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Thursday, December 30, 2010

When will we be ready for Rosario? -- Rosario Movie Review

Potato On-the-Go:

I really had no plans of posting any film reviews this 2010 Metro Manila Film Festival as I know I'll be busy with many holiday gatherings but after what the jurors did to the recently concluded awards night (the jurors snubbed in the recognition Albert Martinez for Direction, Jennylyn Mercado for Performance by a Lead Actress, Manuel V. Pangilinan for Story, Elmer Gatchalian for Screenplay and Albert Chang for Musical Score), I guess I have to post my point of view, because they don't have the monopoly of telling the public which is the good film or not.

I've always been thirsty for movies that narrate our country's history or the backdrop of our cultural heritage.  I've only seen a few and for me, they now belong to our country's treasures that defines us a people.  Some of them are Oro Plata Mata, Mumbaki, Sakay, Jose Rizal, Rizal sa Dapitan and Supremo, among others.  So when I heard that Cinemabuhay and Studio 5 are creating Rosario, I just know they are doing something right.  I wished then that the story and screenplay will be as moving as the pages of our history books (because Rosario is a story of a private woman).

Rosario, produced by CineMabuhay and Studio 5, is based on an original story by successful businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan and directed by critically acclaimed actor (and now a director) Albert Martinez.  Here's the official theatrical trailer:

The film tells the story of Rosario (Jennylyn Mercado), a young and liberated woman from a wealthy family in Isabela in the 1920s who just arrived from New York.  She was spending her vacation in their hacienda when she committed her first mistake -- meeting and falling in love with Vicente (Yul Servo), her father's right hand who manages their plantation, an older man coming from a poor family.

Jennylyn Mercado as Rosario
Yul Servo as Vicente

And since such relationship is a taboo in that era, Rosario and Vicente managed to steal time and express their love with each other, amidst the risk and danger that it may bring.

So When Rosario's father (Philip Salvador) finds out about his daughter's scandalous affair, they move out of the hacienda, sends Rosario to a convent and punishes Vicente.  But Rosario follows no one but her heart so she escapes the humbling life in the convent and marries Vicente.  They move to Manila where they have a simple yet comfortable family life.

But Rosario commits the second mistake of her life when she is lured to committing adultery while her husband Vicente becomes ill with tuberculosis.  Vicente sues Rosario and her lover Alfredo (Dennis Trillo) which was a controversial and celebrated adultery case in the 1920s.  They were both sent to exile in Hong Kong.

Isabel Oli as Carmen
Dennis Trillo as Alfredo

When they returned to Manila, Rosario's new family faces another challenges which will bring her again to an unlikely situation.  But Rosario, this time, redeems herself.

Sid Lucero as Carding

First of all, I would like to commend its director, Albert Martinez for creating a modern masterpiece.  The job is very challenging not only because Rosario's saga is non-conforming to the norms of our past and present society but bringing back to life a story made almost a century ago will demand a lot of time, huge investment, creativity and discriminating intelligence.  And I believe the director was able to do that.

I already saw Jennylyn's potential in the film  Blue Moon and I believe this movie, Rosario, gave her the seal of a legitimate actress.  She has no hysterical scenes nor slapstick moments, but her subtle and subdued acting was able to convey the right emotion of her character -- a liberated woman who somehow conforms to the rule of her family and the society.  One of her highlights is the scene when she found out that her daughter (Empress Schuck) became a famous pianist and then she witnessed how her dear child performed.  There's no dialogue, but the emotion is conveyed through her eyes, face and tears.

I also praise Dennis Trillo, Isabel Oli (as Rosario's cousin Carmen), Eula Valdes (as Rosario's mom), Yul Servo and Sid Lucero (as Carding) with their commendable performances.  Their scenes may be brief but it surely left lasting marks.  I personally like the climax scene where Sid (as Carding) is slowly building up his anger towards Ricky Davao (as a landlord of Rosario's apartment).  Again there's no dialogue from Sid, but the rage, the emotion is so powerful.  Isabel Oli's transformation from a conservative provincial lass to a modern Binondo working girl was also well acted.  And Dennis Trillo, as always, is exemplary in bad boy roles, and his role as Alfredo is no exception. 

Rosario's Cinematography is destined to be classic and its Production Design manipulated time and brought the viewers to the period when the characters actually lived.  I have so many favorite scenes but I guess the one that left every viewer in awe is the scene where Rosario and Vicente made love under the light of a lamp.  It's just so tastefully done, it's very elegant and meaningful.  I even heard old women at my back saying, "It's like an Italian film."

Its music, which I heard was performed by a live orchestra and recorded in Hollywood, is so moving that it can whisper its message, its sorrow and simple joys, to our heart and soul.

Rosario's musical scoring with live orchestra at East West Studios in Hollywood.. In photo are executive producer Bong Sta. Maria (far left), director Albert Martinez (center), and musical director Albert Chang (guy in red shirt).

The story is expected to be unconventional, maybe even deviant to some, but so as the screenplay.  It is reality told in a poetic way.  And its ending will depend on how each one of us wants to conclude Rosario's story, either we condemn her or forgive her.  As for the story, lessons are not always told in a fairy tale way.  Most often, lessons from great stories are told the way lives are actually lived.  Because humans are not perfect.  We learn the lessons of our mistakes, and that is when wisdom is cultivated.

As for points for improvement, I just wished for more consistency in terms of accent of the characters in the 1920s and the use of fade out in editing for transition points. The port scene is magnanimous but the use of graphics when the ship left Manila, and when Rosario and her family were in Hong Kong, was quite unpolished.  I know this is based on a true story but perhaps a parting letter from Rosario addressed and read to the people she hurt in her life will somehow help the non discriminating audience understand the character's ordeals.  But of course, that would be a debate between reality and creative execution.  Well, I would like to believe that the target audience were able to get what Rosario and her son (played by Dolphy) were trying to tell us.

Nevertheless, I still consider Rosario as one of the best Filipino films produced in recent years.   And yes, Rosario is ambitious... because it's not mediocre.  And for me, it is a lot better than the traditional slapstick comedy flicks screened and recognized in the recent Metro Manila Film Festival. And from a rating scale of 1 to 10 claps, I'm giving Rosario a strong and proud 8 1/2.

Rosario, the woman, together with her love affair with a man who is not from her circle, was forbidden by the society during her time.  And pursuing her love caused her very dearly.  Now, Rosario, the movie, with its non-conforming plot and interpretation, is experiencing the same fate from our present day society.  But we, the viewers, have the power to let not history repeat itself.

Our forefathers were not ready for Rosario during her time.  But what about us in our own time?  When will we be ready for Rosario?  Will Rosario suffer the same fate the second time around?  I hope not.  She has learned her lessons and I hope we will as well.

Photos courtesy of Rosario's official page.


  1. I saw Rosario and found it to be an interesting movie. A good one but not as great as you see it. I haven't seen Tanging Ina yet but I understand why Rosario failed to hold a candle to the Ai-ai movie. Rosario did well in the areas of set design and cinematography but failed in several areas that I associate with the newness of Albert Martinez as a director. I think he failed to deliver clean execution of lines, for example the consistency of accent as you said so yourself. I also found it unbelievable that Rosario failed to show aging despite the many years covered by the story. I thought he could have done better in that aspect. I felt that the movie could have been delivered a lot better if done by a more seasoned director considering the budgetary freedom he enjoyed.

  2. Hi Ed. I already saw both movies but no matter how Rosario scored low in some areas (Rosario's make-up as she grows old as you said), the movie is still way better than Tanging Ina (part 3?). If jurors really didn't like the movie, it could have been better if no Best Picture recognition was given (it happened in the past) because awarding it to the movie I just mentioned is an insult to movie goers' intelligence. And things like this is what dishearten the morale of new film makers. Contrary to what you said, I think though that Albert Martinez, as a newbie director, did pretty well. Being new does not necessarily equate to poor work. =)


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