Thursday, December 1, 2022

Silip (1985)

... aka: Daughter of Eve
... aka: Daughters of Eve
... aka: Deflorazione (Flowers of Virginity)
... aka: Peeping
... aka: Silip: Daughters of Eve

Directed by:
Elwood Perez

In a small, isolated desert village, teacher Tonya (Maria Isabel Lopez), who's been tasked with taking over for a priest who's out of town due to illness, is obsessed with keeping up her squeaky-clean, pure image. She also scores a 10 on the religious fanatic scale. Somewhere along the line, she's been indoctrinated into believing that sexual desire is about the worst thing in the world, and the extreme sexual repression she's suffering from is starting to drive her a little mad. When one of her young students comes to her with news about having her first period, Tonya pulls her aside, informs her that she's now at her most vulnerable to being tempted by Satan and likens a man's penis to a devil's horn. Tonya is so extreme she's off-putting to nearly all of the villagers, who are already pretty draconian with their Catholicism. Some of the adults don't want their kids to go to the chapel to hear her speak or even be around her, and that's no surprise since her form of "teaching" includes hysterical sermons telling the young children they're "buried deep in sin" and referring to them as "slaves to the temptation of the flesh". Even her own grandmother warns her that she needs to back off.

However, Tonya is only human after all. She secretly lusts after macho stud Simon (Mark Joseph), who's kind of an outcast himself and basically the alpha man of the village who takes what he can get until he gets what he really wants. His current side piece, Mona (Myra Manibog), is madly in love with him but she's not the one he's truly interested in. He really has eyes for Tonya. One gets the impression that a great deal of her appeal to him is the fact she's the only woman there that he has no real chance of getting. He hasn't any clue how Tonya actually feels about him. She manages to keep desire at bay by rubbing coarse salt all over her vagina until it bleeds (!) and having children pelt her between the legs with handfuls of sun-scorched sand.

Everything's pretty much business as usual until a surprise visitor arrives: Tonya's long-absent sister, Selda (Sarsi Emmanuelle). Selda grew up there but fled to Manila as a young adult. Now, thanks to life in the big city, she has a modern attitude about sex and relationships and finds the villagers and their customs comical. She's brought along her new boyfriend; an American named Ronald (Daren Craig Johnson), for a vacation and the two waste no time poking fun at the villager's outdated ways. Upon hearing her sister is 22 and still a virgin, Selda gives her an antique charm necklace that she claims will make her irresistible to men. The two discuss what truly drove Selma away in the first place, namely the fact she knew Tonya had a crush on Simon yet she messed around with him, anyway. While they were caught before having a chance to fully consummate their relationship back then, that's something the two waste no time remedying...

After a series of unfortunate events, including Selda and Simon tying Mona up to a pole and having sex right in front of her and Tonya being propositioned and almost sexually assaulted by Ronald, which results in him being banished from the village and her being branded a "filthy harlot," the entire village quickly turns against both sisters. Tonya loses her job, parents forbid their kids from even speaking to her and even her own grandmother gives her the cold shoulder. Things escalate even further from there, with sex in various couplings, jealousy, an accidental death, a decapitation murder and a Salem Witch Trials-like mob of angry, torch-carrying villagers eager to take their ire out on the sisters, whom they're quick to (incorrectly) blame for the deaths.

Silip was made during a brief period in Filipino cinema when martial law was lifted, censorship laws became loosened and movies featuring graphic sex and violence started dominating cinemas. Hey, you can't really blame audiences for wanting to see more after living under a repressive dictatorship for so long, eh? Sex films made during this time were called bold films and, though these were top box office hits, this trend was short lived. What started in 1981 wouldn't even make it to the end of the decade after moral crusaders regained power. As a result, many bold films never made it outside of the country and even fewer film prints have managed to survive long enough to make the transition over to DVD or Blu-ray. Silip is one of the rare few that has, thanks to the fine folks at Mondo Macabro. What certainly helped this particular film's plight is that it was one of the rare Filipino genre films to be screened internationally.

Filled with full frontal nudity (both female and male) and long and fairly graphic soft-core sex scenes (though some of these - like a climactic gang rape scene - are not exactly pleasant), Silip certainly fits the bill of erotic film, yet to merely call it an erotic film is also short-changing it. This is well-made, well-shot and generally well-acted, with striking imagery and excellent location work around breathtaking desert locales. Its themes of sexual and religious repression are intelligently handled, plus it's genuinely shocking at times, starting out with a long, gruesome and hard-to-watch slaughter of a buffalo during the opening credits and ending on a grim, disturbing note. Everything blends together to make this a memorable and one-of-a-kind experience.

The gorgeous and talented Lopez was a former beauty queen who went on to win the title of Miss Philippines in 1982. When it was discovered that she did some lingerie modeling prior, she was pressured to give up her crown but refused. After her reign concluded, she then shocked everyone again by becoming a sex film star. Despite being older than most of the other bold actresses ("older" being a relative term here as she was only in her mid 20s), she became a major box office draw and one of the top stars of these kind of films. Not only that, but she also had some international exposure, netting work for Chinese, French, Italian and American producers making movies in the Philippines. Lopez then defied the odds again by becoming a critically acclaimed and award-winning actress in her later years. In 2011, she added reality TV star to her list of accomplishments, appearing alongside her actress daughter Mara Lopez on Survivor Philippines. And she's still busy to this day.

The other selling points here were Emmanuelle and Manibog, who were two members of Rey Dela Cruz's heavily-promoted "Softdrink Beauties". Both receive adequate screen time (and exposure) here, though they aren't bad actresses either. Joseph, who does just as much nudity as the ladies, was known at the time for being the top male bold film star. Many of these films, though not all, actually featured unsimulated sex being performed by the actors. Though the more explicit shots were removed from theatrical prints, sometimes they were later spliced back in for the home video release. Hardcore sex footage featuring both Joseph and Manibog has surfaced, though I'm not sure if any exists featuring Lopez or Emmanuelle. Lopez insists her sex scenes were always simulated.

In addition to its theatrical release in its home country, this was screened at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1985. I could only find evidence of two VHS releases in the 80s; one in Greece on the Joconda Video label and a dubbed tape released in Italy by Avofilm, who marketed it like a hardcore porno and changed the title to Deflorazione, though this surely was also released on video or VCD at some point in Asia. Of course, the 2 disc Mondo Macabro Blu-ray release, which comes with interviews with director Perez, art director Alfredo Santos and stars Lopez and Emmanuelle, makes anything released prior a moot point, anyway.

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