Last Full Show
Alvin S. Concha, M.D.
Filipino love story movies are notoriously lengthy, but this one was able to depict a romantic relationship in a relatively short time. A couple of comments on this film in YouTube talk about the shortness of the film. I am of the belief that, in 18 minutes, filmmaker Mark V. Reyes has already succeeded in laying down the emotional and political aims of this movie, Last Full Show(2005). Set in Manila, the film follows the sexuality exploration of Crispin, a rich teenaged boy who goes to school with a chauffeur. In a dark old movie house frequented by men who seek out sex with other men, thirty-something Gardo, a regular in the place, approaches Crispin, who has managed to enter the theatre unaccompanied by the chauffeur. In a very short time after they meet, the two passionately kiss each other on the lips, the kiss being the film maker’s rendering of the start of a sexual relationship.
What follows are cinematic sequences which portray Crispin and Gardo’s affair, so carefully edited as to weave a romantic love story at one level and to suggest a steamy sexual liaison at another. films for social change review
The blossoming bond is severely opposed by Jess, Gardo’s friend, who points out that the situation might lead to the detriment of Crispin’s studies and that the relationship is something that might cause Gardo to end up in jail, Crispin being a minor. Gardo doesn’t want to listen to any of Jess’s warnings. Crispin, on the other hand, manifests profound love by filling a wide corkboard in his room with movie tickets, presumably those which he bought for his trysts with Gardo. Another picturesque sequence shows the lovers enjoying an airy ride while hanging from the back of a jeepney. After the ride, Crispin agrees with Gardo that riding a jeepney is fun and that he doesn’t need a chauffeured car anymore.
As the relationship intensifies, Crispin gives Gardo a precious necklace, a family heirloom. When Bert, Crispin’s suspecting chauffer, learns about the gift, he cunningly intervenes, one night, by preventing Gardo from going inside the movie house where Crispin desperately waits for his lover. The film closes with a sequence trailing Crispin getting out of the movie house after waiting for Gardo to no avail. ‘I want to go home,’ Crispin tells Bert. The very last scene shows a striking radiance produced by the front lights of Crispin’s car.
The liberal use of verbal and visual metaphors helps in deriving multiple meanings from the movie’s sequences. In the film, ‘dance’ is used to suggest sex. ‘Soup’ is used to refer to the soup that Crispin and Gardo are having at their favorite restaurant, and to the body fluids they exchange during sex. Similarly, a cock-fighting scene can be taken as it is or, because the conversational context of the scene is right after Gardo and Crispin were supposed to have sex, can be read as a metaphor for male-male sex, ‘cock-to-cock’, as it were.
There have been many depictions of male-male relationships within Filipino movies before, which are of the comedy genre. It is common, for instance, to watch a sequence wherein a father slaps his son’s butt or pinches his ear after catching the son flirting with another boy. With the son letting out an exaggerated scream of pain and a musical score that lends a side-splitting mood to the scene, the father’s moralising manoeuvres over his son’s sexuality are successfully delivered for the spectators to easily shelve as just another slapstick rendition within the movie. The audience is almost always compelled to laugh, allowing the scene a non-confrontational way of presenting male-male sexual attraction and dismissing the grim issue of external forces intervening in personal desires. But Last Full Show is set in a serious mood. This is one of very few Filipino films that deal with the intricacies of male-male love in a rather demanding way. The audience has to confront the issues without taking them lightly.
The first few sequences of the film illustrate Bert’s role in Crispin’s life. He not only chauffeurs Crispin, but also stands as the boy’s physical (and, eventually, moral) guardian. Bert’s sly intervention during the film’s climax, therefore, serves as a metaphor for heterosexist society that constantly tries to police ‘non-conforming’ sexual relationships. There was no actual confrontation between Crispin and Bert, and yet Crispin felt so uneasy, and guilty, after the driver intervened in the relationship.
One wonders whether the conclusion can be read in different ways. For one, Bert, who takes on a heterosexist deportment was depicted as a devious antagonist, especially during his confrontation with Gardo. In a sense, the film also effectively demonises the heterosexist and ekes out a subversive stance of celebrating male-male love.
And so, despite putting up a climactic sequence that emphasises Bert’s adamant efforts at ending the relationship, Reyes leaves us with generous space to create several closures from which we may choose. At face value, ‘I want to go home’ may signify Crispin’s self-policing: ‘I give up and I want to go back to my old hetero-normative, anti-paedophilic standards of affection’. Yet, considering the foreshadowed room of Crispin, where he keeps a corkboardful of movie tickets, ‘I want to go home’ may also mean ‘I want to return to where I can muse over positive emotions, in my room, which is a haven of everything that reminds me of my love for Gardo’. Furthermore, bearing in mind the poignant image of a very bright light (metaphor for a ‘bright idea’) during the last few seconds of the film, the ending may also mean ‘I want to go home… Hmmm, I have an idea: I will take the jeepney next time.’
The last sequence ultimately highlights Reyes’ genius, as well as his authentic trust for the film spectators to derive their own meanings out of the film, as if to say: ‘Choose your own politics’.
Alvin Concha is a medical doctor specialising in Family and Community Medicine. He works in Davao Regional Hospital in the Philippines as a clinical and research consultant. He also heads the Human Resources and Training Unit of the same hospital. He is currently completing a Master’s course in Applied Social Research, Major in Gender Studies.