‘Ang Babae sa Sunset Boulevard’ | Inquirer Entertainment
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‘Ang Babae sa Sunset Boulevard’

By: - Columnist
/ 07:41 PM November 17, 2011

EUGENE (right) with producer Joji Alonso at the well-received screening of “The Woman in the Septic Tank” in LA last Monday. RUBEN NEPALES

LOS ANGELES—Ever since we watched “The Woman in the (Ang Babae Sa) Septic Tank,” director Marlon Rivera and writer Chris Martinez’s smart Philippine entry to the Oscar and Golden Globe best foreign film races, the running joke in our household has been lead star Eugene Domingo’s question: “Direk, ano’ng order ninyo? (Director, what’s your order?)”

We come up with various improvised answers that riff on Eugene’s hilarious demonstrations of her three acting style menu options—“elevator,” “as is, where is” and “TV Patrol.” You have to see the film so you can savor this scene and Eugene’s comic genius.


When “Septic Tank” had its official screening for Golden Globe consideration last Monday evening at the Sunset Screening Room, we didn’t pass up the chance to watch the film again.


The second viewing confirmed our initial reaction that “Septic Tank” is the most appealing, enjoyable entry the Philippines has fielded in recent years.

Eugene and producer Joji Alonso graced the screening. More on them later in this column.

Satirizing Pinoy indies

“Septic Tank” benefits greatly from Chris’ witty script which satirizes the type of Filipino indie films, seemingly favored by Western film festivals, that shows the poverty and squalor in Manila’s slums. Just think about how many times you’ve seen those scenes via brisk walks or chases through shanties—a cliché that “Septic Tank” indulges in.

Chris’ dialogue is never dull, especially in the exchange between director Rainier (Kean Cipriano) and producer Bingbong (JM de Guzman), as they plot to make “Walang Wala (With Nothing),” the ultimate “pang-festival” movie, their vision of a misery film that would excite festival programmers. “The shakier the camera, the better!” Rainier suggests to Bingbong.

As these two young, hip filmmakers talk on their way to see the lead star in her all-white mansion or to a prospective location shoot, their production assistant Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) sits in the back of the car, reacting eagerly but wordlessly to the conversation. Cai, using only her eyes, is a delight to watch although JM and Kean are perfectly cast, too.


There’s a delicious, sharply observed coffee shop scene in which filmmaker Arthur Poongbato (Jonathan Tadioan) and his entourage, just arrived from the Venice Film Festival, join Rainier, Bingbong and Jocelyn.

Missing ‘expresso’

Arthur, loudly expressing how he misses the “expresso” he savored in Italy and claiming to be still jet-lagged, brags about his film being accepted in numerous international film

QUITE A JOURNEY. Eugene Domingo, from the “Septic Tank” to Hollywood!

festivals, including obscure ones. He does not even know where some of these festival locations are. Arthur even boasts about a favorable review on twitch.com.

The film kicks into higher gear when Rainier, Bingbong and Jocelyn visit Eugene (brilliantly lampooning herself) to find out if she is accepting the role of Mila—an impoverished mother of seven who sells one of her kids to a foreign pedophile.

Earlier, we see Eugene as Mila making soup for the brood with one packet of instant noodles, a scene visualized by Rainier and Bingbong while they argue over their final choice for the role, which includes two other actresses (Cherry Pie Picache and Mercedes Cabral, who are also shown doing the same scene—a witty conceit).

Rainier and Bingbong also consider if their film should be a “docu-drama,” using real people in the slums. In this grittier alternative, the actress playing a real mom is a delight, threatening to throw a pail of water on the crew tailing her.

The filmmakers eventually agree to cast Eugene, who greets them wearing a cape as she descends on the stairs in her huge house, a stark contrast to the shanties we see earlier. In this sequence, Eugene commands the screen with her “show biz na show biz” demeanor as she first praises Rainier and his script, asks him what his acting style order is (he goes for “as is, where is,” of course) and then makes ego-driven script revision “comments.” In a later scene, before a crucial take, Eugene compliments her “direk” for the rushes she saw by tapping her feet excitedly. It’s a performance that makes us want to see her previous films.

Kudos to Marlon for directing this inventive comedy, for pulling off what probably sounds at first like a strange idea on a script—why, there’s even an extended song and dance number that includes a foreign pedophile. Marlon somehow manages to draw humor and keep us interested amid this weird mix.

Realistic performance

Also one of Marlon’s biggest achievements is his cast’s performance, which is realistic. Definitely as is, where is. In some of her scenes as Mila, Eugene is required to be melodramatic,of course, including scenes where she sends up clichéd acting—a single tear falling at the perfect moment or when she

momentarily turns her back from her child, for that tear-jerking pause.

The audience lapped up all the humor, laughing especially when Eugene demonstrates her three acting style options. There was applause as the credits rolled.

Earlier, Eugene and Joji, who flew from Manila for the event, were introduced and made brief remarks about their little film. After the screening, the crowd congratulated the two women. The irony wasn’t lost on them. Their film lampooning movies made with an eye toward being accepted in film festivals is now taking them to various film festivals.

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E-mail the columnist at [email protected]. Follow him at https://twitter.com/nepalesruben.

TAGS: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, cinema, Entertainment, Golden Globe, Independent Films

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