Remembering Celso Ad Castillo

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Castillo gave Vilma Santos her first mature role in Burlesk Queen resulting with her first local film festival best actress award. He also directed Pagputi Ng Uwak Pagitim Ng Tagak where Vilma Santos starred and produced. The film received several best picture awards and was considered one of Castillo’s best works. Total Number of collaboration with Vilma Santos: 3 (Burlesk Queen 1977, Pagputi ng Uwak Pag-itim ng Tagak 1978, Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw 1975)

The “Bomba” Movies – “…In the early seventies, these magazines showed a certain boldness in publishing sex-oriented stories, with accompanying explicit illustrations. The big companies reluctantly ignored these stories, and it was the independent film producers who dared bring them to the screen. The bomba movie was born, shaking the whole industry to its very foundations. New directors were tried out. And a new breed of actors and actresses, who were willing to do anything in front of the camera, threatened to put the more established crowd-drawing out of business. Sex became the staple of the film industry. It was during this time that a new film director surfaced – Celso Ad. Castillo, then in his twenties. His vehicle, Nympha, was the simple story of a girl from a very religios family who ran away and got involved with four men. This story has been done over and over again in a number of forgettable movies and is a staple of the comic magazines. In its attempt to ride the bomba bandwagon, it featured enough sex scenes to satisfy the male audiences who expected every new movie to be still more daring. But Castillo had more to offer than steamy sex. He told his story in such a way that details previously considered taboo were exploited. In one of the first scenes, Nympha, the cooped-up virgin, is shown praying with her spinster aunt, when her attention is caught by the illicit coupling between two young lovers just outside their window. The scene of the novena is intercut with the groaning and moaning couple. At the end of the novena (coinciding with the consumation of the sexual act), the image of Christ is shown staring down at her, reprimanding her for her sin. The movie ends with an abortion scene shown in all its gory details, a literal bloodbath which causes the death of the girl. In a strictly Catholic society like the Philippines, a film like Nympha was bound to create a sensation. It was, for the younger generation of Filipinos who missed the so-called Golden Age of Philippine movies in the 50s, their first auteur film. Castillo showed a flair for visual narrative, emphasis and texture never before seen on screen…” – Rosauro de la Cruz, Focus On Filipino Films, A Sampling 1951-1982 (READ MORE)

“The Messiah” – “…Castillo said he had his hair completely shaved to insure the completion of “Pagputi.” The film had been so plagued by problems – production delays, unavailability of stars, bad weather, that they were all set up to give up. He had to stay put in Laguna and finish all the remaining scenes, fearing he might not have the energy and enthusiasm to return to the location sites should he leave for Manila. An effective way of nailing him down in one place was parting with his hair. “It was also a symbolic act of himility, of shedding my vanity,” Castillo added. Which was unusual for one who proclaimed himself “The Missiah and The Uncrowned.” “But they were not meant to be taken seriously. Of course I was kidding when I called myself “The Messiah.” Castillo said. The money and the effort, not to mention frayed nerves and emotions, tears and high blood pressure, poured into “Pagputi” is paying off. The film is making money and reaping accolades from critics and moviegoers alike. The latter are almost unanimous in saying that “Pagputi” is one of the most meaningful film in years and most probably the best of 1978…In fairness to director Castillo, it must be said he could make films, good films, without waiting for over two years (as the case in “Pagputi”) and depleting the producers’ pocketbooks. He finished “Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa” in one month, “Burlesk Queen,” the top grosser in last year’s Metro Manila Filmfest, was made in two months. He admitted however that he does not follow scripts rigidly, (even if its his own scripts), but rather improves and relies on his instincts right on the set. He refuses to resort to shortcuts and daya. It may not be the most economical and ideal way of filmmaking, but judging from the results (artistic and money wise) of his movies, it had served director Castillo well…” – Ronald K. Constantino, Expressweek Magazine, 03 August 1978 (READ MORE)

The Vindication – “…As soon as his schedule will permit, he’ll go to Hong Kong and seek a job with Run Run Shaw. He believes this wil pave new roads for him, hopefully a Hollywood assignment. At the moment there’s nothing more he’d like to do than get out and run away from everybody, friends and foes alike, donning the thickest, darkest glasses, bumming around as is his won’t. The film has given him tremendous self-confidence. “I can take it easy now,” he stresses. “After doing Burlesk I won’t have to prove myself to anyone anymore. He talked about the film again, very obviously so close to his heart. “With it I wanted to show some kind of heroism,” he explained. “In the movie Vilma is pregnant and she knows very well that by dancing the striptease she runs the risk of losing not only her baby but her own life. Yet, she goes on, dying in the end. I want to tell the audience – The show is over but the show must go on. Before doing it anything, one should ask himself, ‘Is it worth it?” Vilma loses her life – is it really worth it?” What he fears most now is the sweet smell of success. “I couldn’t imagine myself moving around in a plane or speedboat. When I do this, I will have finally prostituted my art.” Still and all, he coundn’t be happier with the way Burlesk Queen has turned out. “Ngayon, malalaman na kung sinong tunay o hindi,” he gloated…” – Robert Q. Castillo, MOD Magazine, Jan 6 1978 (READ MORE)

Dalang-dala si Leopoldo – “…The last film of Vilma and Leopoldo. He played the crippled father who is against his dauther working as a burlesque dancer. Writer, Ricardo Lee interviewed director Celso Ad Castillo about the directing Salcedo and Santos: “…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 (READ MORE)

“Aktres” Na Talaga – “…“I was shocked,” said Vilma who played the title role in the movie that marked the turning point in her career. “He was too young to go…Celso Kid was the first director who told me na aktres na talaga ako after we shot Burlesk Queen,” added Vilma who won Best Actress at the 1977 Metro Filmfest, but the same award, including those for Best Director and Best Film, were taken back after a controversial Awards Night. “That was the turning point of my career,” said Vilma. After Burlesk Queen, Vilma worked again with Celso in Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak which took three years to finish, causing a big rift between them. “I didn’t only star in the movie, I was also its producer,” recalled Vilma. “I remember Celso Kid as a genius, an intense director. We have forgotten our differences and we resumed our communication. I knew that he was sick. Only a few days ago, I was coordinating with him for his book. He was asking for pictures for the book’s cover. I will pray for the repose of his soul and for his family. I just hope that he was able to finish the book.” Celso also directed Vilma in Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw,” the movie that launched Vilma’s long-running team-up with Christopher de Leon (they have starred in more than two dozen movies since then)…” – Ricky Lo, The Philippine Star, 27 Nov 2, 2012 (READ MORE)

The wisdom and intellect of the Filipino moviegoers – “…”…So the premise goes like this: If it’s good (the film) then why does it fail (at the box-office)? A film makes money because it is effectively communicated visually with its basic intent and purpose within the framework of desired entertainment value, simply saying that if you’re smart, they why aren’t you rich? Also I believe that it is the ultimate idiocy to regard a film as artistic or commercial during the stage of its conception. So that no one may classify a film before or during or after its principal photography. A film only becomes commercial when it has achieved the desired box-office results and only destiny and its timelessness can make a film an art. I dare again say that “classics are not product of presents times but are babies of tomorrow.” And yes, Viriginia, we have indeed in our midst a new breed of moviegoers. In fact it has outgrown our movie industry which up to now still clings to the traditional star and producership systems of the 50’s. The industry still sells the recycled films smorgasbord of Dona Sisang and Dr. Perez to a public has been educated tremendously (sic) by the technology of the 20th century communication arts. Damn those people who insists that the wisdom and intellect of the Filipino moviegoers did not progress even as man had already set foot on the moon and the revolution of modern man had already happened in Asia! For after a thorough theoretical evaluation we can not dismiss the wisdom of acceptance that what precipitated the great awakening of the Filipinos to aesthetic appreciation of modern cinema are: the invasion of television sets in our living rooms which is tantamount to day-to-day exercise of our visual appreciations, the prerogative to chose our line of vision through betamax and the great exports of Filipinos in any capacity to that their return to our homeland bring with them a more civilized attitude towards the intellect of both personal and cinematic arts of existence…” – JC Nigado, Manila Standard, 12 Feb 1987 (READ MORE)

Celso Ad Castillo – “…Born in Siniloan, Laguna 12 Sept 1943. Movie director, scriptwriter, actor. He is the son of Atty. Dominador Ad Castillo, lawyer/writer, and Marta Adolfo. He studied at Manuel L. Quezon University and obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1964. Castillo started as a writer for a komiks magazine. With the help of his father, he published his own magazine where he wrote all the stories from cover to cover, using different names as authors. A movie producer commissioned him to write a script on the character of ” James Bandong.” named after Britain’s superspy. The film made money and it was followed by a sequel, “Dr. Yes,” 1965, a spoof on the British film, Dr. No. He wrote and directed his first movie, “Misyong Mapanganib” (Dangerous Mission), in 1966. The most memorable of his earlier films is “Asedillo,” 1971, based on a Filipino rebel of the 1920s who was hunted down as a bandit by the American colonial government. With this film, Fernando Poe, Jr. acquired the image that was to set him off as a legendary gunslinger, a defender of the poor and oppressed. Castillo also made Ang Alamat (The Legend), 1972, with Poe as a reluctant hero who battle a whole private army all by himself to defend his townfolks. Succeeding Castillo films aspired towards thematic originality: small-town perversion in Ang Madugong Daigdig ni Salvacion (The Bloody World of Salvacion), 1975; incest in Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw (Rainy Days in Summer), 1975; political and period gangsterism in Daluyong at Habagat (Tall Waves, Wild Wind), 1976. Even his sex films had a to message to tell. One finds spiritual undertones in the story of an oversexed girl in “Nympha” (Nymph), 1971; a struggle of conscience in a stripteaser who laughed on the outside but cried on the inside in “Burlesk Queen” (Burlesque Queen), 1977; tribal conflict in “Aliw-iw,” 1979; a conflict of family values in “Snake Sisters,” 1983; and the politics of domination in “Isla” (Island), 1983…Castillo won the Filpino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) awards for best director and best story for “Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak” (When the Crow Turns White, When the Heron Turns Black), 1978, and also won the Urian awards for best director and best screenplay for the same picture. He shared the story credits with Ruben Nicdao, and the screenplay credits with Lando jacob, Ishko Lopez and Ruben Nicdao. He won the FAMAS best director trophy again in 1985 for “Paradise Inn,” a Lolita Rodriguez-Vivian Velez starrer. He also has a FAMAS best supporting actor award, for “Sampung Ahas ni Eba” (Ten Snakes of Eve), in 1984…” – Excerpts from Encyclopaedia of Philippine Arts by L. Pareja, Celso Ad Castillo Presents web-site (READ MORE)

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