FILM REVIEW: THE HEALING

The Plot: – “…Stories about the Filipino tradition of going to faith healers for guidance and treatment of ailments have not yet been tackled in-depth in movies. And in our film, the viewers will not just be horrified, they’ll somehow be challenged to think as to how faith healing has already been part of our culture…” – ABS-CBN News (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “…Created in the same campy mold as Chito Roño’s other horror “Feng Shui”, the film gambled on giving Vilma Santos a project that was expected to earn money and provide cheap thrills. I am not sure about the box office returns but it did provide some scares when I saw it. Plot is about a neighborhood who is embroiled in a karma-like situation. The neighbors are having a second lease on life with their own set of illnesses after a life insurance agent’s dad was attended to by a faith healer named Elsa (who happens to be the name of Nora Aunor’s character in the masterpiece “Himala”). It may be low in coming up with a compact and weighty story to connect with but at least it gave its main chunk of meat a good production value and execution. The one involving a Chinese temple is my favorite. I also have to note that Jerrold Tarog did a wonderful job in the editing department. The ending, for instance, did not linger much on the drama and the realizations. Star Cinema also released two versions of the film. One is R18 which contains more gore and the other, to reach to a wider audience (read: more money), R13. Friends who might appreciate it: Vilmanians, no less…” – Manuel Pangaruy Jr., Tagailog Specials Presents, 28 October 2012 (READ MORE)

“…We are glad director Chito Roño has found his mojo in making effective horror flicks. After “Feng Shui,” which was truly scary, his next works like “Sukob,” “T2” and “Bulong” were quite inferior. He’s now back in top form in “The Healing,” which really works as a thriller. After seeing it, we’re no longer surprised the MTRCB gave its uncut version a rating of R-18 (although there’s an expurgated version that’s R-13) as he really upped the ante in the violence factor. It has a decapitation scene right in the middle of a busy street, a self immolation scene, necks being slashed, a stomach split open with the intestines spilling out, a bloodbath in a massage parlor where several defenseless people were killed and in a Chinese temple were monks were massacred, and most ruthless of all, a little girl being impaled in a flagpole. Those scenes are already shocking and horrifying enough as they are. In “Feng Shui,” the series of terrifying events was triggered by a cursed bagua. This time, the killings take place after Vilma Santos as Seth, an insurance executive, takes her ailing father (Robert Arevalo) to a faith healer (Daria Ramirez).

Her dad gets healed overnight so her ailing neighbors ask Seth to accompany them to the same faith healer: Ces Quesada who can’t speak, Ynez Veneracion who has a breast tumor, Janice de Belen’s blind daughter, Pokwang and Cris Villanueva who are afflicted with skin disease and Kim Chiu, who has a kidney problem. They do get healed, but the healing also doomed them and turn them into violent killers. We won’t go into detail as to why this happened, so as not to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that Roño and his scriptwriter, Roy Iglesias, try their best to come up with a believable explanation of its root cause that stems from the concept of “huwag mong buhayin ang bangkay.” Chito manages to sustain the feeling of dread and anticipation throughout the movie. And of course, it works because we feel for Ate Vi as Seth. It’s not her fault that the series of gory incidents happened but she’s the one being hounded by the ghostly spirits in the story since she’s the one who brought all the patients to the faith healer. Running against time, she then tries to reverse the curse by going to its source. All the graphic killing scenes are staged convincingly for maximum gruesome effect and it’s effective as all the actors deliver.

Pokwang is truly quite chilling when she turns into a monstrous entity with superhuman strength throwing people down from a tall building. Even perennial Roño actor Jhong Hilario stands out in a short but menacing role, the nature of which we can’t reveal here. The special effects involving the bulging and rotating left eye of all the killers is a touch of genius. Vilma is subjected to a lot of stressful scenes in the movie as she fights for dear life. We have to suspend our disbelief a bit in the scenes where she gets violently mauled, stabbed, hit by a chair, repeatedly hurled down into the floor, but it did elicit a lot of deafening screams from the theatre crowd. Some of her fans feel she should have just done another drama but we can understand her desire to flex her wings and do a vehicle of this sort. When we saw the movie, a lot of viewers were young people who enjoy watching scary films like this. With this, Ate Vi has successfully reached out to a new demographic, with the help of a young star like Kim Chiu, who in all fairness, also does well in her dual roles. For us, it’s a very wise decision indeed. And Chito Roño shows here to younger horror directors like Topel Lee, Richard Somes and Jerrold Tarog (Tarog did a fine job of scoring and editing the movie) that he remains to be the master of the genre who can be even playful with the orchestrated color scheme of the costumes worn by his characters in the movie…” – Mario Bautista, Malaya, Aug 6 2012 (READ MORE)

“…Director Chito S. Roño is a veteran in doing horror movies. In 2004, he helmed the box-office hit Feng Shui, an answer to the Asian horror movie phenomenon. The Healing, on the other hand, can be considered an answer to Hollywood’s torture-and-gore horror movie phenomenon. It may be the first local horror film to do so, and thus it is refreshing to watch. There is no shortage of shocking gore in The Healing. There are lots and lots of blood; horror movie fans will not be disappointed. The movie is also made more fun by moments of fan service, that recalls several niches of pop culture that seem to be taboo in Philippine mainstream cinema. There’s a small child wielding a ninja weapon killing groups of monks, before jumping to her death. There’s a beheading using a giant knife. There are many more. The story also offers something new, away from familiar themes like haunted houses and vengeful ex-girlfriends. It exploits the Filipino tradition of faith healing, and the consequences of tapping this alternative form of therapy. What’s most admirable is the fact that The Healing’s actors went to great lengths to provide credence to the story. Vilma Santos, for instance, gets stabbed multiple times that you’d wonder how she can take these intense physical scenes at her age. Kim Chiu should also be praised for her handling of her character, Cookie. Her early scenes when she needs to act sick are believable and downright affecting. In summary, The Healing is suited for Pinoy horror fans. It is fun as it is shocking, and non-squeamish viewers should have no problem having a good time…” – Mark Angelo Ching, PEP, July 30, 2012 (READ MORE)

“…Santos’ spine-tingler is far from original, but as it tweaks the narrative conceit that has made “Final Destination” a box-office-busting film franchise, the movie finds innovative ways to establish an atmosphere of impending doom that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats: You feel that something gruesome is about to transpire, you just don’t know how it will play out—or when! The Star for All Seasons decided to make the film because she wanted to add something “new” to her formidable oeuvre—and, with “The Healing,” Santos accomplishes exactly that. The role doesn’t require her to do much except run in circles or look worried or scared. But, she displays flashes of dramatic brilliance when she is hounded by guilt, a motivation that presents her with forks in the road that just might lead to the resolution of the horrifying story’s main conflict. More than anything, it’s a treat to see the durable actress on the big screen again. The horror-thriller genre she dabbles in effectively introduces her to a younger (and wider) viewing demographic that derives pleasure from getting scared out of its wits…” – Rito P. Asilo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 28, 2012 (READ MORE)

“…The reason I like Chito Rono’s horror movies, and the reason I see most of them in the theatre, is because suspense-horror is a completely original genre, completely divorced from the hang-ups and expectations of movies that involve real people doing somewhat credible things. I remember when Chito Rono did a suspense project DAHAS, topbilled by Maricel Soriano and Richard Gomez. It was one of a kind. Very engaging just like the Healing. Kim Chiu, among other characters has lesser exposure here but a huge revelation. She epitomizes the typical Asian character on every horror films we watched. Her make-up was perfect and she looks so fresh on the movie. Pokwang, Janice and Martin Del Rosario did a great job as support role. Their characters are very important and happy to see Janice De Belen again on the big screen. Pokwang gave a little taste of comic on her dialogues, which gave everyone to catch their breath in preparation to next scene. Martin Del Rosario is a real charmer. Again the focus of the film is the story, its suspense package and for Vilma Santos, which they succeeded. I suggest everyone should watch the uncut version, brave the director’s cut as there seems to be obvious reason why some of the scenes are not included on R13. DISLIKE: There’s one thing I don’t like, they are trying to blur some of Vilma Santos physical feature. That looks very obvious on the big screen. But you will love the color coding (that’s for you to find out). Star Cinema gave another reason for everyone to go back to movie houses and appreciate local films. It’s another excellent film of 2012…The Movie is in honor of Vilma’s 50th anniversary, Star Cinema gathered an all-star highly acclaimed powerhouse cast composed of Kim, Janice de Belen, Mark Gil, Martin del Rosario, Allan Paule, Cris Villanueva, Daria Ramirez, Ces Quesada, Ynez Veneracion, Simon Ibarra, Abi Bautista, Joel Torre, Chinggoy Alonso, Mon Confiado, Carmi Martin and Pokwang. I am giving THE HEALING 10 out of 10…” – Rod Magaru (READ MORE)

“…After the first character dies, you already know how the story would go. The suspense you feel as you watch grows, but this is in anticipation of the gory way the next character will die, not because you do not know what will happen next. To Rono’s credit, each “death scene” would top the last one as far as gore and blood are concerned. The cast did well, too. Vilma Santos is Vilma Santos. She will always be bigger than her roles. This is not to say that she did not perform well; she did. But, watching her, you see Vilma more than Seth – too strong to ignore. Kim Chiu appeared in very few scenes despite her second billing. As with her performances on TV, she would have done better if she injected more energy into her role. I did not know Martin del Rosario before this movie, but he delivered very well in his crucial role as Jed. I’m not really sure why Ynez Veneracion had to show her right boob in a scene – maybe for old times’ sake.

Several camera angles used by Mr. Rono were very well-planned and executed, maximizing the tension onscreen. Like other productions (movies and theater plays) I watch nowadays, there was color coordination in the outfits/costumes of the characters onscreen. In “The Healing,” though, I did not quite get why a certain color was chosen to be the “theme” of a scene. It was too obvious, that when a scene’s color scheme continued into an unrelated scene, it became distracting. Many common scare tactics and music were employed in the film. Thankfully, there was no Sadako-like creature in this one (if you still don’t know who Sadako is, Google “The Ring” Japanese version — or search on YouTube). Overall, “The Healing” is okay. It is similar to other horror films in the way the friends of the lead female character are dying around her and it is up to her to break the curse. If it was Kris Aquino who played Seth instead of Vilma Santos, the movie would just be “Feng Shui” all over again…” – Fred Hawson, Rappler, Aug 12 2012 (READ MORE)

“…The movie has a cohesive plot. The editing is brisk. The story telling is to the point. The jolts, the surprises, the building tension as the plot thickens makes you squirm from your seat. You can’t take your eyes off the screen so as not to miss the details, the foreshadowing, the conflict resolution. From the impressive opening credits, to the alternate theme colors of blue, red, yellow & white, you know the movie is special. The ensemble acting reminds you of such sleuth movies as Murder on the Orient Express & Death on the Nile, where Rono is able to flesh out the best from each actor or actress, no matter how small the role is, whether in a group or singly . I particularly like Janice De Belen, Pokwang, Robert Arevalo (in a groovy role that Sildenafil users could relate to), Kim Chiu, Joel Torre & Martin Del Rosario. Vilma Santos is in almost every frame. It is a most restrained performance, akin to her Urian winning Amanda Bartolome character in Dekada 70 where she has mastered “doing less is more.” As the key figure or the cause of the sad fate of her friends, Vilma is able to effectively use her eyes to show fear, guilt, sadness, even remorse. Her best scenes are when she tells her son Martin to not leave Kim from his sight, while calling from a cell phone, her confrontation scene with Kim in a car while Martin is driving the van & her hair raising, thrilling confrontation scene with Kim, the evil twin…” – Mar Garces (READ MORE)

“…The film is, by turn, violent and the sexy episode given clinical treatment. The breast of Ynez Veneracion (as Greta) is fondled matter-of-factly to show that the cancerous lumps are no longer there. The series of death – suicide and murder, keep the moviegoers on the edge, screaming here and there and up to the very end when the ‘sanib’ victim Kim Chiu (as Cookie) opens her eyes. Rono has a perfect acting ensemble to make this film credible and engaging. Even with the limited exposure and dialogue that she had, Daria Ramirez was great acting personified in The Healing. Pokwang (as Alma) was another revelation. Here, Rono doesn’t allow her to take another crack at her comic talents and emerges a natural performer. Everyone has defining moments in this film from Kim Chiu (as Cookie), Janice de Belen (as Cita), Robert Arevalo (as Odong), Martin del Rosario (as Jed), Mark Gil (as Val), Carmi Martin, Cris Villanueva (as Ding), Allan Paule (as Ruben), Ces Quesada (as Chona), Chinggoy Alonzo and Simon Ibarra (as Rex), among others. Joel Torre -as the healer’s brother- turns in another winning performance. This is my first horror film with Vilma Santos in it and I must say that she acquitted herself very well. Her subtle acting in The Healing was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I think she should do more horror film with Rono. Like it or not, The Healing is my Horror Film of the Year…” – Pablo A. Tariman (READ MORE)

“…The movie queen has also reached out to new media. In the weeks leading to the movie’s showing, and during its entire run, the blogosphere is abuzz with news and features on its star. Bloggers, who are slowly eclipsing the legit press in prestige, a powerful bloc who are not paid purveyors of gossip and publicity stunts, are one in their admiration and praise for the screen icon. One thing that “The Healing” has achieved is it gained for Vilma Santos a new following. Not only has Vilma encroached on the horror-suspense niche, but with the film’s R-13 rating, she has also reintroduced herself to the younger segments of the population. Vilma’s insistence on challenging herself by doing different projects paid off, she has just made herself current, still, and very much a big, dominant fixture in popular culture, notwithstanding the new crop of stars that have come up and populated the scene. One palpable proof is her movie has set a trend in Philippine cinema: a slew of horror-suspense flicks followed suit after its huge success in the box-office. Philippine horror-suspense is usually associated with Kris Aquino, but Vilma has given the genre a new meaning and dimension…” – RRI Espinoza (READ MORE)

“…Whilst the script is somewhat threadbare the vistas, cinematography and overall presentation feels on par with that of its contemporaries. It’s just a shame that the screenplay fails to capitalize more on its own interesting premise. Whilst some light is shed upon the peculiar push-pull of Healers and the country’s strong catholic heritage; more time seems to of been placed upon moving the characters to the next set piece, complimented by some overly expository dialogue and a few to many ham-fisted deliveries. Having said that though, The Healing marks the mid-point of an exciting time for the Filipino horror industry. With titles such as Feng-Shui, Ouija and The Road seeing some overseas success, one hopes that a marriage of script, production and budget isn’t to far away. For now though The Healing represents a curio for the discerning viewer, or perhaps instead, a seed from which greater films will eventually flourish…” – John H. Marshall, Japan Cinema (READ MORE)

Film Review: Edgar Loves Vilma (1970)

FILMS - Edgar Loves Vilma 3

Relesed: September 27, 1970

The Plot: – Daughter of a nightclub singer, Vilma met Edgar whose father, like Vilma’s mother is also single parent. While dating, their parent also fell in love. Some twists of events happened, like the sudden break-up of their parent due to Edgar’s grandmother’s disapproval of her son’s relationship to Vi’s mother who is a night club singer, which was a societal taboo for the upper class during those days (the 60s-70s). Another twist was the kidnapping of Vilma. But all we’re ironed out in the end, just in time for the final musical production number, showing the whole gang dancing and singing to Vilma’s hit song, “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Love You!”

The Reviews: – “Edgar Loves Vilma” (1970) started with suitor Oscar (Jess Lapid Jr.) calling Vilma about a party they’re attending, he’s trying to make sure Vilma will be his dance partner. The following scene, Edgar is also talking over the phone, and his girlfriend was also trying to assure herself that Edgar will be her dance partner. A premonitions? The two attended the party, both did their usual singing number and both ended up in the dance floor leaving their partners. As Vi and Bot became lovers so is their parents, both single and lonely. Vilma’s mother who is a nightclub singer (Perla Bautista) falls for Edgar’s rich father. Edgar’s grandmother who lives with them discovered his son’s new affair and visited Vilma’s mother.  She insulted her, being a “nightclub singer!” and asked her to leave his already engaged son alone. Vilma’s mother followed the old witch’s request.  At the same time, she had an argument with her daughter, resulting with Vilma to run away. Missing for two days, Edgar helped to find Vilma while his father ironed out his own affair with Vilma’s mother, who is now sick.  Edgar found Vilma asked her to go back home.  She agreed.  Vi and her mother reconcile and we thought this is the end but Vilma’s suitor Oscar kidnapped her. Thankfully, Edgar rescued her after the usual fight scenes. The film ended in the typical musical production number. Vilma singing her recorded hit song, “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Love You.” Rico Bello Omagap’s story and screenplay was poor and so is Leonardo L. Garcia’s direction. There were so many unnecessary scenes particularly Edgar Mortiz’s several singing segments in his house back yard garden, while being watch by his two young siblings.  Another one was Ben David’s character despite the attempt to add some comedy.  At times Perla Bautista was convincing but some scenes can be edited shorter. After watching Edgar Loves Vilma, you will not feel the love. – RV

Edgar “Bobot” Mortiz (born September 8, 1954) is a Filipino movie/TV actor and director. Mortiz is married to Millette Santos (born 1960; sister of Charo Santos-Concio) on April 3, 1977, with 4 children: Edgar Francis “Frasco” (born 1978), Edgar Albert “Badjie” (born 1980), Ma. Carmela Catalin “Calin” (born 1981) and Ma. Frances Camille (born 1983). Frasco, Badji and Camille are now married giving Edgar five cute grandchildren named Joaquin Edgar, Julien Alva, Edgar Carlos, Jayla Sophia and Francis Marcus. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: DARNA VS THE PLANET WOMEN


The Plot: She is just a simple woman-a lady gifted with disability that she cannot leave her crutch. Narda/Darna (Vilma Santos) is very much contented with her life – having the company of her little brother and their grandmother not to mention her someone special who already accepts and love her for who she is. She has a greatest dream of helping and touching the lives of many but buried that in her heart given the situation that she has. Who would imagine that she will be chosen as the saviour of the Mother Earth against the dangerous attempt of the aliens from other planet? She was chosen to be strong and powerful “Darna”, a local superhero whose role is to depend the people and stop the plan of invasion from women in another planet. They want to use the earth as the extension of their planet by killing its people especially the experts in all areas such as metal, nuclear, moral and others. Darna has to act and who knows how much she is going to sacrifice with the given MISSION… Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: “In this 1975 film (the 3rd in a 4 Darna film franchise), the story of Darna is rebooted as this new installment is NOT a continuation of the 1st and 2nd films. In this revamped version, Narda (Vilma Santos) is a cripple who dreams of accomplishing great things for the betterment of humankind despite her physical limitations. One day, she discovers her suitor (Zandro Zamora) paralyzed after having been attacked by a UFO. Together with her brother Ding (Bentot Jr.), she prays for help and offers to sacrifice herself for the sake of her suitor’s survival. A voice from beyond answers and sends her an enchanted amulet of power. The power of Darna contained within the magic pebble. With her newfound powers, she battles The Planet Women- Alien Amazons who are trying to transport the Earth to their own star system.” – Eric Cueto, Mars Ravelo’s Darna (READ MORE)

“Vilma Santos 3rd Darna movie.another thrilling episode in highly-popular Darna series. Narda (Vilma Santos) is a pretty, provincial lass whose only desire in life is peace and brotherhood for all humanity. Narda’s prayers are answered when she recieves a gift of of supernatural powers as the super woman (Darna). Darna has a motley crew of beauteous female alliens for nemesis. The girls have come to planet earth to literaly suck in the minds of brilliant scientists. Their ultimate goal is to use this knowledge, along with their own, to produce amaster race capable of ruling the entire universe. Stars Rosanna Ortiz as (Elektra), Zandro Zamora as (Ramon), Bentot jr as( Ding), Lita Vasquez, Eva linda, Liza Zobel as The planet women…” – IMDB (READ MORE)

“…the truth is that Santos didn’t appear in the Darna movies out of hunger, and was in fact already a star at the time of first taking the role. I think this says as much about the stature of Darna as it does about that of Santos. Darna was, after all, an iconic figure in her own right at that point, having been the star of both a best-selling comic book and a popular series of movies for over twenty years. Given that, I imagine that the offer to play her, despite bearing with it the risk of ending up looking a bit ridiculous, was a difficult one to refuse — just as the opportunity to play such freighted pop cultural totems as Batman or Superman has been for many Hollywood actors who might otherwise have been loath to parade before their audience stuffed like sausages into form-fitting lycra…With its dodgy technical execution and resolutely rural sensibility, Darna vs. the Planet Women is third world pulp cinema at its purest, with the most extreme example of conspicuous consumption seen on screen being the destruction of a chicken shack. Still, you just know that I’m going to say that I enjoyed it anyway, and I did. Vilma Santos makes for an appealingly plucky heroine, and it’s not hard to see why she is such a beloved figure in her country. On top of that, the film, like the most savvy hostess, shows that it knows how to entertain on a budget, delivering up a generous amount of cheesy thrills with the simple application of colored paints on an impressive expanse of exposed flesh, some imaginative repurposing of discarded household objects in its cash-strapped sci-fi sets, and some truly head-slap worthy primitive special effects. That’s enough to guaranty that I’ll be taking another return trip to Darnaland in the very near future.” – Todd Stadtman of Lucha Diaries (READ MORE)

Darna is a fictional character and Filipino comics superheroine created by writer Mars Ravelo and artist Nestor Redondo. In her more popular incarnations, she is a deceased warrior from another planet manifesting herself through a girl from Earth, named Narda. She first appeared in Pilipino Komiks #77 (May 13, 1950). Darna is a retooling of Ravelo’s earlier character Varga, whose stories he wrote and illustrated himself. She first appeared in Bulaklak Magazine, Volume 4, #17 (July 23, 1947). Ravelo left Bulaklak due to differences with the editors.

“…Starting in 1951, several Darna movies were made. Some made from 1973 onwards starred the future multi-awarded dramatic actress and politician Vilma Santos. In these 1970s films, Darna’s origin was changed; no longer a little girl, Narda was now in her late teens. Also, she herself becomes Darna, unlike the original where she just “channels” her (not unlike Jason Blood and Etrigan). Only Ding knows her secret in this version. Also, the stone comes out of Narda’s mouth every time she changes back; she has to swallow it every time she wants to transform (This became standard for following versions). Darna is not specified as coming from Marte, just as a “warrior of Light”. This version of Darna became most people’s idea of the character for about 3 decades. A catchphrase popularized by the movies and said by Narda runs, “Ding, ang bato!” (“Ding, [give me] the stone!”) – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

RELATED READING:
IMDB: Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975)
IMDB: Mars Ravelo (1916–1988)
IMDB: Rosanna Ortiz
IMDB: Eva Linda
Official Mars Ravelo’s Darna web-site
Filmography: Darna vs. the Planet Women (1975)
Eva Linda sa Wish ko lang
“Actress Then, Housemaid Now” and “Gov. Vilma Santos Surprise!”
Gallery for Darna vs. the Planet Women
Vilma Santos: The Best Darna Ever!

Film Review: Leron-leron Sinta (1972)

FILMS - Leron-leron Sinta 2

The Plot: – Leron Leron Sinta stars Vilma Santos, Edgar Mortiz, Jay Ilagan, Florence Aguilar, Lillian Laing, Karlo Vero in this film that fuses music and film perfectly. Witness their characters explore the world of love and the beauty and madness that come with it. Watch them as they perform certain scenes with song numbers bringing pleasure and entertainment to the next level. – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – “Leron-leron Sinta” (1972) started when Gigi (Florence Aguilar) and Beth (Vilma Santos) moved to a new house and found new suitors, Spike (Jay Ilagan) and Noel (Edgar Mortiz). The two pairs swapped partners a couple of times that by the time they decided to elope they decided to stop their civil wedding at the last-minute after they realized they’re all not ready.  Leron-Leron Sinta reminded us of Glee, with Florence Aguilar auditioning to a school choir and with several cover songs like Lennon’s “Imagine.”  It also featured a funny scene where Edgar Mortiz did a duet with Florence, he, singing in his window while she answered back, singing in their house balcony.  Feeling irritated, both Vilma and Jay sarcastically screamed, “wow! ala-Romeo and Juliet!”  Leron is watchable but has some noticeable flaws.  On the first part, suddenly, we see both Jay and Edgar cross-dressing and we realized that this was a continuity scene of the later part of the film, where Gigi and Beth decided to entertain other suitors (as both got fed up with Jay and Edgar’s courting antics).  Like most musical films in the 70s, there’s the typical travelogue scenes.  The film showcased the city of Antipolo while the four main characters did some sight-seeing, like tourists.  As part of the story, the film showcase Edgar and Florence’s singing talents which were justifiable as both were member of their school’s choir unlike other musical films where the singing scenes were just added with no connections to the film’s story.  This can be attributed to a much equipped team of writer,  Nestor Torre Jr. and director, Emmanuel Borlaza, who also came up with Vilma’s first significant drama, Dama de Noche.  But like so many film in this era, Leron-leron Sinta, also ended with a musical production number, this time, it’s a Christmas medley.  Child star Beth Manlongat and Angelito provided some funny moments.  And Lilian Laing too.  But the one star who stole the film from the four main characters was veteran comedian, Bayani Casimiro who was very funny as the forgetful judge and who tried to marry the four undecided teens.

Film Review: Biktima (1974)

FILMS - BIKTIMA

Release Date: June 23, 1974 (Philippines)

The Plot: – In a strange turn of events, Dolores (Vilma Santos) moves in to live with her grandfather, who has sole custody of her ever since her mother was imprisoned for the murder of Dolores’ father. Mystery unfolds as Dolores stays with her grandfather when members of the household are murdered one by one. Will Dolores escape the chaos unraveling around her or will she be the next victim? – Kabayan Central (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – Hired by Don Rafael Valdez (Joe Sison), Attorney Andrade (Leopoldo Salcedo) finally convinced Dolores (Vilma Santos) to live with her rich grandfather, Don Rafael. This is despite the warning of her aunt, Tiya Dadeng (Patria Plata) and the warning of her mother, Lourdes (Perla Bautista) who is in prison. She was framed-up and wrongfully convicted of her father’s death. When Dolores came to her grandfather’s mansion, one by one, people are starting to die. This includes her grandfather’s young wife (Elizabeth Vaughn); Monica Valdez (Celia Rodriguez); Magda (Divina Valencia); the gardener (Yoyoy Villame); and Marita (Helen Gamboa). By the time the last victim died, the surprise killer was expose, the killer was Dolores. She tried to revenge her mother’s imprisonment and her father’s death. It was also revealed that her aunt’s husband (Bert Le Roy Jr.) was the one who killed her father. Her father tried to rape their grandfather’s nurse, Marita (Helen Gamboa), she fought hard and stabbed her father. Bert Leroy Jr. framed-up Dolores’ mother who was the first person on the scene of the crime. In exchange for his silence he blackmailed Marita with sexual favors. Marita didn’t know that Dolores’ father was still alive but Leroy finished the job by stabbing him more.

Written by Jose Flores Sibal with writing credit from the film’s lead star, Vilma Santos, Biktima was surprisingly watchable. Compared to other Vilma Santos films that Nilo Saez directed like Kampanerang Kuba, he did a convincing job in ironing out the many characters of the film (maybe except for Divina Valencia’s role who was one of the first to die). This is perhaps due to the excellent cast. The one who stands out more were Celia Rodriguez and Helen Gamboa. Both gave subdued performances. Edgar Mortiz’ role as assistant investigator was just to appeal to the loyal festival followers of Vi and Bot. By this time, it was clear that Vilma’s career are heading upward while Mortiz was heading to a different path. The ending of the film, showing a bald Vilma Santos in preparation for her demise was the film’s dramatic highlight.

FILM REVIEW: KARMA

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Plot Description: Sarah (Vilma Santos) is forced to defer her wedding when she scheduled to flight was delayed. At a hotel where she is staying, Sarah encounters Eric (Ronaldo Valdez), a regular guest who forces himself on her. The incident leaves a stigma not just on Sarah but more so on her fiancé, Alfredo (Tommy Abuel) whose dream of marrying a “virgin” is dashed. Strangely, Sarah and Eric’s paths cross again at a time when their respective marriages are in disarray. Their meeting strikes both as “déjà vu.” Could it be that they have met each other in the past? Their suspicious are confirmed after Eric consults a psychic. As it turns out, Sarah and Eric are the reincarnation of Guada and Enrico, two lovers who had an illicit affair sixty years ago. When Guada’s husband, Limbo (Ruel Vernal), learned of her affair, he went on a murderous rampage. Now Sarah and Eric seem destined to follow the same path. But in whose spouse does the spirit of Limbo rest? Is it the disabled Alfredo? Or Eric’s estranged wife Cristy (Chanda Romero)? – Viva Films

Film Review: The technical preview of “Karma” the other night was delayed for about an hour but I did not mind waiting because I was quite certain that I’d be seeing a fine film. To while away the time, “Firecracker,” co-starring American actors with local talents like Chanda Romero, Vic Diaz, and Rey Malonzo was shown. Chanda and Vic delivered their lines themselves but surprisingly Rey didn’t. Before one whole reel could roll, the prints of “Karma” arrived. “Don’t stop it yet, a bed scene is coming,” Mario Bautista protested. Happily, “Karma” turned out to be as good as I expected. It’s performers are first-rate – Vilma Santos, Ronaldo Valdez, Tommy Abuel, Chanda Romero – so their award-winning acting didn’t surprise me at all. The script was outstanding but even that was expected, coming from director Danny Zialcita. What impressed me was that minor parts were played by name actors. The housekeeper who appeared in one short sequence could have been played by any elderly woman but those who made the movie wanted nothing less than Etang Discher. The psychiatrist could have been played by any decent-looking man but they didn’t settle for anybody less than Vic Silayan. The male lover at the start of the story had to be acted out by Dante Rivero, that at the end by Christopher de Leon. The movie boasted of several bold scenes. Those involving Vilma weren’t much as we know for a fact that Vilma could show only so much. One scene showing Chanda was a different story. It showed her with absolutely nothing on, yet it didn’t offend anybody as it was executed in style, shot with great care. There was just one thing, which looked unnatural to me – the way in which one of the main characters killed himself. “That’s all right,” Danny assured me. “Before we shot it, we double-checked its possibility.” Reincarnation and transference are undoubtedly mind-boggling subjects but, to his utmost credit, Danny managed to present them simply, bringing them down for everybody to understand. “Bala lang yan. Katawan lang ito. Babalik at babalik kami sa mundong ito,” Dante vowed. Come back they did as they promised building the foundation of the story. – Bob Castillo, People’s Journal Dec. 12, 1981 (READ MORE)

Sa pagbabago ng estado ni Vilma Santos, tila nagbabago na rin ang kanyang approach sa kanyang career. Dahil hindi na career ang unang priority niya sa buhay, lalong nagiging professional ang kanyang tingin sa trabaho. Dahil hindi na twenty-four hours a day ang kanyang buhay artista, alam na niyang I-apportion ang bawat minuto na walang aksaya. Sa set ng Relasyon ni Ishmael Bernal, hangang-hanga ang director sa bagong pang-unawa ni Vilma sa trabaho. Dumarating sa oras, kabisado ang linya (memorizing lines for Vilma, of course, was never a problem even the days she was shooting five pictures simultaneously), full attention sa sinasabi ng direktor, walang problema. Kung pagbabasehan sa naging resulta ng Karma, lalong maganda ngayon si Vilma, mas mariin ang kanyang pagganap, mas mature ang kanyang approach at understanding sa kaniyang papel. Swerteng-swerte ang pagkapanalo niya ng best actress sa nakaraang Film fest. Sayang at wala siya upang tanggapin mismo ang tropeo. Pero lalong naging makabuluhan para sa kanya ang sinabi ng kapwa niya artista sa Karma nang sabihin ni Chanda Romero na “napakaganda naman ng karma ni Vilma. Mayroon na siyang Edu, mayroon siyang Lucky, ngayon ay mayroon pa siya nito (ang ibig sabihin ay ang best actress trophy),” sabay tilian ng mga fans sa loob ng Cultural Center, walang makapigil, walang makasaway. Pero, gaya ng dati, hindi naging madali kay Vilma ang pananalo. Nagpatas ang botohan ng dalawang beses – triple tie sila ni Gina Alajar at Charo Santos, hanggang ma-break ang deadlock at nakaungos ng isang boto si Vilma sa dalawa pa niyang kalaban. Tinawagan si Vilma ni Cirio Santiago, pinasundo sa isang limousine, pero nagdahilan ang Vilma. Ayaw niya sigurong umasa dahil minsan, sa isang awards night din, sinigurong siya ang mananalo pero hindi ganun ang nangyari. (I understand that Vilma really won but the verdict was changed afterwards through the representations and machinations of some influential press sectors.) Kunsabagay, wala rin si Charito Solis noong awards dahil sabi sa akin ni Chato, talagang hindi niya inaasahang manalo ang maliit na papel na iyon sa Kisapmata. Noon pa mang preview pa lamang, maugong na ang balitang baka si Charito ang manalo bilang supporting actress pero hindi niya yun pinansin dahil tiyak na tiyak siya na si Vic Silayan ang mananalo. Sinabi pa niya sa interview niya kay Armida Siguion-Reyna sa Let’s Talk Movies na napakagaling ni Vic. Sa set pa lamang daw, natitiyak na niya halos na si Vic ay mananalo sa Kisapmata. Sa naturan ding programa, sinabi ni Armida sa pagre-review niya ng Karma na talagang magaling ang pagkakaganap ni Vilma sa Karma na parang nakuha nitong punuan ang ilang mahalagang kakulangan ng pelikula. – Oscar Miranda (READ MORE)

“26 years after we first seen “Karma,” the film remained Vilmanians’ favorites and one of Dany Zialcita’s best film. Glossy with crisp dialouge, the film was a big hit at the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival and earned Vilma the festival’s best actress. Here was what movie reporter Mario Bautista said about her acting: “Ibang-iba” rin ang Vilma Santos sa “Karma.” Subdued na subdued ang performance ni Vi rito unlike in other films na all out ang emoting niya. Dito’y restrained siay at napaka-effective. Halimbawa sa eksena after the rape sa kanya ni Ronaldo Valdez. Nang sabihin niyang siya’y patungo sa kasal niya’y halos hindi na marinig ang kanyang tinig pero talaga namang damang-dama mo ang kirot sa kanyang dibdib. O kaya’y sa mga tagpong sinusumbatan siya ni Tommy Abuel na nanatili siyang kalmado at soft-spoken. We never thought Vilma can be that versatile!” – RV (READ MORE)

Zialcita’s first movie with Vilma was the 1980 festival entry, a drama about bigamy, Langis at Tubig. The following year, Zialcita and Santos joined forces again in antoher festival entry, Karma. The film earned Vilma her second Metro Manila Film Festival Best Actress. The following year, Ziacita’s Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan broke box office record, Earned P7.3 million during its first day of showing in Metro Manila and assured Vilma Santos the box office queen of 1982. The total number of Vilma Santos and Danny Zialcita colloborations were four (Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan? 1982, Karma 1981, Langis at Tubig 1980, T-Bird at Ako). – RV (READ MORE)

“One of the most misunderstood occult concepts. The nearest equivalent in European thought is contained in the idea of fate, though the oriental term indicates the fate is not a haphazard sequence of events of experiences, but is dependent on actions of previous lives or spiritual conditions. The idea is that a spirit undertakes to live in an earthy body for a given period of time, usually in order to learn something which cannot be learned in a disembodied state, and has to accept rewards and punishments for good and bad deeds committed in previous incarnations. In order that understanding may grow, any evil committed against another person will have to be experienced by the perpetrator. The working out of Karma is not done consciously by ordinary people. The real reasons for the majority of people’s actions and relationships may be understood only when nature of their Karma is grasped – which is tantamount to saying that it is virtually impossible to understand or judge another person when seen in the context of one material lifetime only. Vilma Santos fits the role to a T. For the past years that she has suffered a string of major misfortunes and setbacks in real and reel life, she has hone herself as promise, a common objective: to give the viewing public what it wants – entertainment with a capital E. For Danny Zialcita, aside from having a good screenplay, good direction and brilliant actors and actresses, the movie should have artistic values. Karma promises to be a very good vehicle not only for Zialcita but also for Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast. Will this movie be a good KARMA for director Danny Zialcita, Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast? Watch the movie! It’ll be a different kind of feeling you’ll get after viewing it.” – Bond De Leon (READ MORE)

“…First, Karma is a quality picture. According to Mr. Ernie Rojas ng Sining Silangan, it was produiced not only to make it good in the box-office kungdi maging sa mga awards. Kungsabagay, may laman ang sinabi ni Mr. Rojas simply because Langis at Tubig, which was also producede by Sining Silangan last year, placed second in the tops earners and bagged the Best Actor Award for Dindo Fernando. Second, matagal na ring naipalabas ang latest film ni Vi na Hiwalay. Samakatuwid, maganda ang spacing ng mga pelikula niya, ‘Ika nga, hindi over-exposed ang beauty ni Vi. Dahil dito, nandiyan pa rin ang pananabik ng manonood kaya’t siguradong dudumugin ang Karma. …” – Manny A. Valera (READ MORE)

“…In my limited understanding it takes lifetimes to work off one’s karma. Movies, however, only run for two hours so filmmakers have to take liberties. In Danny Zialcita’s 1981 film Karma the protagonists have the added advantage of knowing exactly who they were in their past lives, thanks to a psychiatrist (Vic Silayan) who practices regression hypnosis. Eric (Ronaldo Valdez, who is smoking, and not just in the library where he researches his former incarnation) and Sarah (Vilma Santos) have already met under awful circumstances, but it turns out they’ve known each other much longer than that. In the past they were Enrico and Guada, illicit lovers murdered by Guada’s husband, Limbo. Limbo vows to follow them to the next life, but which form does he take? Is he now Enrico’s mentally unbalanced, pathologically jealous wife Cristy (Chanda Romero), or Sarah’s cruel, sadistic husband Alfredo (Tommy Abuel). It’s not a whodunnit, it’s a who-will-do-it? Vilma Santos turns in another fine portrayal of emotional turmoil. Nora Aunor had the advantage of expressing volumes with her eyes; Vilma expresses with her face, hands, and entire body. Nora was inward, Vilma outward. Ronaldo Valdez gives an understated performance, coolly delivering lines like, “In love there’s no measure of time”. Tommy Abuel overacts ridiculously, even for a guy so suspicious that he has his wife examined by a gynecologist to see if she’s had sex. Chanda Romero is fabulous. Her Cristy is a psychotic who never raises her voice; you can tell she has tranquilizers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The first time Cristy and Sarah meet is at the antique store Sarah manages at the old Virra Mall. Cristy breezes in, picks out a bunch of stuff, and announces that she doesn’t carry cash or credit cards, just send the bill to her husband. She points to another piece she buys, and Sarah says, helpfully, “That’s P9,500.” “Ok lang,” Cristy says, “Nagtanong ba ako? (Did I ask?)” One thing about Danny Zialcita movies: his rich people looked and sounded like rich people. He made movies for sophisticated grown-ups. If they don’t make movies like Zialcita’s anymore, it’s because people are no longer that articulate. Nobody casually tosses off bon mots anymore, everything has to be overstated for the dim. So we Zialcita fans are reduced to reciting favorite lines from his movies: “Puede bang makausap ang asawa ko na asawa mo na asawa ng buong bayan?” (May I speak to my husband who’s your husband who’s everybody’s husband?)…” – Jessica Rules The Universe (READ MORE)

Film Review: Makahiya at Talahib (1976)

FILMS - Makahiyat Talahib 3

The Plot: – “…Arturo (Rudy Fernandez) is a convict on the run after being framed for rape. Aurora (Vilma Santos), a sculptress at odds with her overbearing mother (Gloria Romero), falls for him and is convinced of his innocence. When Arturo takes revenge on those who framed him, Aurora helps him plot his escape. This, while her sister Beatriz (Trixia Gomez) has a brief affair with Arturo…” – Music & Laughter TV (READ MORE)

The Reviews: – Produced by Goodwill Productions, Makahiya at Talahib (1976) featured Rudy Fernandez as Arturo Clemente, an escapee who was wrongly convicted for rape and murder of a child.  He was rape in jail and psychologically tortured and successfully escaped.  The film started with Arturo attempted hijacked a vehicle from two men.  He took their clothes and truck while allowing them to run for their lives naked.  He went back to his hometown and hide in the forest.  The following scenes were the introduction of Aurora (Vilma Santos, whose voice was noticeably dubbed by someone), Arturo’s lover, a wood carver.  While at work, she and Steve (Romeo Rivera) heard the news about Arturo’s escape.  The radio broadcast mentioned the killing of a prison guard and that Arturo is armed and dangerous.  Meanwhile, her sister Beatrice (Trixia Gomez) was seen making out with a man in the rice farm, an obvious ploy to get the attention of male movie goers, as even with this scenes deleted, it will not affect the movie’s main story.

The news of Arturo’s come back made the guilty party scared, Ingo (max Alvarado) and Steve together with their gang discussed their next move, both warned about Arturo’s possible revenge.  Also worried is Aurora’s mother (Gloria Romero), she told her two daughters about the looming danger and reminded Aurora of not to get involve.  Baldo, (Rocco Montalban) was the first goon to die.  Arturo met him.  They fought and Baldo, was seen collapsing. Arturo left assuming he killed the goon.  The next day, Beatrice warned her sister that she still likes Arturo.  Aurora found Arturo in the forest, she confronted him and realized that Arturo was confuse but convinced he is innocent.  But she convinced him that he should turned himself in.  She asked for their town’s parish priest help but it was too late.   The real killer, Steve and his gang together with the town’s police group surrounded Arturo’s secret hide away.  He was shot and killed.   The end.

Written and directed by Emmanuel H. Borlaza, Makahiya’t Talahib spooned-fed its story to its viewers.  No element of surprise, as we already know from the very beginning that Arturo is innocent.  It was obvious that the film tried to sell sex.  The ending, showing the kissing scene of Rudy Fernandez and Vilma Santos despite it’s limitation was use as the film’s promo.   Trixia Gomez’s several unnecessary sex scenes would be more fitting to entice the male movie goers.  Unfortunately, Gomez’ daring scenes weren’t enough and even with Rudy and Vi’s tame sex scenes, the film failed both commercially and artistically.  Although many considered this film as a prelude to Vilma’s career transformation the following year via “Burlesk Queen.”  Testing her fans with her  first screen kissing scene.  But this milestone was eclipse by her decision to allow someone to dub her own voice.  Meanwhile, Rudy Fernandez tried very hard to portrayed Arturo but lack the intensity.  Like Aurora’s unfinished wood sculptures, the supporting cast needs more sculpting.  Gloria Romero’s acting was ordinary.  Trixia Gomez’s was bland.  Romeo Rivera, Rocco Montalban and Max Alvarado were all stereotypically uneventful.  It was reported that Borlaza was so in-demand, he was shooting two films at the same time while doing Makahiya.  In an interview, he admitted “his film was more commercial than Brocka or Bernal but he’s not bother by this criticism.  As he’s more concern on what his audience wants to see and making sure his producer made profit.”  Unfortunately, “Makahiya at Talahib” needs more work to be credible and believable otherwise like what Aurora did on her wood carved sculpture in the end, the film should be throw and trash.  – RV

FILM REVIEW: ADULTERY AIDA MACARAEG


The Plot: Dreaming to be released from her miserable life of poverty, Aida, a waitress, abandons her bedridden father, her moralistic mother, her jobless brother and her good-for-nothing sister to live with her boyfriend Carding, who she believes will save her from her miserable life. In his desire to earn quick money, Carding gets involved with illegal drugs and is jailed. Aida is pregnant and while Carding is in jail, she has an abortion. She then marries another man. Carding is released from prison and finds out about his wife’s new life. He decides to sue her for adultery. – UP (READ MORE)

Aida Macaraeg’s only dream is to be released from her miserable life of poverty. She is sick and tired of working day and night as a waitress to be able to feed her jobless brother and his family, her good-for-nothing sister, moralistic mother and bedridden father. One day, Aida decides to turn her back on them and settles for a live-in arrangement with her boyfriend Carding, who gives her a short-lived salvation. But her first attempt to escape a misfortune only brings her face to face with one after another. Carding gets jailed for drug peddling. Aida finds out she is pregnant and opts for an abortion. Forced by need and fueled by ambition, she lives with a wealthy man and has a son by him. Carding is released from prison and finds out about his wife’s illicit affair. They finally see each other again, in court. – Database of Philippine Movies (READ MORE)

The Reviews: Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892) is not one of filmmaker Lino Brocka’s best works. It definitely cannot be lined alongside masterpieces like Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting, 1974), Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975), and Insiang (1976). At best, Adultery is a well-made melodrama that puts a social issue, that of marital infidelity as escape from poverty, at the center of its affairs. Jose Javier Reyes’ well-crafted screenplay (the story is credited to Aida Sevilla Mendoza) is supposedly sourced from a real life account, but one wonders if convenient happy endings (which the film unfortunately struggles with) exist in these kind of cases, especially ones as emotionally charged as in the film. In the Philippines, adultery cases stretch for years and any emotion resembling marital love and concern is replaced with scorching hate, the primary ingredient that fuels litigation. Aida (Vilma Santos giving a very mature performance) is the sole breadwinner for her family, consisting of a bedridden father, a nagging mother, a good-for-nothing brother, his unemployed wife and baby. Unable to bear the hardships of living with her family, she takes the offer of her boyfriend Carding (Phillip Salvador) to simply live together, resisting his invitation to marry him despite the possible scandal that might arise out of their living arrangement. Carding gets caught peddling prohibited drugs and gets imprisoned, leaving Aida all alone to fend for herself. Years later, Carding gets released from prison and finds Aida, now a mistress of a wealthy executive (Mario Montenegro) and mother to a child that is not his. Aida is then sued for adultery by Carding, which if she is proven guilty would separate her from her son.

There’s one sequence in the film which clearly shows Brocka’s mastery. Aida visits Carding in prison, telling him of her pregnancy. Carding again offers to marry her, fearing that their child would be a bastard child. Supposedly out of pity, Aida agrees. The marriage is solemnized then and there. The prison chaplain officiates the ceremony where Aida is draped in an ordinary dress while Carding wears the orange colored uniform. Around are the witnesses of their marriage, felons all donning the same orange outfit Carding is wearing. Of course, these are mere background details, emphasizing the sullenness of the event that is ordinarily jovial and lively. Brocka concentrates on Aida. He closes up on her face, worried about the uncertainty of her future: she is after all pregnant and now married to a convict with absolutely no source of income. It is Aida’s point of no return and Brocka understands it as such, thus he presents it with understated elegance; no dialogue, just Lutgardo Labad’s swelling music and Brocka’s emphatic close-up of Vilma Santos’ apprehensive face.

The film attempts to criticize marriage, which is depicted not in its traditional sense (as the key to life’s bliss) but as a harrowing cage where women are left with no choices. It seems to advocate infidelity, especially when the requirements of life overtakes the facile concerns of societal and religious norms. Interestingly, Brocka does not antagonize any of his characters. Aida is a hardworking woman who we first see as the selfless sufferer who is charged with her family’s survival, a mere victim of fate and circumstance. Also, one cannot doubt Carding’s affection for Aida. His decisions in life may have been off, leading to his incarceration and Aida’s continuing suffering, but it cannot be denied that his love for his wife is indubitable. The blame does not go to any person but to the social institution of marriage, its sometimes shallow roots and the unbendable veneration the law and society gives to it to the detriment of the unique needs of individuals. I am impressed as to how Brocka directed the courtroom sequence, without the usual pomp and unnecessary drama. The courtroom sequence gives the impression as to how the justice is bookish and blind to personal plights. One lawyer asks Aida a question, and she shies away saying that the question is too personal. Of course, the judge demands that she answer the question, which she does so unwillingly. In the eyes of the law, emotions, circumstance, fate, and needs are denied materiality. This should have been the instance wherein we’ll fall for Aida’s plight: that despite her being guilty for adultery, she does not deserve to be punished because she was forced to infidelity not by innate evil but by circumstances in her life. However, instead of dishing out an ending that would operate as the culmination of such criticism, Brocka and Reyes decided to succumb to sentimentality. Husband forgives wife. Wife gets her son back. Everybody’s satisfied. Unfortunately, reality, which the film tried so hard to emulate, isn’t anything like that. – Oggs Cruz (READ MORE)

Dalawang pelikula ni Vilma Santos ang napanood namin sa special previews: Adultery at Sister Stella L. Pinatunayan ng mga pelikulang ito na Vi is still the leading actress of the season and performances in both movies make her again the actress to beat in next year’s award derbies. No doubt, Vilma, right now, is at her peak. Adultery is a well made melodrama deftly written by Jose Javier Reyes and masterfully directed by Lino Brocka. Ang pangunahing tauhan, si Aida Macaraeg, ay isang dalagang breadwinner ng kanyang pamilya. May sakit ang kanilang ama at siya ang bumibili ng mga gamot nito. Nag-asawa nang maaga ang kapatid niyang lalaki at siya ang nagpapakain pati sa asawa t anak nito. Siya rin ang nagpapaaral sa bunso nilang kapatid na babae. Receptionist sa isang restaurant, may boyfriend si Aida na wala namang regular na trabaho. Ito ay si Carding (Phillip Salvador) na kumikita lamang kapag sumasama sa mga illegal na gawain ng sangganong si Bumbay. Nang malaman ni Aida na nagdadalantao na naman ang asawa ng kapatid niya, niyaya niya si Carding na magsama na sila. May kapatid si Aida na isinumpa ng kanilang ina dahil nakisama ito sa isang lalaking may-asawa. Si Aida lamang ang nakauunawa kay Miriam (Deborah Sun) at wala siyang kamalay-malay susundan pala niya ang mga yapak nito. Akala niya’y malulutas ng pagsama niya kay Carding ang mga problema niya ngunit lalala lamang pala ito. Nahuli si Carding sa pagsama sa pangkat ni Bumbay at nabilanggo. Naiwang nagdadalantao si Aida. Nang malaman ito ni Carding ay pinilit siyang pakasal na sila para hindi maging bastardo ang isisilang niya. Ikinasal sila ng pari sa piitan.

Nagbalik si Aida sa kanyang trabaho ngunit natuklasan ng may-ari na buntis siya. Naiisip ni Aida na lalo lamang siyang maghihirap at nadadamay pa pati ang kanyang magiging anak kung itutuloy niya ang kanyang pagbubuntis kaya t ipinasya niyang ilaglag ito sa tulong ni Miriam. Nang magaling na siya y napasok siyang tagapamahala sa isang kantina at dito niya nakilala si Tito Pangilinan (Mario Montenegro). Nagsama sila at nagkaroon ng isang anak. Si Carding naman ay nalipat sa Davao Penal Colony at nagtaka na lamang siya nang huminto na sa pagsulat si Aida. Lumaya si Carding pagkaraan ngpitong taon at hinanap agad si Aida. Nakita niya ito at si Aida ay nagsimulang maglubid ng buhangin. Ang batang kasama niya’y anak daw ni Miriam at mahigpit ang bagong kinakasama nito kaya’t hindi sila maaaring laging magkita. Ngunit natuklasan ni Carding ang katotohanan at sa galit nito’y sinaktan si Aida. Inihabla siya ni Carding at ang kaso y humantong sa husgado. Mabibilanggo kaya si Aida sa salang adultery? That, you’d have to find out for yourself. Mawawala ang suspence kapag ibinunyag namin agad sa inyo ang ending.

Based on a true legal story, nagawa nina Reyes at Brocka na very convincing ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento. Maingat ang development at talagang magsi-sympathize ka sa mga tauhan. Ang kaso ni Aida ay isa ring moral dilemma. Dapat ba siyang sisihin sa kanyang ginawa? Sa kanyang paglalaglag sa sanggol and finding the easy way out through having an affair with a rich old man? Maraming katulad ni Aida sa ating lipunan sa ngayon. Nagipit sila, humanap ng lubid na makakapitan upang huwag tuluyang mahulog sa bangin, kasalanan ba ang kanilang praktikal na solusyon sa kanilang mga problema? Morally, masasabi agad na mali nga sila. Pero madaling humusga kung hindi ikaw mismo ang nakaharap sa mga problemang iyon. Tao lamang si Aida. At ang kahinaan niya ang siyang dahilan kung bakit naging very human ang istorya ng Adultery. Kung bakit naging tutoong-tutoo angmga sitwasyon at ang lahat ng characters dito. Alam mong melodramatiko ang kuwento pero alam mo ring nagaganap ang gayon sa tunay na buhay, na talagang maraming Aida Macaraeg sa ating paligid. Namumukod-tangi ang mga aspetong teknikal ng pelikula: ang sinematograpiya ni Conrado Baltazar, ang musika ni Lutgardo Labad, ang editing ni Rogelio Salvador, ang disenyong pamproduksiyon ni Joey Luna at pati pagkakalapat ng tunog.

Mahusay rin ang acting ng lahat ng tauhan: si Deborah Sun bilang Miriam, si Anita Linda bilang ina, si Tita de Villa bilang tiyahin ni Carding. Maikli lamang ang papel ni Mario Montenegro bilang Tito pero epektibo ang pagkakaganap niya, lalo sa tagpong sinumbatan niya si Aida: “Pitong taon na kitang tinutulungan at pitong taon mo na rin akong niloloko.” Napakahusay ni Vilma sa mga eksenang nagngingitngit siya sa mga kapatid niya sa pagkawala ng uniporme o muling pagbubuntis ng mga ito. You can really feel the sense of rage, and futility that she is experiencing. Pero maging sa iba pang quiet scenes ay mahusay rin siya, o kaya y maging doon sa eksenang muntik na siyang mabuko ni Mario, at nang magkomprontasyon na sila ni Phillip. Pero, sa tingin namin, mas lumutang si Phillip sa pelikulang ito at tiyak na in the running na naman siya for best actor next year. Kung minsan ay mata lamang ang kanyang pinaaarte at wala siyang dialogue (like nang mabasa niyang nakunan si Aida o nang makita niya itong sinasalubong si Mario sa gate). Very touching din ang final scene na tinanong siya ni Vi: “Ano ng nangyari sa ‘tin?” At sumagot siya ng: “Huwag mo nang itanong. Baka mas masakit kung malaman natin ang sagot.” Maraming iba pang magagandang touches ang pelikula, tulad ng pagdalaw ng mga babaing taga-block rosary kina Aida at ang sagutan sa court scenes.

The movie also offers another view of prison life. Sa mga pelikulang lokal na tungkol sa piitan, karaniwan nang nalalagyan ng tattoo ang bida, ginagahasa ng kapwa bilanggo at ginugulpi ng husto. Dito, maayos ang naging kalagayan ni Carding habang nasa bilangguan at wala siyang naenkwentrong mga problema na gaya ng usual na napapanood natin sa prison movies. Maganda talaga ang Aida Macaraeg. – Movie Review by Mario E. autista Movie Flash May 31, 1983 – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash May 31, 1983 (READ MORE)

“…Masinop ang mga elemento ng pelikula sa Adultery (Regal Films, Inc., 1984). Madulas ang daloy ng dulang pampelikula ni Jose Javier Reyes, konsistent ang disenyong biswal at sinematograpiya, malinis ang editing, akmang-akma ang tunog at musika. Ang maalam at matatag na pagganap ni Vilma Santos ay nagsasaad ng pagkaunawa at metodo sa layuning dramatiko ng kanyang pelikula. Ang pagganap ni Phillip Salvador bilang Carding ay nagpahayag ng mithiin sa lahat ng di magkatugmang aspeto nito at nagbigay ng naiibang sigla sa tradisyon ng pagganap sa pelikula. Sa halip na unidimensiyonal ang pagsasalarawan sa karanasan ng isang babae ay binigyan ito ng maramihang posibilidad sa pamamagitan ng sinematikong pagsasadula ni Lino Brocka, ang istereotipong ito ay isinalaysay sa paglalakbay ng kababaihan tungo sa sariling pagkilala at katuparan.” – Jojo Devera, Sari-saringng Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

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)

FILM REVIEW: MODELONG TANSO

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The Plot: Directed by Cirio H Santiago. Serialized from comics story of Nerissa Cabral. Film with Charito Solis.

The Reviews: “…The multi-awarded actress even related her personal experience about feeling inadequate when she did the 1979 movie Modelong Tanso with the late Charito Solis who played her mom in the story. “Ako ang naintimidate noon. Naranasan ko yun noong araw kay Ms. Charito Solis na ngayon parang yun naman ang nangyayari sa akin [with the young stars.] So tinuro ko sa kanila na kahit may ka-eksena kayo na senior stars, kapag sinabi ng direktor ni’yo na kailangan niyong sampalin/sigawan sila, wala kayong choice. Gawin ni’yo yun, kahit sabihin niyong senior or respected star man yun, hindi kayo pwedeng magpa-intimidate. Kasi lahat sila kinakabahan lalo na nung pinapasampal ako kay Megan…” – Rachelle Siazon (READ MORE)

“…Sa 1979 FAMAS, Nora bested Lolita, who, with her performance in Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, beat Aunor in 1974. Ang “katapat” ng Nora-Lolita duo ay ang acting tandem nina Vilma Santos at Charito Solis in Bancom Audiovision’s Modelong Tanso, directed by Cirio Santiago. Sa 1979 Gawad Urian, it was neither Nora nor Lolita as Best Actress; the award instead went to Charito Solis for Brocka’s Ina, Kapatid, Anak…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“…the film that defined her 1970s career was not an adult film, but a dramatic film, her specialty. Pitted with the “other dramatic empress” Lolita Rodriguez, she contrasted her usual acting style with Rodriguez’ restrained, quiet style in Ina, Kapatid, Anak (1979). At that time already acknowledged as Philippine Cinema’s Hall of Famer for Best Actress, Charito Solis showed her acting prowess in a way that did not swallow Rodriguez nor did not allow to be shadowed by Rodriguez’ subtle style. Come FAMAS time, she had another Best Actress nod but lost to Nora Aunor for Ina Ka ng Anak Mo, but the “other” awards, the Gawad Urian, granted her its Gawad para sa Pinakamahusay na Pangunahing Aktres (Best Actress). Interesting enough, her penchant for top-billing persisted: the usual tool for billing two actresses demanding top billing was employed (see left). She also appeared with Vilma Santos in Modelong Tanso, a pale competitor to Rodriguez’ and Nora Aunor’s Ina Ka ng Anak Mo. Because Vilma Santos was another actress known for her penchant with billing, the same tool was used…The 1990s saw Charito Solis graduate to mother and grandmother roles, which she had done with frequency in the 1980s. In another nod to her age, she finally allowed herself to be billed above Vilma Santos, then acknowledged as the Longest-Reigning Box Office Queen of Philippine Movies, albeit above-the-title in films such as Ipagpatawad Mo (1992) and Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993)…Charito Solis’ “antics” were the toast of the tabloids when she was younger, from the admirable to the ridiculous. Her volatile outbursts on sets when professionalism was not observed was a common story written in the movie magazines. Ever a stickler for promptness and professionalism, she was said not to allow any one to make a noise during her performances because it detracts from her concentration. She would even go to the lengths of bringing her acting trophies on movie sets so that she can show the younger stars that they were dealing with a competent and award-winning actress that they have to respect in terms of promptness and performance. Both Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, future FAMAS Hall of Famers, were said to have experienced this…” – FAMAS (READ MORE)

“…Charito Solis, who initially had a tempestuous and hostile relationship with Vilma while making the ill-fated but box-office MMFF champ Modelong Tanso, had a change of heart when the reborn versatile/professional/charismatic actress Vilma impressed her through the years, at idineklara niya sa buong mundo, without batting an eyelash. na di hamak na mas magaling na aktres si Vilma kaysa kay Nora Aunor. Walang kumontra kay Chato dahil totoo ang sinabi niya, si La Solis yata iyan, at pati nga si Amalia Fuentes, another certified Vilmanian, at “kaaway” na mortal ni La Solis, ay sumang-ayon sa kanya. Si Susan Roces, ano naman kaya ang opinion niya sa obserbasyon ni Chato? Ah, Nida Blanca. Ang dami nilang pinagsamahan ni Vilma, mula TV hanggang sa movies. Dati ay una sa billing si Nida, subali’t dahil nga sa gulong ng buhay ay kailangang maging praktikal at handa ka sa katotohanang magiging second lead ka lang in the future. Walang problema sina Nida at Vilma – ke mag-Ate o mag-Ina sila sa mga proyekto, may chemistry sila and mutual respect. Patok ang kanilang pagsasama. Remember their mother and daughter roles in Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos? Sayang at wala na ang original versatile movie and dancing queen Nida – mapa-aksiyon (Babaing Isputnik), musical (Huwag Kang Sumingit with Gloria Romero), comedy (Waray-waray) at drama (Miguelito at Magdusa Ka!). Kung tutuusin ay tunay na maigsi ang ating hiram na buhay. Kung buhay nga lang ang mga nabanggit sa itaas ay mas lalu sanang makulay ang daigdig ng sining. Subali’t ang lahat ay may katapusan. Ating suriin ang mga sumusunod na talata….” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)

“…Vilma in 1979 was a picture of self-assured bankable star. She did two movies with Elwood Perez, Magkaribal and Pinay American Style both were box office hits. She also produced an Eddie Rodrigues starrer Halik sa Paa Halik sa Kamay, and teamed-up with comedy king, Dolphy in Buhay Artista. As the year 1979 ends, she battled the drama queen Charito Solis in the local festival entry, Modelong Tanso. The end of the decade marked her stronghold as the box office queen. Clearly, Vilma Santos’ versatility as an actress was the secret weapon of her box office success. And this weapon was in full display in Pinay American Style…” – RV (READ MORE)

“Ooops! Keep your cool, dear Noranians, and listen to Charito Solis’ explanation before you accuse her of being, uh, “maka-Vilma. “Vilma has a wider range as an actress while Nora is limited and typecast in certain roles,” Charito said in a tone devoid of intrigue, answering our question in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. “Si Vilma, puede kahit anong role, kahit bold. You can’t imagine Nora doing a bold role, can you?” But, and that’s the big but, “Nora has more depth than Vilma,” Charito added, “and it’s because of her expressive eyes. Nora is very effective in scenes where she doesn’t say anything, just act with her eyes, at “yan ang kulang ni Vilma. Vilma has to say something to be effective.” Charito has worked with Vilma twice (in “Mga Tigre ng SierraCruz” and “Modelong Tanso”) and with Nora once (“Minsan May Isang Ina”). Speaking in general now, said Charito, “Vilma is the better actress.” We asked Charito that ticklish question during the lunch presscon for her latest movie, the star-studded Mother’s Day offering of Regal Films titled “Dear Mama,” which also stars Gloria Romero, Laurice Guillen, Snooky, Janice de Belen, Julie Vega, Manilyn Reynes, Jaypee de Guzman, Rey “PJ” Abellana and Alicia Alonzo in the title role. Our own personal opinion somehow jibes with that of Charito whose “throne,” I suppose, will be inherited by Vilma (while Nora will inherit the “throne” of the other drama queen, Lolita Rodriguez).” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Phil. Star April 031984 (READ MORE)

“…what the non-winning dramatic films (Modelong Tanso, Alabok na Ginto, and Julian Makabayan) have in common are disappointments. Cirio H. Santiago’s Modelong Tanso is another of those Electra-complex explorations which lately have become so strangely fashionable in local cinema: in fact one of the festival winners, Ina Ka, falls in the same category. Modelong Tanso is about the conflict between a materialistic mother and an idealistic daughter, each of whom gets what she wants and pays the proper price for it. Santiago also pays a price: stereotypical acting, carelessly executed multiple roles, and embarrassing approximations of social sophistication. As in the other entries, Modelong Tanso attempts at significance through developmentalisms (i.e., favorable references to the barangay and the Bagong Lipunan Sites and Services program); as in the other entries, the attempts deservedly fail. Antonio C. Martinez’s Alabok na Ginto may have been the festival’s dark horse, a love triangle consistent in many ways, mostly technical. Thematically, it falls short of realizing the ambitious statements it makes about fairness (or the lack of it) in love and war. As its title suggests, the movie glitters, but it certainly isn’t gold. As least it is better than the uneven alloy Modelong Tanso turned out to be…” – Joel David, WHO, 19 January 1980 (READ MORE)