There is a certain level of expectation that comes from releasing an All-Masters Edition kind of festival. The name itself implies that audiences should expect the film entries to be superior or at least at par with the growing number of good movies that are presented in other festivals that cater to independent films like the Cinemalaya.
As mentioned during the press conference for the event, the directors who were invited to the National Film Festival have already proven themselves in the industry and have nothing left to prove. I think this was licence for some, like Elwood Perez, to go do something that crossed the line from odd to just plain unwatchable.
Of course, my opinion may be different if I am not overly familiar with majority of the actors that were utilized for the film. It just so happened that I have closely followed the Philippine Stagers Foundation (all members of which had a moment of two in the film) for over three years and four stage performances.
Recycled elements of previous works of Vince Tañada, who also starred and wrote the script for OTSO, were scattered all over the movie like little breadcrumbs leading to familiar territory. The relationship of Lex (Tañada) and his neighbor's kid was plucked straight out of Cory ng Edsa and Joe the Musical along with the self-indulgent moments of the lead actor and the overly done banter among the supporting characters. That dramatically shot sex scene that involved a man, his crippled wife, Tanada and the mysterious Sabina (Azerreda) was reminiscent of Tañada's recent work, Ang Bangkay.
These elements - along with their all too familiar brand of stage acting were meshed together on a ride of Lex's troubled mind - creating a confusing world where the line between reality and imagination was not only blurred, it was completely obliterated.
As the film was capped with strange but effective performances by Anita Linda and Vangie Labalan, it opened up more questions of whether the rest of the cast acted badly for a reason or if this is just a rough transition from stage to film. It is of course hard to tell when you have seen them trying to do good - acting the exact same way before.
While it is ultimately easier to just call the film avant-garde, I think OTSO went a few notches over and just went straight to an Ed Wood level of film-making. I think there could be a better vehicle for these stage actors to penetrate the movies, I am just not convinced that OTSO is that movie.