In a short program that took place just before the special advance screening of Triptiko at the VIP Cinema of Venice Grand Canal Mall in Taguig City, director Miguel Franco Michelena told the audience that he got his movie’s title from the art term triptych.
Triptych means an artwork in three panels, and Triptiko is a cinematic work made up of three pieces—or a trilogy—that share a few key elements.
For starters, the protagonists in all three pieces are millennial males who belong to the middle and upper-middle classes, speak a good mix of English and Filipino, drive their own cars, and exude an air of self-possession.
In the first part, titled "Swerte," Jake (Albie Casiño) is on cloud nine after a night of hot sex. Then he witnesses a murder, and his world turns upside down, with him ending up face-to-face with the killer.
Next comes the story of Jason (Joseph Marco), a hotshot commercial model, in "Hinog." He wakes up one day with a mysterious skin disease, and when his stringent visits to his derma prove to be futile, he turns to the supernatural.
Finally, in "Musikerong John," the titular character John (Kean Cipriano) returns to the stage after being away for two years. In between playing and singing his original compositions, the heartbreaking reason behind his absence is revealed.
The choice of protagonists doesn’t come as a surprise given the background of Direk Miguel Franco, nicknamed Mico: 31 years old, a literature graduate of De La Salle University, and a protégé of the late great filmmaker Marilou Diaz-Abaya.
It’s a smart move for Direk Mico to have chosen a milieu that he’s most comfortable in for his directorial debut, which he also wrote and edited.
The result is an assertive, well-thought-out, and skillfully executed movie that’s worthy of a Grade A from the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB).
Grade A entitles movie producers—in this case, Direk Mico’s co-owned ventures Michelena Brothers Production and Barrio’s Pictures—to an incentive of 100 percent refund from the amusement tax collected.
Direk Mico also made excellent choices in the actors, from the lead stars to the supporting cast members.
Albie doesn’t seem to be acting at all in his scenes, as he goes from cocky to deflated and helpless.
Joseph, himself a commercial model before he crossed over to showbiz, is particularly effective in the scene where he is forced to take the nasty potion that will help unravel the mystery of his disease.
As a musician in real life, Kean masterfully strums the guitar and sings his heart out—those are really beautiful songs, by the way—but it’s his scenes with his co-lead star, Kylie Padilla, as John’s girlfriend Ann, that really tugs at the heart.
In "Swerte," Albie gets ample and able support from Cris Michelena and Jerald Napoles, who both play cops. Guess who’s good and who’s bad?
Cris, a veteran actor who happens to be Direk Mico’s uncle, is expectedly convincing in his role.
On the other hand, Jerald, who’s best known for his delightful Tolits character in the hit stage musical Rak of Aegis and for his exuberant participation in the musical-comedy noontime show Sunday PinaSaya, is quite a revelation in this action-packed episode.
In "Hinog," Joseph has the support of seasoned actors Pinky Amador as his dermatologist and Art Acuña as the medicine man, or shaman.
Art nearly steals the show, but Joseph is able to hold his own, and, frankly, the spotlight is on that nasty potion.
In "Musikerong John," Kean lets Kylie shine. Her lovely face lights up the screen as her emotions—ranging from happy and in love to mentally deranged and emotionally disconnected—send the corresponding feelings to the audience.
(As an aside, the production shot Musikerong John while Kylie was still playing Amihan in the fantasy TV series Encantadia and before she got pregnant with her and her fiance Aljur Abrenica’s child—a boy born last August 4.)
Plus points include the nearly flawless editing, particularly in "Swerte," and the crisp sound, especially in "Musikerong John."
As a whole, Triptiko is an engaging movie that will keep you from reaching for your phone and taking a peek at your texts and social media feeds. It also gives insights into the minds of millennial dudes that are in many ways not so different from the rest of the populace.
However, Direk Mico could have devised a way or ways to connect all three parts to either make a smooth transition from one story to another or create one full-length movie instead of three stand-alone mini-movies.
This way, the theme—Minsan ang buhay, medyo weird—will be better felt and understood.
Maybe for his next project?
Triptiko is part of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. Graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board, the film is being shown nationwide from August 16-22, 2017.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.