MIGUEL MICHELLE

(DRAMA - FILIMNO)

A forefront films production. (International sales: Forefront Films, Makati City, Philippines.) Produced by Sisenando Singson, Robert Castro, Jr., Jose Cura, Manny Tirona.

Directed by Gil M. Portes, Screenplay: Ricardo Lee. Camera: Mariel Cruz, editor George Jarlego, music: Joy Marfil, production design: Tanny Cruz, sound: Vic Macamy. Reviewed at World Film Festival, Montreal (Cinema of Today), Aug 28, 1998. Running time: 114 MIN.

Miguel / Michelle…….........Romnick Sarmienta
Tinang.....………….... Gloria Diaz
Nano.................…..... Ray Ventura
Sonia............…...….... Mylene Dizon
Fr. Rav.............…...... Gandong Cervantes

BY GODFREY CHESHIRE

Another entry in the lively genre of Third World sex change melodramas, 'Miguel / Michelle" is a bright humanist plea for tolerance for the trans-gendered, especially those with great wardrobes. While its upbeat earnestness will surely have some audiences cackling in places the filmmakers didn't intend, pic's sweet temper and entertaining ingenuousness are sure to win converts at international fests, Particularly the gay or Asian themed.

Miguel (Romnick Sarmienta) is a strapping, optimistic Philippine lad when his family sees him off to the U.S. in the opening scene, bidding him to make lots of money and find a blond girl to marry.

When he returns a few years later, though, the clan is in shock: The glamorous gal he's brought home is himself, created by surgery and cosmetics and renamed Michelle. Still retaining the pleasant, cheerful personality of her former self, the returning daughter wants only to be accepted by her family, friends and neighbors. Naturally, that’s easier requested than attained.

Not only does Michelle elicit stony rejection from her stunned father, as well as hostility from the local machos, but her presence unnerves other characters for different reasons. One former pal, for example, is about to cave into expectations and get married without telling his fiancée he's gay; Michelle throws him into crisis just by showing up.

That pic seemingly regards homosexuality and a male's desire for a sex change as synonymous is, to say the least, curious. Same goes for the fact that Michelle's hormone treatment seems not to be working: Actor Sarmienta, who gives an engaging performance throughout, is clearly.

as muscular and fit as an athlete underneath his chic dresses, which makes Michelle's femininity more a conceit than a convincing reality.

The movie's most fabulous assets are, indeed, those dresses, which prove amazingly abundant. In each scene Michelle has a dazzling new outfit, leaving the viewer to wonder how much of the town's poverty could be eliminated with the liquidation of a fraction of this stunning wardrobe.

P'ic's genial, positive message, however comes through loud and clear. And though helmer Gil M. Portes' pacing may be a tad monotonous, he does a workmanlike job combining pic's colorful look with solid perfs and able technical execution.  

Variety - September 28th 1996
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