Review: Erik Matti's RIGODON Tackles A Sensational Subject With Careful Realism

Erik Matti's Rigodon, unlike the many infidelity films that have plagued local theaters in the Philippines, eschews glamour for grit. Its sex scenes do not have the luscious lighting or the saccharine scoring of the various romantic sequences of its more audience-friendly kin. Instead, the sex is sweaty, raunchy, awkward, and set in either the most ordinary or uncomfortable of locations.

Still reeling from a failed relationship, Sarah (Yam Concepcion) is desperate for a boyfriend who would both please her and her overbearing father. She meets Riki (John James Uy), a reality show contestant who can never seem to convert his erstwhile exposure to bankable fame, in a party. The two hit it off, developing a relationship that sates both Sarah's needs and Riki's desire for attention. However, Riki is already married, to severely domesticated Regine (Max Eigenmann), whose only diversion from mother duties is cupcake-baking.

The plot is hardly novel. It expectedly cautions against the entanglements caused by illicit relationships. Matti, however, does not treat infidelity as the ailment that stains perfect individuals and their perfect relationships. The infidelity in Rigodon is but a symptom of a deeper ill, of the gnawing imperfections of the contorted characters Matti concocts for inevitable tragedy.

The characters are all flawed, but never to the point of caricature. They do not beg to be laughed at and ridiculed, but to be pitied, or perhaps loathed. Yet, the characters' flaws never feel contrived. Their flaws are but repercussions of a society that seems bereft of moral order, one that is sustained by the jaded equity displayed by Angeline Kanapi's enigmatic and cruel loan shark, whose near-schizophrenic processes with both her clients and her paraplegic father appears to be the philosophy of the world the film is set in.

The eroticism that is unabashedly displayed in Rigodon, while admittedly a product of capitalistic forces, is not treated carelessly. It is laced with the baggage of guilt and discomfort that are evoked by the characters' acts of sexual folly and their disastrous repercussions. Its ending, a masterfully crafted long take that exposes the fresh wounds of an embattled relationship from both the perspective of the impulsively vengeful wife and the belatedly apologetic husband, sums up the degree of maturity Matti decides to tackle the dangerously commercialized theme of infidelity with. 

(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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