FILM REVIEW: TAGOS NG DUGO

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The Plot – A young Pina was traumatized when her family was murdered while she had her first menstruation. She grown up into a serial killer transforming herself to different personalities as she seduced one man at a time grossly killing them while in the act of sexual pleasure. Eventually Pina was caught by the authorities. Considered by some critics as a feminist movie, Tagos ng Dugo has the feeling of claustrophobic but stylized European slasher movie that showcased the wide acting range of Philippines’ cinematic diva, Vilma Santos. The film lacks the usual long dialogue of her previous films but in this film, she was given a chance to show her body movements and “eye” acting that climaxed with tour de force ending, a mad lion being caught by armed hunters. – RV (READ MORE)

The Reviews: First of all, serial murder is almost alien to Philippine crime journalism, a fact that’s due certainly to our police force’s lack of records on such cases. Now, this police-records gap may of course in turn reflect a lack of local police coordination towards (or, worse, capability for) determining crime patterns as possibly serial. Unless those determinations have to do with the usual cop-out that goes like this: “it’s another NPA hit” blah blah blah, or “it’s another murder similar to the one that happened last week, and this is reflective of pornography’s…My above statements are meant to illustrate a national wont to demean our own police organization’s capability (or, worse, intelligence) that may neither be fair nor productive, but it would be a habit that certainly is not undeserved given the record — official and memorial — of the police’s prioritizing its own people’s interests and “rackets.” Given this background, therefore, Tagos Ng Dugo can be said to be a demonstration of serial crimes’ possible placement in local shores, and that would certainly be a valid view. Except, of course, that in effect Tagos is also — and probably should be read primarily as — a demonstration of possibilities other than the merely forensic. I say “should be,” since the police is portrayed fairly in the film, albeit not exactly generously. So what could be all the fuss about Tagos’ value? “Production values” is the often-heard reason, needing elucidation.

A breakthrough for Philippine psychological movies? Probably. Let me explore a few other angles on this seeming cross between Francois Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black and Luis Buñuel’s Belle du Jour – I don’t know if screenwriter Jake Tordesillas or De los Reyes himself should be congratulated for the cohesion of multi-resultants in this work. Part of this multi-readings would be the movie as a feminist take on womankind’s monthly pains as a form of excuse for female monthly insanities, insanities our machos regard as regular terrorism on the whole of mankind (men or society as a whole). It is with that reading that the ending apologies, by Vilma Santos in the lead role, might be understood as a plea for understanding of how all of woman’s monthly Eve-behavior should not be seen as a Biblical sin but as an equal (to, say, men’s beastly) naturalness….Another feminist reading, more radical perhaps, would treat the film as a view of how Philippine society (the men in it, primarily) approaches provincial innocence, educational weakness, and “females’ weaker sanity” as stimuli for abuse….There is, however, the possibly more general reading of the film as an apologia for insanity qua itself, how it should be treated as a disease instead of as a monster to be eliminated.

And finally, there’s the possibility that the film is actually a depiction of how crazy the world outside the insane mind really is, albeit this view would probably be the least successful direction for the film….As a bonus, maybe we can also bring the movie to more latent, more philosophical territory, say, how it depicts the sanity of innocence. But, given the validity and possible weight of all those approaches, what finally makes this movie a jewel in Philippine cinema history is how it brings forth — every time you watch it — its case achievements in directorial and film editing dramaturgy (including the recurring stage-like choreography, Hitchcockish camera positionings, and acting pacing within). For the serious student of third-world filmmaking, here is a requisite Philippine movie from where to cull precious fragments. In these fragments, he/she is sure to find sparkles that are in themselves gems. – Vicente-Ignacio S. de Veyra III (READ MORE)

“…Sa anggulong ito halos umikot ang kabuuan ng pelikula. Masasabing naging matapang ang mga bumuo ng pelikulang Tagos Ng Dugo dahil sa tahasan nitong tinalakay ang sekswalidad ng mga pangunahing tauhan. Mapapansing pinagtuunan ng pansin ang kabuuan ng karakter ni Pina na buong husay ginampanan ni Vilma Santos. Ang aktres ay halos nasa lahat ng eksena sa pelikula. Maituturing na hysterical ang pag-arte ni Bb. Santos ngunit sa pelikulang ito ay malaki ang naitulong nito upang maipahatid niya ang nararapat na emosyon sa epektibong paraan. Malaki ang naitulong ni Direktor Maryo J. de los Reyes sa pagsasalarawan ng kuwento ni Pina. Nailahad niya ng maayos ang mga problemang sikolohikal hindi lamang ni Pina kundi ng buong lipunan. Makikitang binigyang diin ang posibleng solusyon sa mga suliraning ipinamalas sa pelikula. Maaring may ilang pagkukulang ang pelikula sa naging takbo ng istorya ngunit naisalba ito ng mahusay na pagdidirehe ni de los Reyes. Sa anggulong ito naging malaking bahagi sa tagumpay ng Tagos Ng Dugo ang direktor dahil sa tuwiran niyang naipahayag ang patotoo sa mga isyung tinalakay sa buong pelikula. Dito rin natamo ni Vilma ang kanyang ikaapat na FAMAS Best Actress Award bago siya tuluyang naluklok sa Hall Of Fame nang sumunod na taon…” – Jojo De Vera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…Pina is Vilma and Vilma is Pina. This is their story. This is their movie. This is acting at its best. Thank God, Mayor Vilma Santos has come to the rescue of the Pina’s in this world. Unlike the super heroine and fictitious Darna who kicks butt as she battles with the forces of darkness and defend the people, here is Vilma, the philanthropist and the Mother Theresa of her generation, in the flesh, reaching out to the poorest of the poor of her Lipa constituents. Through her loving heart and helping hands, she has actually helped thousands of society’s outcasts, the poor and the needy. This is the Vilma Santos today: successful, revered, in demand, a winner in all fronts. A National Treasure! Who would have thought that the second fiddle to another actress will become the greatest film practitioner of all time and a capable Mayor? A great actress and an excellent Mayor. Nobody does it better…” – Mar Garces, V Magazine 2006 (READ MORE)

“…A series of unfortunate events seemed to hound Nora’s career up to this point. October 1, 1989 was to be the last airing date of the 22-year-old musical-variety show Superstar on RPN 9. A month later, it was revived on IBC 13 with a new title, The Legend … Superstar, but this was short-lived lasting only up to early 1990. Naging mas masuwerte si Vilma Santos sa hinu-host na Vilma! on GMA 7, which started in 1981 as VIP (Vilma in Person) ng lumang BBC 2 (naibalik sa Lopez owners ang ABS-CBN after the EDSA Revolution). Nagbida si Vilma sa isa sa mga pinakaimportanteng pelikula ng Dekada ‘80: Regal Films’ Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (by Ishmael Bernal), na sinimulan in 1988 at ipinalabas in early 1989. In December 1989, Vilma headlined a period romance-drama (Viva Films’ Imortal, megged by Eddie Garcia) at nanalo sila ng kaparehang si Christopher de Leon ng acting plums sa MMFF. Sa awardings for that year, si Vilma ang nanalong Best Actress sa Star Awards (for Pahiram), her first form the Philippine Movie Press Club. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” nasabi ni Vilma as she accepted her trophy. Later, it was Nora’s turn to get a Best Actress trophy for the first time from the Film Academy of the Philippines, for Elwood Perez’s three-year-in-the-making Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” sabi rin niya in her acceptance speech. Na-elevate si Vilma sa FAMAS Hall of Fame, for having bagged five Best Actress statuettes: Dama de Noche, Pakawalan Mo Ako, Relasyon, Tagos ng Dugo, and Elwood Perez’s Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos. Nora won her fourth Best Actress plum sa FAMAS, also for Bilangin. Walang itulak-kabigin sa dalawa, kaya marapat lang na mag-tie sila for Best Actress, as in the 1990 Gawad Urian, na ‘pantay na parangal ”ang ipinagkaloob ng Manunuri kina Nora (for Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit) at Vilma (for Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga)…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

The Director – Maryo J. De los Reyes is a film and television director from the Philippines. He began his career in the 1970s(Wikipedia). Reyes’ most significant works are the critically acclaimed Magnifico (2004), Tagos Ng Dugo (1987) and the commercial hits, Bagets (1983), Annie Batungbakal (1979) (Wikepedia). In 1987 Maryo De Los Reyes directed Vilma Santos that critics considered one of the shocking film that year, Tagos Ng Dugo. The film was hailed as a feminist film and earned Vilma Santos her fourth FAMAS Best Actress. Ironically, the conservative church award giving body will agree and also gave their 1987 CMMA Best Actress to Vilma Santos. Reyes will again direct Vilma in 1992.  (Tagos ng Dugo 1987 and Sinungaling Mong Puso 1992)

The Most Colorful Film Character of the Year – “…The decision of the film critics to inhibit themselves from conferring their annual Urian Awards is unprecedented in the group’s 12-year history…But the case of film year 1987 is truly abysmal. It is, in fact, beyond salvation. True, there were number of worthwhile efforts, in such specific categories as editing, cinematography or sound but again, this is taking film as if it were a highly segmented form, instead of a holistic and integrated medium of communication. The area of screenplay was, to my mind, the most borely abused; I cannot recall any single film where this can be considered outstanding. Blame it on the producers who were more concerned with much momentary fancies as inane fantasies, sexploitation flicks and anachronistic melodramas. Blame it, too, on the governement which doesn’t seem to care and which doesn’t realize the power of the cinema in the value reformation of a natin long shackled in a despotic rule…Then there was the dismal and embarraing Brocka opus, Magin Akin Ka Lamang, which is a far cry from what the director used to do with komiks genre, having elevated it to a level of respectability in Tahan Na Empoy, Tahan and Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, which is good enough melodrama. Even more sordid is his Pasan Ko ang Daigidg, which takes an egregiously compromising view of poverty with its Cinderella-like storyline. Even Ishmael Bernal was not spared of the spirit of idiocy which pervaded the past year and which threatens to hound us this year. Bernal, who often can be relied upon to transcend the limitations of the most trivial of storyline, simply failed to overcome the komiks convolutions of Pinulot Ka Lang sa Lupa. Also, quite unlucky was Peque Gallaga who was in bad shape in Kid, Huwag Kang Susuko, though he managed to score a few precious points in the action film genre. And what do we make out of Maryo de los Reyes’ Tagos ng Dugo, with its grossly improbable tale of multiple schizophrenia and made all the worse by the director’s penchant for pseudo-character changes? Personally, i would rate Vilma Santos here as having been last year’s most colorul character instead of a consumate performer….” – Justino Dormiendo, Manila Standard, Feb 23, 1988 (READ MORE)

“…She has lost some pounds (due to the gruelling shooting of her recent film, Tagos ng Dugo, but she is still the same radiant beauty…Santos is likewise bugged by the observation (presumably by some Nora Aunor supporters) that her performance in Tagos ng Dugo, wherein she portrayed a psychopath, was “Norang-Nora.” She could not divine how the comment was made in the first place. Was it becauise, in the film, she was handled by Maryo de los Reyes who is known to be a close friend and one of the favorite directors of Nora Aunor? Or, was it because her role in Tagos called for a lot of the so called Nora-style acting -expressive eye movements, prolonged byt quiet crying binges? Is she, in the eyes of some Aunor loyalist, as good as actress now as their idol? “Wala akong ginagaya,” defended the actress. “That was Pina, the role, I was acting out. I did not think of Guy or anybody else when I was doing the film. “But you know, that (comment) is good,” she said as an after thought. “Kinukumpara pa rin kami hanggang ngayon. That means kami pa rin – the rivalry is still strong.” On the other hand, one is hard put to imagine Aunor attempting Santos’ “patented” acting style (the ease and confidence in delivering kilometric line, among others). If and when she does in any of her future films, I told the actress, we would also say “Vilmang-Vilma” siya! She burst out laughing…” – Mario V. DumaualManila Standard, Feb 19, 1987 (READ MORE)

“…I had actually intended to evaluate the industry’s artistic accomplishments from January to June this year, but the consideration of causes simply overwhelmed the original subject. Anyway, in providing a listing of the more acceptable items, it would serve our purposes well to keep in mind that these titles were originally greeted with expressions of disappointment and frustration, with only passing acknowledgement of their respective merits – to which I now most carefully give mention…Tagos ng Dugo (Maryo J. de los Reyes, dir.): kinkiness rounded out with psychological backgrounding and propelled forward with a sense of conviction and sympathy for the plight of the subject…” – Joel David, National Midweek, 26 August 26, 1987 (READ MORE)

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