MANILA -- It only took a little over two minutes for Jerrold Tarog’s latest masterpiece to receive an X rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
The board gave “Bliss” the dreaded X for its "gratuitous" sex scenes. One of the scenes in question shows a female character masturbating, half naked, in front of a mirror. There were also other scenes showing full frontal nudity that were interspersed all throughout the film.
"Bliss" revolves around the character of Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado), an actress on the verge of burnout. This prompts her to produce a film to boost her chances of winning an award but which only results in her literal downfall.
That's because Jane figures in an accident in the middle of a 30-hour shoot. The accident has left her paralyzed and she becomes "trapped" inside a house with her husband, Carlo (TJ Trinidad) and a nurse, Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara).
She wakes up everyday to the same scene, looking up at a smoke detector. Carlo would serve her breakfast, leaving only after asking her to sign a check to buy equipment for a restaurant.
All throughout the film, Jane would hear voices and other noise inside the big house. She would often follow the sound, only to wake up as if she was dreaming.
While Jane is trapped inside the house, the other characters go about their business. There’s Lexter Palao (Audie Gemora), the director of Jane’s film, who hopes that she gets better so she can promote her film. There’s also Jane’s mother (Shamaine Buencamino), who also wishes the same thing so she can go on living the life of a stage mother.
The film also shows the backstory of Rose, a nurse wanted by authorities for sexually molesting her patient. It turns out that Rose was in the same audition as Jane when they were younger, but failed to make it into showbiz. She became a nurse, and a fan of Jane.
At some point in Jane’s repetitive life, she becomes confused whether she is living her life or dreaming of a scene from her movie. Her husband Carlo turns into Joshua (Ian Veneracion), and she becomes Abigail.
Calzado’s portrayal of Jane is far from her usual roles on film and television. She was able to effectively play the role of an actress trapped in her own world. It is not surprising that she was given the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer in the 2017 Osaka Asian Film Festival.
But more than Calzado’s outstanding performance, credit should also be given to Vergara for effectively playing the role of the nurse who “tortures” Jane inside the large house she is trapped in.
Tarog may have his own reasons for using nudity in the film, but he could have relayed his message just the same without the full frontal exposure.
Tagged as a psychosexual thriller, "Bliss" contained adult themes like strong language, graphic nudity, sexuality, violence and even drugs but it doesn't deserve to be slapped with an X rating, stripping it of its merit. It highlighted the sins and virtues of the film industry, and how it affects its actors, whose only goal is to be recognized for what they are truly capable of.
"Bliss" is scheduled to be shown in theaters on May 10. The producers of the film will be submitting an appeal for a second review on Wednesday.