FILM REVIEW: PAGPUTI NG UWAK PAGITIM NG TAGAK

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“…sabi mo pa nga nuon mahal na mahal mo ako…sabi mo pa na hindi magbabago ang pagtingin mo sa akin…dahil papaano mo papatayin ang hangin? Paano mo papatayin ang ulan? Paano mo papatayin ang araw? Sabi mo pa nga hindi mo na ako iiwan kahit na anong mangyari…kaya naisip ko nuon magpaligaw na ako sa’yo…kahit hindi pa pumuputi ang uwak, o umi-itim ang tagak…” – Julie

The Plot: “Pag-puti ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak” is a pulsating love story that recaptures the nostalgic fifties, the exciting era of mass hysteria, and the golden years of the rock and roll fever inflicted by screaming, wiggling hip-shaking foreign pop idols dominated by Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Pat Boone, Doris Day and the Platters. “Pag-puti ng Uwak,Pag-itim ng Tagak” is more than a love story. It is also a commentary – a satire rich with humor injected into a moral, psychological, sociological, and cultural aspect, outlook, and values of the said bygone era. “Pag-puti ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak”, is a poigant rich-girl-meets poor boy love story of Julie Monserat and Candido Ventura – two love-struck starry eyed youths who fought for their right to love each other, here is a story that touches social conflict – the perennial clashes and discrimination between the rich and the poor. Julie grew up under the custody of her two wealthy spinster aunts Beatriz and Miguela Monserrat. Julie enjoyed everything, except the right to love her own father – Maestro Juan Roque, the poor town teacher. Julie met Dido a student-combo player. They fell in love with each other and had secret affairs. The aunts hated Dido for his ” lowly breeding and ear-splitting music”, thus rejecting him in favor of the town mayor’s son. Julie eventually got pregnant. They planned an elopement but was foiled. The conflict between the lovers and the Monserrat exploded into a series of scandals that rocked the whole town of Sta. Inez…” – Celso Ad Castillo (READ MORE)

“…Malakas ang deconstruction ng “Romeo and Juliet” sa obra na ito. Maraming reference (pinaka-given na siguro na ang pangalan ni Vilma Santos dito ay Julie) sa tragedy ni Shakespeare. Dito ko nakita si Celso Ad in a different light. Nage-gets ko ang poesiya ng mga nature shots n’ya sa ibang pelikula pero rito, klarong klaro ang pagkahilig n’ya sa literary classic. Pinakagusto kong shot eh ‘yung terrace scene na malakas maka-tribute. Wala kasi akong katiting na abiso tungkol sa pedigree ng pelikula at masayang naglalaro sa isip ko ang mga reference hanggang sa sumabog ito sa dulo na nagbigay konklusyon sa mga hinagap. Maraming eksena na may kilometric line si Vilma rito. Napaalala rin sa akin ang era kung saan ang sukatan ng isang pagiging aktres ay nasa haba ng mga linya na kayang mamemorya. Pinagsamang sensuality at controlled acting ang pinamalas n’ya. Maigting din ang chemistry nila ni Bembol Roco rito…” – Manuel Pangaruy Jr., Tagailog Specials Presents, 02 August 2013 (READ MORE)

Kuwento ng magkasintahang pinaghiwalay, na ipinaloob sa isang panahong dinadaluyong ang lipunang Pilipinong rebelyong Hukbalahap. Iyan ang buod ng ‘Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak’. Dekada ng 1950 noon, at sa pista ng matandang bay an ng Santa Ines ay nagkatagpu-tagpo sina Julie Monserrat (Vilma Santos), Dido Ventura (Bembol Roco) at Maestro Juan Roque (Joonee Gamboa). Mula sa mayaman at makapangyarihang pamilya si Julie, isang ulilang pinalaki at pinapag-aral sa Maynila ng kanyang mga tiyang matandang dalagang sina Beatriz (Adul de Leon) at Miguela (Angie Ferro). Si Dido ay maralitang binatang ang Ina (Mona Lisa) ay may iwing poot sa mga Monserrat na kumamkam sa kanilang lupain at naging dahilan ng kanilang paghihirap. Si Maestro Roque naman ay kilalang kompositor at biyolinista na umuwi sa Santa Ines upang tapusin ang kanyang sarsuwelang pinamagatang “Pangarap ng Bagong Umaga.” Sa unang pagkikita pa lamang ay napusuan ni Dido si Jutie. Nagkahulihan ng loob ang dalawa, at isang gabi’ypinangahasang akyatin ni Dido si Julie sa kuwarto nito. Ang kanilang pagtatalik ay humantong sa pagtatanan. Nang magbalik ang magkasintahan upang humingi ng pahintulot na sila’y pakasal, si Julie ay pinamili ng kanyang mga tiya sa maginhawang buhay na kanyang kinagisnan, at sa walang-katiyakang hinaharap bilang asawa ni Dido. Nagdalawang-isip si Julie, at pinili niyang manatili sa pangangalaga ng kanyang mga tiya.

Masamang-masama ang loob ni Dido sa nangyari. Nang siya ay laitin ng kanyang kasintahang si Cristy (Olivia O’Hara), sinaktan niya ito. Nalaman ni Claro (Robert Talabis) ang ginawa ni Dido sa kanyang kapatid, at nagharap ang dalawa sa isang labanang mano-a-mano. Napatay ni Dido si Claro. Alkalde ng bayan ang ama (Mervin Samson) nina Cristy at Claro, kaya’t pinakitos nito ang mga pulis upang iligpit si Dido. Nang gabing lihim na kunin si Dido sa kulungan upang patayin, inambus ng mga Huk ang sasakyan ng mga pulis. Tiyo ni Dido ang pinuno ng mga Huk na si Kumander Salome (Lito Anzures). Sumamang namundok si Dido sa kanyang Tiyo. Minsang dumalaw sa bahay ng mga Monserrat si Maestro Roque, siya ay hinamak ng magkapatid na Beatriz at Miguela. Mula na rin sa mga tiya ni Julie, natuklasan niya na anak pala niya si Julie sa patay nang si Ana Monserrat. Nang magkahiwalay sina Julie at Dido, nalaman ni Maestro Roque na buntis si Julie. Ito ay dinalaw niya sa konserbatoryong pinag-aaralan ng dalaga sa pagka-biyolinista. Ipinagtapat niyang siya ang ama ni Julie. Tinalikdan ni Julie ang kanyang ama, subalit ang pagdalaw na iyon ang naging dahilan upang magpasiya ang dalaga na huwag ipaampon ang kanyang anak na isisilang. Nilakad ni Maestro Roque na pagtagpuing muli sina Julie at Dido. Isang gabi ng Mahal na Araw, nagkita ang magkasintahan at nakilala ni Dido ang kanyang anak kay Julie. Natunugan ng mga espiya ng gobyerno ang pagbaba sa bayan ng mga rebeldeng pinamumunuan ni Kumander Salome. Ang uha ng anak nina Julie at Dido ay nangibabaw sa masinsing putukang lumipol kina Dido at mga kasama. – Manunuri (READ MORE)

It is the 1950’s at the height of the Huk (local Communist armed forces) movement, in a part of the country beset with agrarian unrest. During the town fiesta of Santa Ines, Julie Monserrat is introduced to Dido Ventura and Maestro Juan Roque, an old musician. Julie, an orphan who comes from the local aristocracy, is on vacation from school in Manila, and is staying with her two spinster aunts Beatriz and Miguela. Dido Ventura, a young man from a poor family, lives with his mother who nurses an old grievance against the Monserrats; she believes they grabbed the Ventura’s property. Maestro Juan Roque, a well-known composer and violinist, has just returned to Santa Ines to finish a zarzuela he has been planning to write for a long time. Dido falls in love with Julie at their first meeting. One night, he sneaks into the spinsters’ house and spends a passionate night with Julie. The brief liaison leads to their elopement. When the two lovers return to ask for the aunts’ blessing, Julie is made to choose between a life of poverty and uncertainty with Dido, or a life of comfort and respectability with her aunts. Julie chooses to stay with her aunts. Dido is shaken by the turn of events.

He meets Cristy, his girlfriend, who insults him for the embarrassing situation he has gotten himself into. Dido turns roughly against the girl and beats her up. Cristy’s brother finds out about this and challenges him to a fist fight. Dido kills Cristy’s brother. Cristy’s father, who is the town mayor, decides to dispose of Dido immediately. But when his secret police nab Dido one night, the jeep taking them to Dido’s execution is ambushed by a band of Huk rebels led by Kumander Salome, Dido’s uncle. Saved, Dido decides to join his rebel uncle in the mountains. Meanwhile, Maestro Roque, on a visit to the spinsters’ old house to talk about Julie’s violin lessons, finds out that Julie is actually his own daughter by one of the Monserrat sisters now deceased. Julie herself is pregnant with Dido’s child. The old musician’s visit to her house and the ensuing revelatin make he decide to keep the baby. Maestro Roque arranges for Julie and Dido to meet again. On the night of Good Friday, Dido leaves the rebel camp to see his newborn child. Kumander Salome decides to go along with the young man. Government spies learn of this and an ambush is set. The child of Julie and Dido is the only survivor and witness of the masscre that ends the film. – Rosauro de la Cruz (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “…Compared to Burlesk Queen, Pagputi ng Uwak is less of a technical mess. Particularly exceptional are the shots of rustic religious rituals; unfortunately their use does not progress beyond the literal level. This makes for increasing predictability toward the picture’s end, as when the preparations for a military massacre are intercut with recitations of the tribulations of Jesus Christ. Attempts at authenticity appear to have been assiduous, but the project may have also proved too ambitious in this aspect. Thus one can find high-tension wires and Scotch-tinted car windows, not to mention recent beautification accomplishments, making their way into a 1950s period movie. Performance-wise Pagputi ng Uwak leaves a lot more to be desired. Among the cast, only Mona Lisa manages to pull off a convincing characterization as Bembol Roco’s mother. Angie Ferro and Adul de Leon, as Vilma Santos’ spinster aunts, are no better than caricatures: funny maybe, but quite incredible. Joonee Gamboa has mellowed since his rudimental portrayal of an impresario in Burlesk Queen; his role, however, is far less significant this time, reduced as it is to playing the intermediary between star-crossed characters. Executive producer Vilma Santos does better outside camera range. Her production is financially and artistically liberal, the sort the local audience has been deprived of since the dissolution of the previous censors board. Her performance though is about as effective as that of a drama guild’s star performer: she renounces her lover like she would a final exam, and later professors love for him like she would a teen idol. The same applies to Bembol Roco, about whose character more will be said later; suffice it to say that he still has yet to employ under-acting to his advantage. Meanwhile he and Santos are the industry’s star couple, and there one has the trappings of the star system at work again. Is there nothing at all to be said in favor of the movie? Come to think of it, Burlesk Queen did have a saving grace, and it is this same virtue – intention – which redeems Pagputi ng Uwak. In his works Castillo the artist seeks to depict the Filipino as only a fellow Filipino will understand, particularly in terms of pride and sentiment – values associated in Western aesthetics with melodrama. Which is what makes Castillo easy prey for local culture vultures: with technical excellence as a basic requisite for deserving favor, he falls short at first try; infatuation with alien modes of behavior further ensures their alienation from the obviously progressive statements he wishes to make…” – Joel David, Philippine Collegian/The Urian Anthology 1970-1979, 26 July 1978 (READ MORE)

“…Castillo-watchers who had to cringe at the amount of its acting that Castillo allowed or demanded from his actors and actresses, will be gratified at the quiet intensity of the performances in Pagputi ng Uwak. Although one is never convinced that Vilma Santos can indeed bow music out of violin, her characterization of Julie displays the maturing talent of an actress fast learning to explore and shape her emotional resources in creating a character. Bembol Roco is disadvantaged by the script’s focus on Julie, but he impressively communicates the change in Dido from reckless teenager to hardened rebel. The acting highlights in the film, however, are provided by the three capable stage performers playing supporting roles. At long last Jonee Gamboa has been allowed to shed the irritatingly mannered caricatures he has been made to do in his previous films. As Maestro Juan Roque, he gives a serene portrait of a man who sublimates the turmoil of his inner life into the music he plays and composes in a performance memorable for its restraint and sincerity. Angie Ferro tends to be over-empphatic in places, but her portrayal of Miguela effectively keeps the role from degenerating into a contra vida stereotype by touching it up with humor that is broad yet never out of character. It is Adul de Leon, however, who emerges luminously as a character actress of the first magnitude. Her interpretation of Beatriz is a piece of complex character portraiture all the more admirable for having made a role of rather limited range so persuasively human. Good performances are not unusual in Filipino movies. What is rare is that coming together of temperaments and skills that make film art possible. In Pagputi ng Uwak, Castillo’s work does not display anything that he has not already shown in his previous films. The fondness for story material that reeks of social overtones, the lyrical exuberance with which he invests starkly realistic situations, and the intensely theatrical confrontations among his characters – these have been qualities evident even in Castillo’s lesser works, where they are often pushed to absurd lengths. What has happened in Pagput ng Uwak is that the director has been able to bring to a focus his varied talents, and found fellow artists with temperaments congenial to his. With cinematographer Romy Vitug and musical director George Canseco, he seem to have found working partners who share his penchant for the poetic, and their collaboration has resulted in a film where narrative imagery and music fuse into a memorable whole…” – Bienvenido Lumbera (READ MORE)

Putting in place a dialectic that analyzes social reality as at once a corrupted condition and a transformable possibility. In this situation, Dido’s idealism is undercut as an illusion by Julie (Vilma Santos), a jaded but nevertheless sensible young woman who in turn opens herself up to a revision of consciousness. This dialectic, or reflexive reflection is important to scan the contradictions of milieu and to probe the context of whatever human action plays out. Without such dynamic, which eludes most films which dare to tackle historical reality of epochal significance, all manner of practice is ultimately facile and anomalous and rendering romance as a vital agent in the articulation of difference, the engagement with a higher force and the summoning of a love that transcends the limitations of conspiratorial cacophony. A film nourished by this premise cannot fail. The personas of spinster sisters Beatriz (Angie Ferro) and Miguela (Adul de Leon) along with Joonee Gamboa as music teacher and violinist Roque San Victores are rounded out. And society is a charged terrain of armed revolt, state control and resistance. Direction, screenplay, cinematography, editing, production design, music and the performance of a sensitive cast contribute to the comprehensive competence of Pagputi Ng Uwak… Pag-Itim Ng Tagak…” – Jojo De Vera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…This is the one film this year that could have made it to the classics, given good material, Romeo Vitug, and some good acting (Joonie Gamboa and Adul De Leon are stands out). There is too much background however; a weak establishment of relationship; an incredible move from the rebel group risking their lives for a solitary personal interest; the failure to bring out the Maestro’s (Joonie) reaction to the tragedy in an affair in which he is greatly involved. The triangle here is fascinating: arts, politics, and the heart. The maestro’s art recovers for him what frustrations of the heart reduce: the lover’s taking to underground activities plays a similar role; the woman’s art provides escape from emotional confusion. The heart, neglected, must sooner or later take its toll – and politics, strangely, because the least developed angle in the film (Bembol’s character is insufficiently portrayed), simultaneously takes its toll, in tragic proportions. It would be excellent if it were within the directorial intention to comment that, in fact, neglect of the political ultimately destroys everything. Such an extent, however, is believed by the fact that the ideal political figure in the film condones the needless risking of an entire group for a single romantic resolutions. Art, politics, and love come to a bad end, but what are the tones of this fatality? Or is it indeed fatality in the director’s vision? Let us close up on this vision. There are touches that have poetry and economy. The development of the courtship into a certain depth of involvement (undialogued lyrical scenes between Vilma and Bembol); a poignant moment of the affair is visually emphasized in a shot of the stairway, now empty, by which the woman seeks the lover she had just rejected; the agitation and the impending bid for resolution by the two aunts in the car coming from Manila where the heroine had refused to let them have their way in her affair as her mother before her had been too weak to do) – to name a few. It is discordant in a directorial angle that controls such elements rather well to splash local color profusely and allow the heroine’s talky summary in the end. If this show of extremes is calculated, an indication, let us say, of the nature of the Filipino character, the act of indicating is not established. That is, if the Filipino, as Castillo sees in him, is unfortunately often swamped by ceremonies, traditions and the like so much that he loses sense of self-direction, etc., this must be developed, and not slumped upon the final scene when the love-resolution is intruded upon by the pasyon, and finally by the deadly dogma of politics. Of course, again, it might be that this is how the view from the angle is, where by all comes to a tragic end, firstly, against all human idealism and praxis (an option that is too anti-man); sporadic superfluity which gives nothing, not even meaning. Many may not accept this as a valid realism. And, in any case, what happens then to art as an instrument not only of image-reflectiions, but also of reconstruction?” – Petronila Cleto, Pelikula, Atbp (READ MORE)

“…It was 1977 with an exceptional film, Burlesk Queen, that Castillo got his frist critical recognition. Entered in that year’s Metro Manil Film Festival, it was adjudged the Best Picture, won forhim a Best Director Award as well as nine other artistic awards. It told a young girl in Manila in the 50’s who wanted to become a burlesque dancer. It showed a subdued Castillo. He seemed in this film, to have held back his passion for visual impact to give way to his new mastery of film grammar. His characters cried and whimpered, they did not scream and curse. They delievered dissertations on art, not imprecations of wrath, which had set the pitch of his previous films. The critics fought bitterly over Burlesk Queen. In that festival, he was contending with film makers who enjoyed a high reputation among the country’s most avid film critics. Upon winning the award, Castillo instantly became the favorite beating boy of the critics who did not appreciate Burlesk Queen. To prove to them his worth, Castillo did Pagputi ng Uwak, a 50’s epic set in his favorite Southern Tagalog locale. It was the most lavish of all his productions and had all the elements of a “great” Filipino film. He exploited the many religious and social rituals typical of the region. The film featured the two most critically acclaimed performers of the time, Bembol Roco, Jr. and Vilma Santos, with the cinematography of Romy Vitug complementing Castillo’s visual sense. And it touched on civil unrest to underline the film director’s social awareness. Pagputi ng Uwak was a visual fest, an artistic and socially responsive film aimed at the critics. It was also Castillo’s first commercial failure after a string of more than 20 minor and major box-office hits…In just a decade, Castillo, with all his audacity and dramatic excesses, has claimed his place as one of the most versatile and genuinely interesting filmmakers in the Philippines today…” – Rosauro de la Cruz (READ MORE)

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