Rub Down in Manila
“The Masseur” (Picture This Entertainment) finally makes it to DVD after having been on the festival circuit for two years. Illiac is a twenty year old masseur in Manila and considered to be the best there is. He works in a gay massage parlor where a massage is considered good when the massage ends in sex. Good sex is what defines a good massage. Illiac loves his job and is very happy at the massage parlor. Everything is going well for him until his father from whom he has been estranged and is a total philanderer, becomes very seriously ill. Familial duty causes Illiac to return to his home village but he does not make it on time to give his final farewell to his father His father died before he got there and when he arrives, his family is preparing for the funeral. Illiac begins to realize that he must reconcile his life as a worker in the sex industry with his role as a son and a brother.
The film is shot as cinema verite and is a beauty to watch. Coco Martin as Illiac shows great intensity and amazing talent for a first time actor.
Even with the graininess and jerkiness of the film it is an amazing look at gay life in the Philippines. It is a drama that is serious and portrays what the poor of Manila do to get ahead, Illiac, even though he as a girlfriend is in constant contact with the male clients that he services as a masseur cum prostitute. The death of his father shows why he became involved in the sex trade; he needed to help support his family. Illiac is in a quandary when his father dies as he has ties to work, his family, his girlfriend and his one main client who continuously returns to him for more.
This is a very strong look at survival and shows the real life of a young masseur. The challenges that Iliac faces are very real and very hard. Made n a small budget, the movie realistically shows the way one young man struggles to survive poverty by using his sexual charms. It has the look of a documentary and it completely engages the viewer. One scene that shows where Illiac moves from his life as a prostitute to a dutiful son, to preparing his father for burial and back to the massage parlor is particularly moving.
There is a lot going on in the movie and the film is cunning in structure. Temporal unity is destroyed here and several other scenes aside from the one already mentioned are unforgettable. With great depth, this is a daring movie which titillates the viewer with a dark tenderness and a great deal of melodramatic sadness.