Serbis (Service). 2008. Philippines. Directed by Brillante Mendoza. With Jaclyn Jose, Gina Pareño, Coco Martin, Julio Diaz, Kristoffer King, Mercedes Cabral. In Filipino; English subtitles. 87 min.
Bedmates, Frolic in the Water, and Young Screw Pine are some of the pornographic titles screened in a dilapidated Art Deco movie theater incongruously named “Family.” Family-friendly it most certainly is not, but it is family run. Members of the extended Pineda family operate the concession stand, sell tickets, project films, and paint old-fashioned movie billboards. Art imitates life and vice versa; there’s no shortage of lust, sex, flirt, and adultery both on and off screen. The handheld camera follows characters up and down stairs and through hallways to reveal secrets and dramas, while male prostitutes are seen offering moviegoers “service” in semi-dark spaces. Compared to Tsai Ming-Liang’s nostalgic, emotionally distant Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003)—also about an old movie theater with a gay subculture—Service is the in-your-face counterpart, dealing with spiritual crises of the moment. It’s also the first Cannes competition entry from Brillante Mendoza, who has since become a regular at the festival.