FILM REVIEW: BURLESK QUEEN

The Plot: To support her paralytic father, Chato (Vilma Santos) works as a utility girl for a burlesque star Virgie Nite (Rosemary Gil). But when Virgie gets drunk on the night of her scheduled show, Chato pitches in for her. And she becomes an instant sensation. Enthused by the initial acceptance of the audience, she defies her father’s admonitions and presents herself to the manager. And thus, becoming the new burlesque queen. – IMDB

The Reviews: Si Celso Ad. Castillo ay marami nang naunang eksperimento. Pero pumaltos sa pamantayan ng mga manunuri. Maraming nagsuspetsa na may ibubuga siya, pero hindi lang talaga maibuga nang nasa tiempo. Malimit ang kanyang pelikula ay maingay at maraming sobra. Halimbawa, maraming karahasan na wala namang katuturan ang kanyang Madugong Daigdig ni Salvacion, seksing walang kadahilanan (pinagandang garapal) ang kanyang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, numero unong manggagaya ang kanyang Maligno, at sabog-sabog ang kanyang pinakamagandang nagawa, ang Daluyong at Habagat. Kung may magkamali mang pumuri kay Celso, iyon nama’y halos pakunsuelo-de-bobo lamang, at hindi ito sapat para itaas ang kanyang pedestal sa ranggo nina Bernal, Brocka at Romero. Wari ngang napako sa komersiyalismo ang direktor na inaabangan maglalabas ng natatagong talino. Lalong nagduda sa kanyang kakayahan ang mga kritiko nang kumalat ang balita na gagawa siya ng serye sa TV na ala Cleopatra Jones na papamagatan naman niyang O’Hara. Pero ang direktor na ipinapalagay na laos ay biglang pumalag nang walang kaabog-abog. Bigla’y nabalitang may inihanda raw itong pang-festival na ikinataas na naman ng kilay ng kanyang mga kritiko. “Aber tingnan,” ang pasalubong sa balita. At sa preview ng kanyang Burlesk Queen, biglang napa-mea culpa ang ayaw maniwalang may ibubuga si Celso.

Tiyak na naiiba ang Burlesk Queen, kahit ikumpara sa mga naunang trabaho ni Celso at sa iba pang direktor na nagtangkang tumalakay sa paksang ito. Matagal-tagal na rin namang nauso ang kaputahan sa pelikula, pero walang nakapagbigay ng katarungan sa lahi ni Eba bilang Pilipina at bilang puta. Sa Burlesk Queen, para kay Celso ay hindi nangangahulugan ng pagpapakita lamang ng utong, puwit o singit, kung hindi isang seryosong pagtalakay sa damdamin ng mga tauhan sa isang kapanipaniwalang dahilan na nangyari sa isang makatotohanang kapaligiran. Sa kanya, ang tao ay hindi basta maghuhubad at magtatalik. Maraming pangyayari sa buhay ang dapat munang linawin at unawain, at iyon ang basehan ng kasaysayan. Simple lamang ang plot. Isang tinedyer si Vilma Santos na alalay ng isang original burlesk queen, si Rosemarie Gil. May tatay na lumpo si Vilma, si Leopoldo Salcedo. Si Rosemarie naman ay may kabit na isang hustler, si Roldan Aquino. Nang iwanan ni Roldan si Rose, nagwala ang huli. Naging lasengga siya at tumangging magsayaw sa tanghalan. Mabibitin ang palatuntunan, kaya’t si Vilma na talaga namang may ambisyong magsayaw ang pumalit. Hit naman sa manonood si Vilma. Sa bahay, pilit kinukumbinsi ni Vilma si Pol na payagan na siyang maging full time dancer. Ayaw ni Pol, mas mahalaga sa kanya ang prinsipyo at delikadesa. Sapagkat wala namang ibang pagkakakitaan, si Vilma rin ang nasunod sa bandang huli. Nag-suicide si Pol nang hindi na niya masikmura ang pasiya ng anak. Si Rollie Quizon naman ang binatilyong masama ang tama kay Vilma. Nagtanan sila at nagsama. Pero hindi sanay sa hirap si Rollie. Sa pagpili sa pag-ibig o ginhawa sa buhay, ang huli ang pinahalagahan niya. Nagkataon namang buntis na si Vilma. Sa pag-iisa sa buhay, nagbalik siya sa pagsasayaw. Nagsayaw siya ng nagsayaw hanggang duguin siya sa tanghalan at malaglag ang kanyang dinadala.

Bagamat simple ang plot ay hindi naman masasabing simple ang pamamaraang ginawa rito ni Celso. Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon ay nangyari sa isang pelikula ang pagsasama-sama ng magandang istorya, mahusay na direksyon, magaling na pag-arte ng mga tauhan, masinop na musika, magaling na editing at angkop na sinematograpiya. Sa Burlesk Queen ay nagsama-sama ang talino ni Celso (direktor), Mauro Gia Samonte (story and screenplay), George Canseco (musical director), Ben Lobo (cinematographer), at Abelardo Hulleza (editor). Kung may ipipintas sa pelikula, iyon ay ang hindi malinaw na pagbuhay sa panahon na nangyari ang kuwento. Kung minsa’y maiisip na nagyari ito sa panahon ng kasikatan ni Elvis noong 1950s. Pero kapag pinansin na maraming long hair sa extra, may wall paper at synthetic na sako ang bahay nina Vilma ay maaari namang sabihing baka naman pa-Elvis craze lamang ang mga tao roon. Pero may pulitiko, at Yabut, at may dagdag pang Connie Francis bukod sa motorsiklong Lambretta at mga kotseng Buick. Kung sabagay, maliliit na detalye lamang ito na agad makakalimutan kapag ang inasikaso ay pagbuklat sa magagandang punto ng istorya. Tingnan natin ang ilang magandang eksena sa pelikula. Sa ikalawang eksena ay nagtatanong si Vilma kay Rosemarie kung puwede rin siyang maging dancer. Walang malinaw na sagot si Rose, pero ang timing ng background music na It’s Now or Never ay makahulugan. It’s Now or Never nga, payo ni Elvis. At kung kailan siya maaaring mag-umpisa, Tomorrow, sabi ng kanta. Ang ganitong sagot ay nasa mukha ni Rose, pero hindi na kailangang sabihin. Ang ganitong pamamaraan ay tinatawag na creativity ng direktor, na nagdagdag ng ibang pamamaraan sa paghahayag ng damdamin ng tauhan.

Sa paglakad ng istorya, dapat ding pansinin kung paano ang characterization ay binubuhay dito. Halimbawa, sa isang eksena na nangyari sa isang patahian ay nag-abot sina Dexter Doria, ang bagong kabit ni Roldan Aquino, at si Rose. Naroroon din si Vilma at sa hindi kalayuan ay si Rollie. Maliwanag na may kani-kanyang pangangailangan ang mga tauhan at magkakasama sila sa iisang eksena. Walang nakawan ng eksena na naganap dito. Nag-insultuhan sina Dexter at Rose, natameme si Roldan at waring walang pakialam sina Rollie at Vilma na panay na panay ang kindatan. Lalo namang walang pakialam ang dalawang pulubi na tumutugtog ng violin (na siya ring background music) sa mga nangyayari. Limos ang mahalaga sa kanila. Sa eksenang ito’y may gamit ang lahat ng tauhan, wala sa kanilang nagsilbing dekorasyon, walang nag-o.a. at pare-pareho nilang ginawang makatotohanan ang komprontasyon. Magandang halimbawa ito ng synchronized acting. Kung allusions naman ang pag-uusapan, marami ritong mga sariwang metaphor na mababanggit. Isa rito ang mahusay na pagpapakita na birhen pa si Vilma sa sex act nila ni Rollie. Habang nasa likod ng tanghalan ay may nagaganap sa magkasintahan, sa tanghalan ay nang-aliw naman ang mga acrobats na sinundan ng isang madyikero na tumutusok ng sariling noo, nagbabaon ng pako sa ilong at lumululon ng espada. Masakit tingnan iyon. At ganoon din ang nararanasan ni Vilma sa likod ng tanghalan sa piling ni Rollie. Hindi rin madaldal ang pelikula. Kung itatanong kung paano tinanggap ni Pol ang pasiya ng anak, nagtulos na lamang siya ng isang makahulugang kandila sa altar na para na ring sinabing “bahala na ang Diyos sa iyo”. Kung paano naman ipinakitang naging mananayaw na nga si Vilma, sapat nang ipakita ang isang trak na nagbababa ng isang wheel chair na ipapalit sa lumang tumba-tumba ng ama.

Maging ang paglakad ng panahon ay nararamdaman din ng manonood kahit hindi ikuwento o ipakita ang kinagawiang pamamaraan at ulat ng “nalalaglag na dahon ng kalendaryo o dahon ng puno kaya”. Sunod-sunod na cuts na nagpapakita sa uri ng palabas sa tanghalang kinabibilangan ni Vilma ang ginawa ni Celso. Saka ito sinundan ng kuha naman sa bahay nina Vilma at Rollie. Nag-iinit ng tubig si Vilma habang nakikinig ng dula sa radyo tungkol sa buhay ng isang asawang tamad at iresponsable. Ganoon nga ang nangyayari sa buhay ng dalawa, at may kasunod ring “abangan sa susunod na kabanata”. Sa paghihiwalay ng dalawa, sapat na ring iparinig ang awiting You’re All I Want For Christmas, para buhayin ang irony na nagaganap sa relasyon ng dalawa. Kung makinis ang exposition at pagbuhay sa conflict ng istorya, malinaw rin ang paghahanda sa wakas ng pelikula. Si Rose na laos na ay naging mumurahing puta. Si Dexter kahit hindi ipakita ay maliwanag na sumama na sa ibang lalaki. Si Roldan ay may bago nang kabit at napatay sa spiral staircase ng tanghalan na siya rin niyang dinadaanan sa paghahatid sa dalawang naunang kabit. Si Rollie, ang mama’s boy, ay natural bawiin ng ina. Si Vilma ay nagsayaw-nang-nagsayaw. Sa simula’y mahinhin at nakangiti at kaakit-akit hanggang sa pagbilis ng pulso ng tambol at pompiyang ay naubusan ng ngiti, tumagaktak ang pawis at manghina ang ligwak ng kanyang balakang, upang sa pagbuhay sa damdamin ng manonood ay siya namang maging dahilan ng pagkalaglag ng sanggol na kanyang dinadala. Sa labas, matapos ang pagtatanghal, may tatlong bagabundong naiwan na nakatangkod sa larawang pang ‘come on’ ng burlesk queen, habang ang kadilima’y bumabalot sa kapaligiran. Kung matino ang kaanyuan ng pelikula, ay ganoon din ang masasabi sa nilalaman. Makatotohanan at masinop ang pagtalakay sa buhay ng isang abang mananayaw. Tinalakay rin dito kung paano siya tinatanggap ng lipunan at inuusig ng mga tagapangalaga raw ng moralidad. Maging ang empresaryo ng tanghalan na ginampanan ni Joonee Gamboa ay may konsiyensiya rin at nagtatanong sa atin kung anong panoorin ang dapat ibigay sa isang ordinaryong Pilipino na hindi kayang pumunta sa mga mamahaling kainan upang manood tulad halimbawa ng Merry Widow at Boys in the Band. Sila, aniya ng mga ‘dakilang alagad ng moralidad na nagdidikta at kumu-kontrol sa moralidad ng komunidad’, katapat ng munting kasiyahan ng isang Pilipinong hindi ‘kaya ang bayad sa mga ekslusibong palabas ng mayayaman.’ Samantala’y busy tayo sa paglilibang at sa kanila’y walang pakialam ngunit may handang pintas at pula sa mangahas lumabas sa batas ng moralidad ng lipunan. – Jun Cruz Reyes, Manila magazine Dec. 1977 (READ MORE)

Celso Ad. Castillo’s Burlesk Queen (Burlesque Queen) is most famous for Vilma Santos’ noteworthy performance. She plays Chato, daughter of crippled Roque (Leopoldo Salcedo). She works as assistant to Virgie (Rosemarie Gil), current star of the burlesque stage (the film opens with Gil gyrating to the rapid beatings of drums, to the ecstasy of her numerous patrons). Resisting the lofty wishes of her father, Chato succumbs to the lure of the stage and the money it would bring her. It really is a grand performance as Santos was able to deliver the physical requirements of the role with her inate charismatic aura (a skill that earned the actress legions of fans and eventually elected to public office). Santos’ Chato is servile to the men around her (her father, Louie the theater manager (played by Joonee Gamboa in the film’s other equally terrific performance) and Jessie (Rolly Quizon), her boyfriend) but when she dances onstage, it doesn’t come off as merely sensual and titillating. She dances burlesque to make a statement (if there is such a thing), a statement important enough to die for. More remarkable than Santos’ portrayal of the doomed burlesque dancer, is Castillo’s filmmaking. Set within the very patriarchal lower class Manila, Castillo posits the burlesque theater as not merely, as impassioned Louie points out, a place for highbrow entertainment for the masses, but also the window for the film’s female lead to become superior to her male oppressors. It’s a difficult metaphor to execute but Castillo successfully does so. The dancer, scantilly clad amidst the cheers and jeers of horny men, is easily regarded as the victim of exploitation. But in the film’s case, the stage becomes the dancer’s opportunity for leverage which is impossible in the outside world. The stage provides Chato ease from the outside world’s patriarchal clutches. She becomes financially stable on her own, temporarily free from her father’s influences, and powerful over thousands of men.

Interestingly, Castillo stages a poetically sequenced scene of Chato’s devirginization within the theater. Jessie attempts to make love to Chato inside her dressing room, and the latter submits to the former’s sexual advances. Interspersed between their lovemaking (take note of the ballad that plays in the background as the lyrics talk of love amidst the entire world’s disapproval, very typical of the romantic declarations that inevitably falter over time) are scenes from the stage, a circus act of horrid penetrations: of a woman being juggled by a man, several magic acts, and more importantly, of a man hammering a nail inside his nostril, then puncturing his eye socket with a metal stick, finally commencing with him swallowing a long blade. Castillo’s juxtaposing Chato’s first sexual act with acts of unnatural and bizarre penetrations of the human body impart a clear message of invasion, of Chato’s theater where she is the goddess (her stage name is Tsarina the goddess) and almighty over all the men who watch her. The theater is no longer the same sanctuary; in a way, the theater’s magic has been tainted. She becomes pregnant and decides to stop dancing pursuant to her relationship with Jessie and pregnancy. Her devirginization within the theater becomes symbolic of her surrender to the outside patriarchal forces.

The burlesque is in its dying days. Submitting to the very same patriarchal forces that have established strict moral norms and economic systems, the government has deemed the dance to be lewd and illegal. Louis plans that the final burlesque performance be the best and we become witnesses to the plan’s grand execution: a judiciously edited montage of circus acts, musical numbers, costumed dances and finally Chato’s coup de grace to both the theater and to herself. In a hypnotized daze with spotlights concentrating on her rhythmic gyrations, she enchants her audience. Once more, she is a goddess, the most powerful person in that wide area full of men. Her reign is shortlived for she is pregnant with Jessie’s child and starts bleeding. Castillo cuts to Chato’s face, sweaty and in pain and we hear as her heavy breathing joins the rapid beating of the drums. The camera pans down, and we see her belly dangerously shaking as blood continuously flows down her thighs. This is Chato’s repentance, a fatal undoing of her naive betrayal of the stage to succumb to patriarchal forces. Chato reluctantly stops and presumably dies as the crowd cheers on.

A jovial and sweet melody replaces the hurried beating of the drums and the boisterous cheers. The theater is empty. The hundred or so seats have no eager men sitting on them. A dusty curtain covers the once vibrant stage. Pictures of the burlesque dancers, more prominently Chato, are on display. Outside, a couple of players, including the Filipino version of Chaplin (complete with the trademark hat and cane of The Tramp), are waiting. They stand up and trod through the alley. The film closes with them walking away from the theater, reminiscent of the bittersweet finales of Charlie Chaplin’s comedies (more specifically The Circus (1928) and Modern Times (1936)). Of course, Burlesk Queen is nowhere like Chaplin’s films yet the ending feels irresistably apt, an intriguingly ironic hommage. The living remnants of the theater, those bitplayers walking away, have no bright future. Like Chato, the theater is their sanctuary and survival. The real world, the desolate and unfair lower class Manila of which they are ultimately going to, has no place for them. The melody, the memories, and the transient burlesque queen that once charmed a thousand men with the movement of her hips have been drowned by hopelessness. They shall all remain tramps. Burlesk Queen is much more than a gripping commercial melodrama. It is also a scathing commentary on the sarcastic sexual politics that has become the atmosphere of Philippine society: of hardworking women and the good-for-nothing men they serve (in other words, a patriarchal society gone awry). It is also a fervent reminder of the redemptive and equalizing power of art, which is the reason why it will always be a threat to those who hold power. Multi-faceted, committedly acted, and very well-directed, Burlesk Queen, I opine, is an unsung masterpiece. – Max Blog (READ MORE)

“…I have my own orientation in film criticism…because we’re Third World, to me a film is, first of all, a social document, then an educational tool, and third, an aesthetic experience. If I have to name three important Tagalog movies of all time based on these criteria, they would have to be Brocka’s Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag – acutally I can name four – Castillo’s Burlesk Queen, Romero’s Aguila, Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata.” – Rafael Ma. Guerrero, Film critic (READ MORE)

“…Tuloy-tuloy ‘yun…(the hospital scense with Vilma and Leopoldo Salcedo) nag-experiment ako noong una, kumuha ako ng second take, pero di ko na rin tinapos. Perfect na iyong una. Alam mo bang nang gawin namin ang eksenang iyon tatlo kaming umiiyak sa set? Ako, si Vilma, at si Leopoldo? Dalang-dala si Leopoldo sa pagsasalita ni Vilma, lumuha siya kahit patay siya dapat doon. Buti na lang di siya nakuha ng kamera…(Kung Nahirapan ka ba kay Vilma?) …Oo, hindi sa acting dahil mahusay talaga siya kundi sa scheduling. Alam mo kasi it takes time before I can really get into the mood of a picture, mga two weeks, tapos kapag nandiyan na, that’s the stage when I’m ready to give my life to the project. Tapos biglang walang shooting ng two weeks dahil busy siya sa ibang pelikula…” – Ricardo Lee, Manila Magazine, Dec 1- 31, 1977

“…More remarkable than Santos’ portrayal of the doomed burlesque dancer, is Castillo’s filmmaking. Set within the very patriarchal lower class Manila, Castillo posits the burlesque theater as not merely, as impassioned Louie points out, a place for highbrow entertainment for the masses, but also the window for the film’s female lead to become superior to her male oppressors. It’s a difficult metaphor to execute but Castillo successfully does so. The dancer, scantilly clad amidst the cheers and jeers of horny men, is easily regarded as the victim of exploitation. But in the film’s case, the stage becomes the dancer’s opportunity for leverage which is impossible in the outside world. The stage provides Chato ease from the outside world’s patriarchal clutches. She becomes financially stable on her own, temporarily free from her father’s influences, and powerful over thousands of men. Interestingly, Castillo stages a poetically sequenced scene of Chato’s devirginization within the theater. Jessie attempts to make love to Chato inside her dressing room, and the latter submits to the former’s sexual advances. Interspersed between their lovemaking (take note of the ballad that plays in the background as the lyrics talk of love amidst the entire world’s disapproval, very typical of the romantic declarations that inevitably falter over time) are scenes from the stage, a circus act of horrid penetrations: of a woman being juggled by a man, several magic acts, and more importantly, of a man hammering a nail inside his nostril, then puncturing his eye socket with a metal stick, finally commencing with him swallowing a long blade. Castillo’s juxtaposing Chato’s first sexual act with acts of unnatural and bizarre penetrations of the human body impart a clear message of invasion, of Chato’s theater where she is the goddess (her stage name is Tsarina the goddess) and almighty over all the men who watch her. The theater is no longer the same sanctuary; in a way, the theater’s magic has been tainted. She becomes pregnant and decides to stop dancing pursuant to her relationship with Jessie and pregnancy. Her devirginization within the theater becomes symbolic of her surrender to the outside patriarchal forces…Burlesk Queen is much more than a gripping commercial melodrama. It is also a scathing commentary on the sexual politics that has become the atmosphere of Philippine society: of hardworking women and the good-for-nothing men they serve; of a patriarchal society gone awry. It is also a fervent reminder of the redemptive and equalizing power of art. Multi-faceted, committedly acted, and very well-directed, Burlesk Queen, I opine, is an unsung masterpiece.” – Oggs Cruz (READ MORE)

“(about the hospital scense with Vilma and Leopoldo Salcedo) Tuloy-tuloy ‘yun. nag-experiment ako noong una, kumuha ako ng second take, pero di ko na rin tinapos. Perfect na iyong una. Alam mo bang nang gawin namin ang eksenang iyon tatlo kaming umiiyak sa set? Ako, si Vilma, at si Leopoldo? Dalang-dala si Leopoldo sa pagsasalita ni Vilma, lumuha siya kahit patay siya dapat doon. Buti na lang di siya nakuha ng kamera…(Kung Nahirapan ka ba kay Vilma?) …Oo, hindi sa acting dahil mahusay talaga siya kundi sa scheduling. Alam mo kasi it takes time before I can really get into the mood of a picture, mga two weeks, tapos kapag nandiyan na, that’s the stage when I’m ready to give my life to the project. Tapos biglang walang shooting ng two weeks dahil busy siya sa ibang pelikula…” – Ricardo Lee, Manila magazine Dec. 1- 31, 1977 (READ MORE)

“…When Burlesk Queen was offered to her, Vilma bided her time until she talked with her parents. “Okay,” her Mama agreed, “as long as the sexy scenes would be treated well.” Says Vilma: “I am liberated in the sense that I have moved out of the family residence. Why did I do it? Because I feel I am old enough to take care of myself, gusto ko namang masubukan ang independence. I feel that I am old enough to know what I want. “Ngayon,” she adds, “anu’t-ano pa man ang mangyari, buhay ko na ito. Kung madapa man ako, sisikapin ko nang bumangon ng sarili ko.” Her kind of liberation includes freedom to choose her dates and to go out unchaperoned. To criticisms about her going out with a married man, Vilma snorts: “Ako naman, I don’t care whether a man is a sinner or a saint. Basta niri-respeto niya ako at ang pamilya ko, niri-respeto ko rin siya…It took us almost seven nights, shooting straight, to finish that sequence. I learned the dance from an expert real-life burlesque dancer. During shootings, palaging close-door. My God, I couldn’t have done it with so many people around.” She had to take several shots of brandy before the shooting. “Otherwise, I could have died from nervousness. ”According to Romy Ching, producer of Burlesk Queen, he didn’t really have the Metro Filmfest in mind because he had a November 25 playdate. But when he saw the rushes, he changed plans. “Hindi ka magsisisi na tinanggap mo ito,” he told Vilma, “it will be worth it.” Says Vilma: “I didn’t expect to win, although marami ang nagsasabi sa akin na malaki ang pag-asa ko. Ako naman, I don’t believe anything unless talagang nangyayari. Kasi noon, I expected to win, sa film festival din sa Quezon City, but somebody else did. I was very disappointed. Noong awards night nga, I wasn’t convinced I would win hanggang hindi ko pa hawak ‘yong trophy…” – Ricardo F. Lo, Expressweek Magazine January 19, 1978 (READ MORE)

“…When she cried foul when Rollie Quizon left her for his domineering mother in Burlesk Queen, Filipino women can relate with her anguish. A mama’s boy leaving his striper lover to go back to the luxury of home. Chato still very relevant today. The beerhouses and burlesk clubs no longer a major force in Ermita, now a toro-toro replaced them but the flight of Chato still very much existed with her story line of her decision to have an abortion symbolically reflected to its last few scenes. Her dancing to her death, bleeding to show the cruelty of her life. Vilma’s portrayal, subtle, physical and deeply emoted in her dialogues and eyes. Leopoldo Salcedo’s refusal to admit his daughter became like her mother but her disability and financial situation prevented him to control her dauther’s fate. Poverty one of issue that Mayor Vi has to tackled, very evident in Burlesk Queen….” – RV (READ MORE)

“Vilma is the first Filipino actress to be featured in Time Magaziine. – The Philippines: Let Them See Films. When politics became pretty much a one-man show in the Philippines, the people lost a prime source of entetainment. Part of the gap has been filled by a burhome-grown film industry, which displayed nine of its new productions at the Manila Film Festival last month. Some 2 million moviegoers saw the films. Some of the movies were historical dramas pointing up the search for a Filipino identity during the long years of Spanish rule. But the most acclaimed were contemporary stories with a heavy populist touch. The festival’s smash hit was Burlesk Queen, starring Filipino Superstar Vilma Santos. It tells the syrupy tale of a poor girl who turns to burlesque dancing to support a crippled father. She falls in love with the son of a politician, elopes with him, and then tragically loses him back to his possessive mother. The treacle is supplemented with some gritty argument about the rights and wrongs of burlesque, with a lefthanded dig at censors. Huffs the burlesque impresario at one point: “Who are they to dictate wha the people should see?” ” – Time Magazine Feb. 13, 1978 Vol. 111 No. 7 (READ MORE)

“…Truly, indeed, as montage requires, a film to be art must conform to the law governing organic unity in natural phenomena. Lenin, the great leader of the Russian proletarian revolution under whose influence Eisenstein developed the montage theory, puts it this way: “…the particular does not exist outside that relationship which leads to the general. The general exists only in the particular, through the particular.” Hence in Burlesk Queen, scene after scene, and detail after detail to their minutest proportions within each scene, nothing exists that is not within the central theme of burlesque. In this dress shop sequence, Virgie makes like unaffected by Ander’s having completely abandoned her for the club hostess, but in the dressing room where she repairs to after the verbal clash, she gives vent to all her sorrow from having lost Ander forever. At precisely this point, Chato is exchanging love gazes with Jessie. Here we have a pretty lucid illustration of a rule in dramaturgy that has been a tradition of Greek tragedies whereby qualitative leaps in thematic development are always in the opposite. Chato’s joy at a nascent love affair with Jessie is contraposed to Virgie’s grief brought about by the end of her relationship with Ander. Yet though such qualitative leaps go separate ways, they stay confined within a seeming thematic parallel by which both leaps contribute to the building of a compositional structure necessary to maintain the organic unity begun earlier on at the opening. Virgie drops into depression and is so drunk during one burlesque presentation in the theater that she is not able to answer the call when her number comes. Now, who should come onstage to take Virgie’s place just so to placate a maddened crowd but a young dancer—Chato!…” – Mao Gia Samonte, Manila Times February 12, 2009 (READ MORE)

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