Macho Dancer. 1988. Philippines. Directed by Lino Brocka. Screenplay by Amado Lacuesta, Ricardo Lee. With Daniel Fernando, Allan Paule, William Lorenzo. 35mm. In Tagalog; English subtitles
Lino Brocka balances beefcake with operatic tragedy in this coming of age story about 18-year-old Pol, who leaves his rural hometown for Manila and enters the world of gay nightclubs and sex work. Upon its initial release, many reviews focused on the film’s multiple erotic “macho dancer” routines, which play out in full, but the soul of Macho Dancer is a slow-burning melodrama, rife with vulnerability, male friendship, and interrogations of police corruption and Phillippine government abuses. Macho Dancer wasn’t banned in the Philippines at the time of its release, but it was censored, presumably for both its political and sexual content. Brocka smuggled his uncensored 35mm print out of the country; this print, now in MoMA’s collection, is being screened here.