No Respite by Eileen Legaspi Ramirez
Beinte Singko Mil Productions's Last Supper No. 3 lines up alongside the plethora of Filipino films that frame social malaise amidst a farcical justice system. Other films that easily come to mind are undeniably weightier tomes such as Parola,Correctional, Mga Bulaklak sa City Jail, Angela Markado and the three Flor Contemplacion-referencing films of the late ‘90s. Apart from the dramatic genre, dysfunctional justice has similarly enabled such action-slasher potboilers like theAnak ni Baby Ama franchise and Carlo Caparas’s pseudo-social commentaries mining high-profile cases from court dockets brimming with tales of judicious mishandling. In many ways, getting injustice unto film is very old hat. That writers Veronica Velasco and Jinky Laurel opt to foist a laugh track unto Last Supper No. 3, with its darkly humorous slant, was their novel contribution to an otherwise tired story.
The film hinges upon how a middling production designer attempts to extract himself from a work-related faux pas set off by a run of the mill production about canned meat that supposedly immobilizes the consumer’s capacity to remember what’s just been said or thought. As shooting proceeds, Wilson Naniawa loses a borrowed prop (a kitschy Last Supper wall hanging passed over amidst a bevy of hopefuls sourced from an urban hood). Naniawa and his production assistant are taken to task—first through the barangay conciliation panel and ultimately all the way through the civil and then criminal courts.
Outrightly marketed as comedy, Last Supper No. 3 quickly disabuses viewers of the notion that any film traipsing around social themes is undeniably bidding for critical heft. In truth, Naniawa makes no play for bigger issues—all he seems to want is to keep at a job which he apparently takes pride in even if demands something as banal as twirling toothpaste on a brush so that it preens photogenically in the interest of ad copy infamy.
Having established very early on that this is indeed a film of unheroic ambitions, we are taken through the tragic-comic ride that Naniawa is made to submit himself to in exchange for getting on with life as he simplistically envisions it. Expectedly, he grins and bears all that is thrown his way—from street-smart adversaries egged on by an action junkie cop, untransmitted and thus unrecognized settlements, flooded out premises, hearing postponements, menacingly compounding lawyer appearance fees, overeager court translators, to his own botched albeit rehearsed testimony. In the end, after having dragged himself through several adjutants who either die on him, are on the take, or clearly more interested in matters external to resolving his plight, our lead Naniawa, makes the grand yet still token gesture, exasperatedly doing harm upon that deadening instrument of mass media (his aunt’s TV set) which his trade symbolically and literally feeds upon, and through which his daily pandering of superficiality blasts from. Fully implicating himself in this sordid dis-order of things, Naniawa resignedly embodies how middle class comeuppance makes for null triumph in and out of the courts.
And this then ultimately brings us to ask–who is laughing at whom in this slick, if at times still slapstick, 'true-to-life’ romp through the alienated and alienating halls of Philippine justice? Given that even the supposed survivor of this misadventure, the anti-hero Naniawa, openly expresses how he finds his victory hollow–the discomfort giving way to pity for his adversaries who’d sought to even the odds their way–who does in fact, get the last laugh here? Very much like the absurdist instances of unwelcome reprieve in the judicial process, and the mental pauses visited upon the film’s memory-disabled eaters of Argentina corned beef, there is still only, merely fleeting relief in Last Supper No. 3 for cravings rumbling from a still largely unsatiated gut.
Photo credit: Last Supper No. 3 on Facebook