Saturday, May 31, 2008

Moments of Love: Caller Waiting

Moments of Love: Caller Waiting
by Jason P. Jacobo

While the title of the film can only promise the most prosaic of romanticist longings, the premise does fulfill a formidable romantic requisite: the possibility of transcendent love in a limited instance of longing. In the case of the lovers in the film, it is time, real time, that distantiates. Divina is from 1957 (Iza Calzado), while Marco (Dingdong Dantes) is in 2006. But however rehearsed its star-crossed love theme is, Moments of Love manages to offer surprising alternatives beyond its purported intertexts—the classic Somewhere In Time (USA, 1980) and the vanguard Sky of Love (Hong Kong, 2003)—by using the telephone as the medium by which love’s call is transmitted, that is, relayed, heard, and hopefully, answered.

What can be more tragic than lovers being in separate times? Can an encounter be possible between the present and its past? This is where the telephone becomes a “time machine” that makes the two times simultaneous and coexistent, rewiring affairs which normally do not survive the “long-distance.” With this mediation, the romance goes beyond the historical, but chooses to stay histrionic. Love, indeed, is no longer found in the passage of grand signs of affection and commitment. Rather, it is in the details: the curious picking up of an otherwise uninteresting receiver, the shock of hearing a stranger’s voice “out there,” a conversation that leads nowhere but nevertheless lingers. In these little gestures, love is still momentous, however momentary. All because of an “error” in the technology—sound waves can be tense vibrations of messages gone effete, wires function as veins in the circulation of fluid fate.

How the film finally sends out its message is another matter, for it is here where the wires of love cause more electrocution than electricity. At the outset, the screenplay’s decision to make the lovers meet in the present offers prospects for a radical love, which when translated into the filmic imaginary necessitates an encounter between the aged Divina (Gloria Romero) and the youthful Marco. But the film also contrives for the possibility of Marco and another woman (Karylle), whom we discover is Divina’s nubile kin. The second option is of course the right one. And Divina even ministers a laughable turnover rite towards the end. Most problematic in this choice is the text’s fear of itself. This is also one reason why we are saying that Moments of Love is indeed a major romantic film. When its luminous vision finally unfolds, it is denied of a full view, and eventually eclipsed, because the filmmakers realize how terrifying the visuals can be. If Vilma Santos and Aga Muhlach could occupy the same screen in the nineties, or Nora Aunor and Yul Servo last year, why not Romero and Dantes recently?

In this broken promise of a film, Iza Calzado nonetheless fulfills more than what is asked from a beautiful face: a voice that utters its pleas not just across the line, but across the time, of the calling. Between and beyond her deliveries, Calzado achieves nuance: the sense to lend texture to an otherwise flimsy sentence by means of careful phrasing, and the sensing of infinite possibilities for the precise film soundtrack After Aunor, Calzado is the only Philippine actress who knows how to make use of a sparse silence. How? By turning to the solid Gaze. But if Aunor has her stare reciting a defiant madness, Calzado has hers singing of a love that, perched in sweet surrender, waits.

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