Tuesday, February 25, 2014


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Release Date:  January 19, 1966/Dalisay Theater

Production:  AM Productions
Direction:  Gerardo de Leon
Screenplay:  Pierre Salas
Music:  Tito Arevalo
Camera Direction:  Mike Accion
Stars:  Amalia Fuentes, Romeo Vasquez
 with special guest appearances of Tito Galla,
Nancy Roman, Mary Walter and Connie Angeles

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Read the full article:

Spotlight by Ophelia San Juan
The Weekly Nation Magazine, February 1966

TATLONG Kasaysayan Ng Pag-ibig, as its title suggests, is made up of three romantic stories.  Just how romantic they are may be gleaned from the essential contents of each story:  a young girl of college student age discovers love for the boy next door -- after both have gone steady with other partners; a very rich woman develops a strong passion for a very tainted playboy-gangster, and prepares to throw away her fortune and her high-society life for the chance to live with him; a girl of the night supporting an invalid boyfriend and his poor family is led to marriage and respectability by him when he learns of the sacrifice she is making for his sake.

The best realized, the last episode is clear, realistic, cogent, and cohesive.  Tina (Amalia Fuentes) is an unlettered waif who finds herself a hardworking, poorly paid, and often amorously assailed waitress in a Chinese-owned restaurant after a childhood of poverty and parentlessness.  When a student (Romeo Vasquez) drops in to take his unluxurious snack, Tina immediately begins to like him, to solicit his friendship openly and without much timid modesty.  An easy, casual relationship between the two ensues in which no word about love is said, no mention about a binding romance is made.  Yet when Vasquez injures himself and becomes a cripple as he is sideswiped by an onrushing truck, Amalia is unable to stand his plight:  she gives in to the Chinese restaurant owner's long-standing proposition for two hundred pesos, the exact price of a hospital room's down payment for Vasquez, and goes on to ply a prostitute's trade as she strives to give him worthy sickbed presents and, later, his sustenance as well as his family's (composed of a palsied, aging grandmother and a grade school-age sister).

Her self-sacrificing action may perhaps be explained by the fact that Vasquez's injury results from his own spontaneous, self-forgetting gesture to save her from the destructive path of the truck as she stands on the street calling his attention to a forgotten textbook -- in which case this becomes a logical and realistic entry in life's balance book of values; and again it may be an impulsive and recklessly romantic notion of a female in love to still give her idol the most prized offering she can (her womanhood) while ostensibly exchanging it for his material needs -- in which eventually this turns out to be a more complicated flight of fancy than O. Henry's The Gift of The Magi.  The story of Tina in Tatlong Kasaysayan Ng Pag-ibig hints of equal elements of both realism and romanticism.

Blending these two becomes Director Gerardo de Leon's pleasant, if at times difficult, task -- and the result is highly pleasing cinema whose only defect is its being too polished when it can be erratically and roughly truthful as life actually is.  Whereas the modern cinema, as exemplified by the productions of the cinema verite' movement, throws a natural, undiffused, and unfiltered look at life, the world of De Leon, so thoroughly examined in this trilogy about three young and beautiful women, is a lovely panorama, and even prostitution is divested of its gnarled visage, its sting of life, its chill breath of death.  His is the romantic world of the Mary Magdalena, washed of sin by love and pure as driven snow -- and the young lovers can cross the Santa Cruz bridge of sighs to the ringing of church bells.  Or a heavenly choir, perhaps.

The same out-of-this-worldliness inherent in Tina's tale pervades the story of Cynthia, the rich socialite who would willingly give up wealth and identity just to be loved and possessed by her triggerman-lover.  Again a very improbable story, and equally as romantic as the one about Tina, Cynthia's downward path to love is dramatically stopped by love's own sacrifice.  Her triggerman-lover, who had been originally ordered and set to divest her of her wealth prior to his terminating her life, turns about and as in all the tales of the romantics sacrifices himself for love.

 The story is apparently De Leon's meat -- and he gnaws at it with verve and gusto.  The result is a rather startling movie, full of blood and streaked with perversity -- the romantic concept of the violent life as led by gangsters in marzotto.  But the realism that De Leon eschews gives the movie its attractive sheen, and one is almost dazzled by Amalia's shining eyes as she looks, with wondrous blindness through her bejewelled world, at the nether zone of a lust-infested gangdom.

The world of Betty, the teenager who takes a bit of time to discover that love is living only next door, is no less romantic.  This time the setting is suburbia, with its lovely bungalows, wide terraces, gravelled sidewalks, swimming pools, and jam sessions.

Though the story is basically sophomoric -- about the romantic theme of first love and its heart-rending discovery -- the details used in bringing about the realization of love's awakening are quite striking and contemporary.  The scene of Teroy de Guzman, just for one example, where he ogles the enraptured couple (Amalia and Romeo) inside a stalled taxicab is one of the most refreshingly new and originally acted sequences in Filipino movies.  Above all, the characterization by Miss Fuentes of a bespectacled, rather gawky teenage girl getting more enamoured by the minute of the somewhat clumsy boy next door is almost like a closeup of a rosebud opening.

In fact, the entire film of Tatlong Kasaysayan is a study in acting, wherein Amalia Fuentes, who has always been better known for her sweet-faced beauty, presents a revealing inventory of her talents.

Not only did she write the original story, on which Pierre Salas based his script, but she also, by dint of sustained acting excellence, gives corporeal life to the characters which her imagination had created.

She can look and act like sweet sixteen, stand and preen herself like a diamond queen, and sway her hips (sometime her handbag, too) like a common streetwalker.  Her portrayals of Tina and Betty are specially notable, as they almost embody the entire sphere of womanhood -- from the birth of love to its death and, ultimately, it's rebirth.  And through all the phases, Miss Fuentes is in full control, utilizing every nuance of glance and gesture, every inflection of word and voice, to communicate her thoughts and meanings.  She does all this with an ease that almost traipses on the borderline of calculated coolness.  If this is not true acting, somebody has to come up with something better yet.

Director De Leon's smooth and polished style is the only intrusion that occasionally reminds one of the make-believe quality of this motion picture.  A bit of the cinema verite' in places where the realistic and candid view is effective -- as in the whorehouse sequence and in the slum settings -- would have made Tatlong Kasaysayan a film worthy of any international film festival competition.

However, as it is now, the sophisticated Tatlong Kasaysayan ng Pag-ibig is already a film to reckon with when the next Famas awards and the Asian Film Festival come around.  It is far and above the quality of most Filipino movies.  The camera work of Mike Accion, who has felicitously collaborated with De Leon in two other significant films, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, succeeds in evoking the proper moods and atmosphere for the scenes of the three stories.  The background music written and directed by Tito Arevalo, while not specially arresting because of the lack of luster that good background music project in modifying and emphasizing a scene as an adjective does a verb, is unobtrusively correct. 

But perhaps the domination that Amalia Fuentes exercised is enough for a movie, even for one with three stories like Tatlong Kasaysayan.  Excepting for some rare moments in the Tina story, wherein Mary Walter as the palsied grandmother watching with death-knowing eyes the evolving relationship between her crippled grandson and the virtuous prostitute gets in a few licks, Miss Fuentes dominates all the actors, including her leading man for all the three episodes -- Romeo Vasquez.  She emerges as a compulsive actress, projecting a multi-faceted, full and compelling image on the dim and narrow confines of today's Philippine movie screen.

With this kind of picture, the Filipino film might begin to discover its real metier -- not the world of the pseudo-Western, nor of the tiresome secret agent's, nor even of the glorified travelogue, in which Miss Fuentes herself has been badly exploited, but the true world of everyday people, even if made somehow glossier by the romantic outlook of such filmmakers as Gerardo de Leon and Miss Fuentes:  the world of love, sacrifice, nobility, and death -- the world of humans.

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