2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (Petersen Vargas, 2016)

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The main character in 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten kept calling himself weirdo. We accepted it without really giving it much thought. I mean labeling himself as such sounded harmless coming from a seemingly upright boy. Geek. Bullied. Khalil Ramos as Felix was your typical high school overachiever who busied himself with solitary acts more than being socially active. He studied and daydreamed instead of choosing to date, drink, and smoke–instead of learning all those forbidden habits generally experienced by growing-up kids tagged as normal. But at the onset, we had a preview of some sort of the latent wickedness of this character whose growth was temporarily set aside to give way first to more comedy, to suck the audience in, to let them enjoy how light and fun and pressured it was to be young, to literally make us live again in a little world called ‘school.’ The movie also included details that would make it somehow historical, the specificity adding a certain ring of fact and truth to it more than merely making it freestand as an account of a tale: details like the 90’s generation’s fascination with imported Japanese superhero TV series and like how cool it was to carry a Walkman, how to rewind the cassette tape with a ball pen, what of an old neighborhood in Pampanga be looking like a few years after being buried in lahar. These details were convincing enough to transport us back into a specific past, yet the movie never looked outdated to alienate us. That little dream party sequence of three high school students, with laser beams and all, was an economical gen Y rave.

Felix opened his ‘core’ while he and his tranferee Fil-Am classmate, his tutee Magnus Snyder, were in front of peace-inducing waters which stream above graveyards created by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. There, Felix somehow self-talked about the force of nature and confessed his secrets. He revealed his cruelty when he said that he felt good witnessing their place being destroyed. He hinted at his homoerotic tendencies when he compared the smoke and explosion to a giant mushroom. But Magnus was not carefully listening.

This story evolved an innocent-looking boy into someone most capable of skinning a kitten alive. The conversion began when he was enmeshed with the lives of the attractive Snyder brothers. Felix emotionally connected with Magnus–and events would make them need each other until his budding love, repressed, became indistinguishable from obsession.
Jason Laxamana’s story was an interesting mix of comedy and a little psychopathy. His written dialogues and conceived narrative were potent and elicited instant responses from the audience: giggles, laughter, shock. Meanwhile, the film’s cinematography was functional, pretty, and symbolic. Some frames made me remember scenes from my favorite movies, which enriched the viewing experience.

This commendable first feature could be Petersen Vargas’s homage to Edward Yang, a twisted shorter little niece (in spirit) of A Brighter Summer Day. Not an avid follower of Petersen’s works, but after seeing recently his short film Last Day and having seen the trailer of Lisyun qng geografia, it made me ask: What’s with young characters wearing school uniforms? Are white polo shirts and khaki or dark pants emblems, a fascination or fixture in the same way Hitchcock had his blondes, an early laying down or building up of an auteur’s stamp? Let’s see what he comes up next.
If his succeeding features come out consistently strong like this, it’s fine nobody should be complaining and making a big fuss out of his preferred themes, if they remain about characters conveniently close to his age moving in a milieu the director is familiar with. Fine too if the school uniform is some type of security blanket, fetish, or lucky charm.

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