The Masseur

The Masseur


Reviewed by: Martin Gray

It's a hard-knock life, working in a gay massage parlour in Manila in the Philippines. Especially if you're meant to be straight. Such is the life of 20-year-old Iliac, torn between his job, his family and his girlfriend.

This film comes to British screens with awards from the Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Locarno International Film Festival but it's hard to see what particular merit the judges saw. For this is a case of gaying by numbers, with a young man having a crap time with his sexuality and the world in general. In this case the grim message is conveyed via alternate scenes showing Iliac and his bitchy colleagues working the punters, and Iliac visiting his family back in the provinces on the occasion of his feckless father's death.

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The massage parlour scenes are tedious, with lots of fey flirting from straight and gay workers alike, and whining from tight-fisted punters. Back in Pampanga ('the provinces') the home scenes see Iliac's nasty family fighting over the funeral ('I'll pump her c*** with formalin if she shows up,' says his charming auntie) and not thinking much of Iliac, despite his taking a rotten job to support his family. And we occasionally see his frankly bonkers girlfriend hanging around outside the parlour, waiting for him to get off-shift and being harassed by the local neds.

There's ambition on view, with a back and forth between Iliac caressing a client and helping to dress his dad, laid out in the morgue, but the sequence is obvious and overlong. And, the actual funeral is epic in length, with people gathering, parading and finally seeing off dad with a pretty lighting display. This is pretty much the only light relief in a film that's a grim, obvious Seventies throwback. I don't doubt the workers in massage parlours have pretty crappy lives but why would anyone want to watch it on the big - and terribly grainy - screen?

Oh, and this has a UK certificate of 15, which is surprising cos there's a long - and decidedly unsexy - buggery sequence.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2007
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A masseur in the Phillippines tries to come to terms with his father's death.
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Director: Brillante Mendoza

Writer: Boots Agnayani Pastor

Starring: Coco Martin, Alan Paule, Jaclyn Jose, Katherine Luna

Year: 2005

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Philippines


London 2006

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