Filipino director Brillante Mendozas Serbisis entirely set in and around a candidate for the worlds tawdriest movie theatera dingy hall of mirrors thats hilariously but not inaccurately named the Family. This cavernous bijou is operated as well as inhabited by the Pineda clan, petty bourgeois shopkeepers who exhibit straight porn for a mainly gay male clientele. Hardly the first movie ever made about a movie house, Serbis has affinities with Tsai Ming-liangs Goodbye Dragon Inn (2002) and Jacques Nolots Porn Theater(2003), but its less wistful and more graphic than either. Also more self-reflexive. Surrounded by giant posters of smoldering, barely sarongd hotties, the Pinedas live both at the movies and in one, just as Mendozas film serves to comment on those that are screened. Serbis is just a day in the Familys life: As the boys father preps the concession stands deep-fried treats, another member of the Pineda clan freshens the paint on the gaudy posters of naked pulchritude that decorate the theater, then bandages a boil on his posterior. More outrageous than prurient, Serbis has no shortage of appalling detailsits ideal spectator might be John Waters. But for all its gross-outs, it is an essentially modernist enterprise in which figure and ground, character-driven narrative and celluloid spectacle, are in continual flux. Serbis may be a raunch-fest but its also a mind-tripa raunch-fest with ideas.
Starts: Feb. 20. Daily, 2009