Review by Vives Anunciacion
Direction, Editing and Animation by Ellen Ramos and Paolo Villaluna
Written by Jon Red and Paolo Villaluna
Starring Yul Servo, JC Parker
R18/ 117 minutes
Adult content and themes
Hunger pangs of different sorts illustrate the struggling painter’s desires in this adult period drama about passions and palettes.
Ilusyon stars Yul Servo as provincianic Miguel. He visits his starving artist of a father Pablo (played by digital movie favorite Ronnie Lazaro) at his humble home in Manila only to discover that Pablo has ventured on his own soul searching following the death of his wife and Miguel’s mother. Miguel stays in Manila and takes a painter’s job – house painting that is.
Miguel meets Stella (JC Parker) one humid day in 1958. Stella is a nude model scheduled for a painting session with Miguel’s father. Instantly infatuated with the lady in red, Miguel assumes his father’s identity and pretends to be a portrait artist. Meanwhile, Stella develops deeper feelings for Miguel, who hides his chicken scratch from Stella however he can.
When Stella develops a skin disease, their attractions begin to fade. Miguel the inexperienced artist begins to lose his intense feelings with his muse, while the cold shoulder turns Stella away from the moody “artist”. Eventually Stella discovers Miguel’s true identity and the breakup becomes final. But Stella has more reasons to flee from Miguel, and she vanishes without a trace.
Miguel tries to look for Stella, and when he does, he doesn’t. Let’s say the movie enjoys double-meanings.
Ilusyon is the first movie to get an “A” from the Cinema Evaluation Board since La Visa Loca and Santa Santita and only the first digital and the first R-rated feature to receive the said rating. Ilusyon actually deserves the merit.
While it doesn’t have the ingredients of a mass-market Pinoy film Ilusyon offers a few new approaches worthy to be seen by most viewers. Let’s just say the movie has no intents to entertain in the usual sense.
Decidedly stylized and obsessively designed (almost screaming 1958), Ilusyon has very warm tones and textures reminiscent of 60s and 70s movies, with visual reminders of Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love and Taymor’s Frida. Music varies from fiery strings to canned songs, sometimes the scenes feel unnatural and overwrought, sometimes incredibly depressing. The movie could have been shorter too. As with recent Viva releases there are mandatory love scenes, Ilusyon however successfully makes these tasteful. Performances are generally acceptable, with Anita Linda’s cameo as the most intense short performance in recent years.
Ilusyon’s triumph comes from its earnest portrayal of an artist as a lover and a son. There are few Pinoy movies that present an artist’s temperament, let alone his angst and frustrations. Ilusyon illustrates these and more. Ilusyon’s other side paints a dull culture unappreciative of artists and disrespectful of the arts.