Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BAKIT SIKAT SI NORA? (Pilipino Magazine, July 1, 1970 & July 8, 1970)

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Pilipino Magazine, July 8, 1970

Sinulat ni J. Ser Sahagun
Pilipino Magazine, July 1 & 8, 1970

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014


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Release Date:  1966
Production:  Sampaguita Pictures
Direction:  Luciano B. Carlos
Stars:  Susan Roces, Eddie Gutierrez, Shirley Moreno
Nori Dalisay, Etang Discher, Tony Dauden
Matimtiman Cruz, Cora Maceda
(Movie ad courtesy of Simon Santos, Video 48)

by Ophelia San Juan

Film Review:  Re-Photographing A Lovely Actress
(The Weekly Nation Magazine, 1966)

PORTRAIT OF MY LOVE, in exciting black and white and astounding part Eastmancolor, should bring to mind Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Razon with one brush splash.

Da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting is enigmatically brought into the title credits of Portraif Of My Love after the main players have, in varying poses of smiling prettiness, appeared within elaborately curlicued frames very reminiscent of Bob's Studio's favorite society photographs.  After the initial jolt of seeing a work of art, however, audiences of this Sampaguita 29th anniversary offering and Christmas picture can settle down to enjoy a thoroughly funny and sometimes hilariously irreverent story made up of sight gags and comic situations more or less spawned by love -- young, old, matriarchal, filial, foolish, masochistic, sadistic, or just plain fancy.

The most rib-cracking episodes occur in the first part of the picture, when female office executive Lita Soriano (Susan Roces) relates to factotum Cleo (Matimtiman Cruz) three principal reasons why she thinks men are saps and women ought to stay unmarried:  the first is a courteous, unctuous gentleman who indulges in Continental hand-kissing and Filipino respectfulness, and who has impressed her with his unashamed ardent wooing, only to hide behind a curtain at the first loud thunderclaps and clamber up the living room table at the sight of a fat, cuddly, white house mouse; the second is Samson, who lives up to his name with a bodybuilder's build at which Lita dutifully gawks and impressedly swoons when he exhibits at the Soriano's yard -- only, the musclebound cad combs his hair coquettishly and preens before a mirror the way all male would-be Delilahs do; the third frustrating heartthrob of Miss Soriano is a fast-working Lothario who dashingly snatches her "yes," then scares her off and away up the ceiling beam with his bristly kiss.  With such past sad experience, Lita is less than enthusiastic about meeting new young men, much less future sweethearts and possible husband.

This attitude is the exact opposite of that held toward men by Cleo, whose unabated appetite for lovemaking would have been called dirty in a film more aware of character portrayal and logic than Portrait Of My Love is, but whose zestful depiction of an uninhibited contretemp to Lita Soriano's standoffish maiden results in broad, instincts-conscious comedy that, at worst, can be termed bawdy vaudeville.  She introduces Ricky (Eddie Gutierrez) to Lita, and from this blind-date outing evolves the series of events in the playboy-meets-playless-girl situation comedy that make up a collection of sight gags rendered precious by the comic talent of Matimtiman Cruz, Etang Discher, Tony Dauden, German Moreno, Eddie Gutierrez, and -- most noticeably -- Susan Roces.

Lita takes offense at Ricky's amorous attempts, reports him to the police, and has him jailed overnight.  The sweet-faced, curly-topped playboy, long pampered by his rich grandmother, cries to her like a baby for help.  The grandmother, Dona Margarita (Etang Discher), looks like a vampire who makes Christmas Eve sweet-meats of red-blooded playboys, but she is actually putty in her spoiled grandson's slick hands, and she bails him out of prison.  More than that, she proceeds to confront the unknown wench who has had the gall to accuse him of forcing his attentions on her.

"My grandson does not go after women," she declares haughtily to the poker-faced desk sergeant, "women tear after him."

Lita deals with her as efficaciously as she had her grandson's libidinous attempts -- with spirit, cunning, and considerable comic spectacle.  That is, up until she suddenly takes a misdirected turn for the dramatic and lectures the old woman on female virtue and valuability.  The scene is so out of place in the gay, lively and correctly exaggerated comedy that it calls attention to the film's fanciful excesses, and almost brings it to the level of maudlin melodrama that movies can so often be capable of.

However, it is Susan Roces again as Lita who saves the situation.  Faced by the prospect of an embarrasing and uncertain lawsuit if she persists in persecuting Ricky, she decides to take retribution by slapping him several times, landing almost manful blows on his handsome face.  When he kisses her hotly and lengthily, she breaks a few of his bones with a judo backhand throw.

Invalided, Ricky is further maimed by formal engagement to Marily (Shirley Moreno), a betrothal arranged by his grandmother and calculated to conform to the family's social standing.  Masochistic Marily endures all of a playboy's predictable flaws -- forgetfulness, neglect, unfaithfulness, scarcity, and ill temper.  She loves him dearly, apparently, and continues to be around -- a pretty sight anytime in spite of his cool disregard.

Appearing in most of her scenes with pert Nori Dalisay, Shirley Moreno is a beautiful young star typical of Sampaguita's promising personalities.  Her dimpled wholesomeness, pleasingly proportioned statuesqueness, and fashion consciousness mark her as inevitably as a hen peacock's presence among the brood of ordinary females, and she should prove an actress with many interesting expressial nuances when given the major role.

Marily's involvement becomes the major problem of Lita as far as Ricky is concerned, for the former resorts to a mad psychiatrist's help to secure the affections of Dona Margarita's darling.  The psychiatrist (German Moreno), who seems to have more delusions than many of his patients, advises her to change her personality so as to intrigue her lagging lover.  A wise move, perhaps, for a masquerading secret agent, but for Marily it only gets a fit of laughter from Ricky.  Ricky's hysterical merriment reaches the peak where Dona Margarita fears for his sanity, and she, too, brings him to a psychiatrist.

The doctor (German Moreno, as could be expected in this chain of coincidences), hypnotizes Ricky with his pencil that causes crosseyedness, gets to the root of the young man's troubles (Lita Soriano), and counsels him to devote his life in wooing her.  Once his obsession is rewarded, Dr. Spraecken says, he can forget her and be forever cured.

Ricky's pestering understandably drives Lita to desperation, until Cleo, whose very life is endangered by Lita's somnambulistic ragings, brings her to the doctor's den.  The diagnosing session is a comic highlight of the film, engendered by Matimtiman's matchless clowning and Susan's eye-filling presence.  From the psychiatrist's couch, Lita arises with the magic prescription:  accept Ricky's visits, show him graciousness, and be rid of a troublesome burden.  The head-shrinker's cheap price of advice:  P100 only.

Audiences pay only P1.20 or P2.60, at most, each for all of these zany goings-on -- and they get an additional dosage of romantic fill-ins and tearjerking trickery, which come later on in the film.

Portrait Of My Love could have ended happily with the realization of the romance between Lita and Ricky; adding the broad brush strokes of complications caused by Marily and later resolved by her, too, makes for a bigger canvas but not necessarily a masterpiece such as the Mona Lisa.  The complicated portion of the picture, however, provides Shirley Moreno -- a full-fledged star now with the proclamation of the Stars of '66 in An Evening To Remember, which goes with Portrait -- with a few chances to show histrionic ability.  She is sophisticated as a woman using guile to dissuade another female from continuing to consort with the man of her choice, and vulnerably tender as the maiden who has lost in this triangle of types.

The color portion of the film, which presents musical numbers straight from Hollywoodian renditions of Broadway's South Pacific, The Student Prince, My Fair Lady, The King And I, and The Sound of Music, comes astonishingly out of the blue.  Portrait Of My Love gives no hint whatsoever in the course of its story about these reproductions -- and it is Director Luciano B. Carlos's astounding photographic imagination alone which could have made these possible.

This is not to say that the lavish miniature musical numbers are not colorful indeed.  They are a festive ending for the gala Christmas film presentation from Sampaguita, and are the best proofs that an actress as lovely as Susan Roces deserves to be re-photographed again and again -- in regal, bright costumes always, if possible.

Nonetheless, the best merits of Susan are in plentiful evidence as the glittering comic gifts of a versatile actress in any clothing.  She is Mila del Sol and Carmen Rosales all over again, with perhaps the hints of the modest Norma Blancaflor and the demure Rosario Moreno, in addition to being the epitome of the modern-day dream of an incorruptible lass who can at the same time be chic, hep and a-go-go.  In Portrait Of My Love, the assembly line's latest from the story factory of Jose Leonardo & Associates, she gets complete room to display these wondrous gifts in.  In fact, she gets more chances at acting in the romantic musical comedy than in many five of her dramatic pictures.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014


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Release Date:  1966
Production:  VP Pictures
Direction:  Jose de Villa
Stars:  Gloria Romero, Lolita Rodriguez, Luis Gonzales, 
Blanca Gomez, Gina Pareno, Ramil Rodriguez, Edgar Salcedo
(Movie ad courtesy of Simon Santos, Video 48)

by Ophelia San Juan

Film Review:  How Does One Forget Lolita Rodriguez?
(The Weekly Nation Magazine, 1966)

PAANO KITA LILIMUTIN, like a rhetorical question, is asked of no one in particular, and the film remains without a particularly unforgettable narrative point.  When the question of memorableness is asked of Lolita Rodriguez, however, the answer is:  there is no possible way to forget her in movies, since she turns every portrayal into an acting bid for honors that makes all other actresses worthy of the fourth or fifth place to her.

In film after film, this competent and thoroughly professional actress had done more than justice to every kind of roles she has rendered scintillating what are ordinary sentimental parts, and rescued from shameful muddledness the ill-conceived characterizations that had come her fortunate, glittering way.
In Fine Forms

She is once more in fine form in Paano Kita Lilimutin, a melodrama that unabashedly and successfully plays for every tear a moviegoer (and a notoriously sentimental scriptwriter such as Pablo S. Gomez) is good for, and her sterling presence makes for the accompanying box-office names' appearing like decorative gold-plated stars.  The film directed by Jose de Villa is a soap opera (authored by Aning Bagabaldo and aired over DZRH at a time when housewives are most prone to moon over lunch a-cooking) whose suds are wrung from endless bars of domestic deterioration; the cloud of dirt it washes away is one of motherly misunderstanding, and its detergent action is directed largely against unfeeling off-spring.  As the mother snowed under by fate's rubbish heap and her daughter's pile of ambitions, Lolita Rodriguez turns in a performance that is notable chiefly for the character it carries despite its load of tears.

Even her name (Dolor) is at once lachrymosely lovely, and from there on Lolita Rodriguez proceeds to weave a tapestry of screen sorrow that is at once beautiful, beguiling, and believable.  Spurned by the callous cad who had begotten her child, Dolor Mendoza stabs him in righteous rage while still in her pregnant condition, and gives birth to the ogle-worthy Olga (Gina Pareno) while in prison.  She is paroled after years that permanently scar her with justifiable bitterness against man's injustice -- a tender spot in her armor of secretiveness that she carries to her grandfather's barrio home where she has gone with her small daughter to live, hidden from the prying eyes of the sententious, the pretentious, and the plain nosy.

Into this quietly sorrowing life come society's censure and the contrived complications of Paano Kita Lilimutin:  an automobile crash brings a former movie queen, Matilda (Gloria Romero), and her daughter (Blanca Gomez), when grown up), who is about the same age as Olga, into Dolor's sphere of existence with attendant newspaper reporters' curiosity and the recalling of her prison term.  She is invited to live with Matilda in Manila, and the two manless matrons proceed to raise their young daughters together -- with the same maternal devotion but with quite dissimilar methods of exhibiting and engendering affection.

While Matilda runs true to the actress's artificial sweetness and coy charms, Dolor remains faithful to the Filipino mother's deep, abiding concern and Lolita Rodriguez's strong character.  The latter tries her best to inculcate discipline in her daughter while devoting her time and care to her, and exhibits in the process some of the dazzling qualities that have made Lolita a consummately fine actress; the former strives to bring material comfort and gifts to her daughter while neglecting her because of movie work, and displays on the scene several of the glittering gowns and peacock poses that have made Gloria Romero a superbly sumptuous looker.  Gloria, it is to be recalled, is also a FAMAS awardee as best actress (for Dalagang Ilocana), but in this picture she has a role that lives her, not vice versa.  And as the antithesis to Lolita Rodriguez's flavorful portrayal, she has all the scenic sequences but no acting chance.

Younger Ones

The young stars do better.  Gina Pareno as the headstrong Olga has all the younger beauty of Gloria Romero and some of the acting potentialities of Lolita Rodriguez.  She it is who brings about the cataclysmic clinches of Paano Kita Lilimutin:  rebelling against restrictive dressing and diet imposed by their humble condition, she snitches food when her mother's back is turned, borrows Blanca's expensive clothes, shoes, and jewelry whenever she has the need and the chance, and gives wonderful realization to the character of the ambitious but not totally evil young girl born into unfortunate circumstances; disregarding society's class distinctions, she falls in love with a rich boy (Ramil Rodriguez) who has a fastidious grandmother (Etang Discher), and brings upon herself and her mother the tragedy that was predictably to befall them; and, forgetting herself and her innate love for her, she defies her mother passionately and even disowns Dolor completely when the mother's imprisonment becomes known to her, an insurmountable obstacle to her young love.  Extremely pretty, expressive, and susceptible, Gina engenders all the stormy emotionalism and underscored sentimentality of VP Pictures' 4th anniversary and New Year presentation.

And Blanca Gomez, as the rich movie star's daughter who temporarily loses her mother to the opulence and the rat race alleged for the movies by Gloria Romero, is noticeable and sceneworthy in her own way.  She is raised almost to womanhood by Dolor, but she maintains her natural affection and emotional need for Matilda, for whom she waits at their doorstep night after night almost, up to several birthdays.  When she turns to a laundrywoman's son (Edgar Salcedo) for the love and tenderness she has been yearning for, she is majestically slapped by Matilda.

Slapping is not the only traditional melodramatic feature that Paano Kita Lilimutin proudly and purposefully carries, although this standard climax of confrontation scenes is turned into a new and somehow effective dramatic device by Lolita Rodriguez and Gina Pareno -- when she goads her mother into nearly punishing her physically, Gina bravely proffers her classic profile, daring Dolor to strike against truth, and Lolita freezes her action into a towering figure of womanly grief, anger, and frustration arrested at the core of bitterness.  There is prayer, too, done by the family that stays together:  Edgar Salcedo's poverty-haunted one, to which he brings Blanca in obvious contrast to the wealth-bespangled home where her mother is distressingly absent from her birthday celebration.

No Device

It is only Luis Gonzales, among the cast of Paano Kita Lilimutin, who does not resort to any melodramatic device when he performs his most memorable scene in the picture.  A doctor who attends to Matilda during the automobile accident that claims the life of her husband, Ruben Reyes (Luis Gonzales) nurses a lifelong love for her as well, which she ignores in her dedicated drive toward stardom and more money for her daughter's future.  He patiently waits for her to notice him, though this is hardly understandable when one sees the obvious good looks of Gonzales and hears the ripple of adoring admiration from his countless fans inside the theater, and gives lustre and surprising dash to the figure of a constant lover debilitated by an adamant lady and the script's feministic discrimination.  Whe he gets a chance to jolt Matilda to a realization of their mutual love for each other, Ruben rises like any self-respecting lover and worldly doctor would:  taking advantage of the jealousy she fancies of her daughter, he shows Matilda some sample of what a romance with him could be like -- and what she is deliberately denying herself.

A consistent good actor and un-aging idol type, Luis Gonzales carries off the romantic sequence with Blanca Gomez very well, indeed.  In fact, were it the objective of the story of Paano Kita Lilimutin, a colorful match between the experience Luis Gonzales and a fresh, gaily innocent girl (either Gina Pareno or Blanca Gomez) would have been vastly more interesting than pairing him with an actress who has been type-cast for the role because of their approximately corresponding number of years.  One appreciates this fact more when the picture's ending comes, in which Luis Gonzales puts his arms around Gina Pareno to console her in her grief:  this supposedly fatherly gesture generates more electricity than all the polite embraces among the three conventional couples of the film.

Sure, the three pairs of lovers finally find their rightful places beside each other in Paano Kita Lilimutin after the numerous serialized tribulations:  the rich Blanca Gomez with her shy, darkly handsome and devoted poor woman's son Edgar Salcedo; the malleable Gina Pareno with her forgiving Ramil Rodriguez; and the domesticated Gloria Romero with her dependable doctor Luis Gonzales.  Lolita Rodriguez, after seeing her irrepressible daughter Gina Pareno go through a colorful sequence of being a willful woman, a pathetic bride-not-to-be, and aleggy striptease dancer, chooses to die rather than see her offspring's proud loveliness to be transformed into the weeping mask of a belated mourner in imitation of life.

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