoul. At the start of the film we learn that she has been nominated as Best Supporting Actress for by some fictional award body and thus we follow her around as she goes through her routine and prepares for the awards night.

Over the course of the movie we get to experience her less than ideal living conditions, meet her quirky support network who help her secure acting jobs and such and learn more about her personal life. This includes the fact that she appears to be somewhat estranged from her daughter, who lives in the US. The various scenes of her life are interspersed with various iterations of Lilia trying out various acceptances speeches in her head as the awards night draws ever so closer.

Now we first need to address the mockumentary aspect before anything else. Beyond the fictional award giving body, the movie is shot in a manner that will really make you think this is a 100% accurate real-life documentary. This is a good and a bad thing since it may send the wrong impression to viewers in terms of what this is really all about. The lines between fact and fiction are inevitably blurred thus we don't know which parts of the movie are true and which parts were just put in for artistic purposes. That annoyed me a bit and Tobie and I spent a fair amount of time talking about why the movie didn't work in this regard. As much as the mockumentary format is an accepted approach for filmmaking, it is key to have those moments when the events depicted clearly stress the break from reality, thus helping the audience frame things properly. Something as basic as claiming that she's scheduled to shoot Shake, Rattle and Roll #25 would have worked, if only to provide that reminder that this is still a fictional story. I'll admit that I only fully realized it was a work of fiction when the credits rolled at the end.

And with that out of the way, let's discuss the movie proper.

On the whole, it is clear that Antoinette Jadone had a clear purpose in mind when putting this movie together - she wanted the world to know who Lilia Cuntapay is. And in that regard, one has to give her a lot of credit since the movie truly helped make her name a lot more familiar. Yes, I know that since I don't want many local movies, but I doubt even the average Filipino movie-goer truly knew who she was before this movie. We all remember her face or vaguely remember being surprised to see her pop out of the darkness in some movie, but in the end her name probably escaped most people's memories.

Thus the movie in itself becomes a unique vehicle for promoting her and making her a lot more memorable to all of us. Sure, we have the whole premise behind an awards night and the many different versions of her acceptance speech that we bear witness to over and over again for starters. But we also get to see her in her element as a struggling bit player, although again we're never sure which parts are fictional and which parts are real. But despite the potential for exaggeration here and there, at the end of the day it's safe to assume that it's unlikely that Lilia is rolling in money IRL and probably has quite the challenge getting work, period.

The movie is very entertaining and Lilia is blessed with a wide variety of one-liners that really helps things along. But beyond the comedy, there's inevitably that greater sense of sadness for her being ignored time and time again given the fact she only plays rather small roles in all these movies. So it does become rather difficult to fully appreciate the humor in things since the movie is tempered with that sense of sad reality about it as well. And I suppose that's something that is almost automatic in a lot of documentary features, especially the types of movies Filipino filmmakers tend to come up with.

And I really wish that we had spent more time playing Six Degrees of Lilia Cuntapay across the movie. And in seriously, it's a great concept and I was disappointed it was not more of a central theme in things.

Dropping the whole focus on this being a mockumentary and all and you're left with a very good movie. The director had a story that she wanted to tell and she managed to do this in a manner that was creative and entertaining on a number of levels. And at the end of the day, you walk away from the movie knowing full well who Lilia Cuntapay is and what her value in the industry truly is.

Six Degrees of Separation of Lilia Cuntapay is one of those rare movies that really strikes a chord across a wide range of viewers for a variety of reasons. Through the combination of wit, humor and some pretty crazy potential speeches, the writer-director makes sure that we all walk away with a better appreciation for the singular talent that is Lilia Cuntapay. And thus I rate the movie 4 Lilia Cuntapay zingers out of a possible 5.

In  the movie, we are presented with the scenario that Lilia Cuntapay has a Bacon Number of 4:

  • Lilia Cuntapay was in Brokedown Palace with Claire Danes
  • Claire Danes was in Romeo + Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Leonardo DiCaprio was in The Departed with Jack Nicholson
  • Jack Nicholson was in A Few Good Men with Kevin Bacon.
Personally I came up with an alternate path with Meryl Streep in The River Wild that yields a Bacon Number of 3, but The Oracle of Bacon presents a much simpler analysis and a Bacon Number of 2:

My Bacon Number Path:

  • Lilia Cuntapay was in Brokedown Palace with Claire Danes
  • Claire Danes was in Evening with Meryl Streep
  • Meryl Streep was in The River Wild with Kevin Bacon.
From The Oracle of Bacon:
  • Lilia Cuntapay starred in Brokedown Palace with Sahajak Boonthanakit
  • Sahajak Boonthanakit starred in Elephant White with Kevin Bacon.

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  1. I have yet to watch this by Lilia Cuntapay has really been effective in the horror genre.

  2. Hope you get a chance to see it sometime! It's a pretty good movie.