Monday, November 22, 2004

Santa Santita

Last Wednesday night, after getting off work, I decided to treat myself to a little dinner at El Pollo Loco at Megamall. In between healthy helpings of potato salad and roasted chicken wrapped in pita bread, I decided I didn't feel like going home just yet, and decided to catch a movie's last full show, see I decided to go watch Santa Santita.

See, I'm a big fan of Filipino films, so much so that if I die and go to hell (which is more than likely), I fully expect the devil to look like Romy Diaz.

As pathetic as the Filipino film industry has been for the past few years, there usually are a couple of releases during the course of the year (before the Metro Manila Film Festival) that look interesting. I usually go out of my way to see these films, at the theaters or at least on VCD, and usually alone because I couldn't entice anyone else to see the Filipino films with me.

It's particularly sad that we're now in November, and Santa Santita is the first movie this year I was interested in seeing (not counting Imelda, which was a documentary).

I had guarded expectations from the film, particularly because director Laurice Guillen was at the helm. Her last two films were Tanging Yaman and American Adobo, which were both well-acted and well-directed films, but both ultimately fall short with their story-telling.

Besides, I have this beef with Tanging Yaman. Apart from that the fact that Tanging Yaman was released in the same year as Deathrow and Tuhog and overshadowed both (infinitely better movies), I believe that movie set the Philippine movie industry a few years back.

Did you notice that every "quality" local film that comes out these days are nothing but re-hashed melodramas with all-star casts (as big families)? All of these films were just trying to follow the Tanging Yaman formula.

I had problems with Santa Santita, although the movie certainly had its moments. Most of these moments came from the strong performances from Johnny Delgado and Jericho Rosales. Johnny Delgado just might be the best actor in Philippine cinema today, and with Jericho Rosales' performance, he just might be the most important one.

The other cast members did reasonably well enough, and this underscores Laurice Guillen's skill in directing actors. The movie had another little gem with a cameo from Ricky Davao, who just might be the best actor in Philippine cinema if it weren't for Johnny Delgado weren't so darn good.

The technical aspects were also great, with Quiapo coming alive on the big screen (Mark Meilly of Crying Ladies was DP). The handheld techniques Laurice Guillen used for the conversation shots were also effective.

But the film ultimately disappointed me, because while the acting and the shots wergreat, the storytelling was so-so. The other elements in the movie were infinitely more interesting (the culture of paying women for prayers, the troubled priest, the unhappy nun, Quiapo itself), but the movie plodded on with its main plot to deliver its message.

I don't understand why "quality" Filipino films have to have a "message", or rather, why the director has to go out of his/her way hammer that "message" onto our heads. Just like in Tanging Yaman, Laurice Guillen, a Marian devotee, just can't leave the story well enough on its own, and she has to bombard us with her message of salvation. To make matters worse, cheap mediocre melodrama is used to deliver this very same message. You know, the type that makes for good Eat... Bulaga acting contests but bad cinema.

Of course, "intelligent" showbiz writers and moralists alike would point to this "message" as the reason why Santa Santita, and Tanging Yaman, for that matter, are such great movies.

But Santa Santita is not a great movie, and I guess that was what disappointed me most about the film. It's sad because there is a great movie somewhere in this film, but the director just didn't want to bring it out.


huwaaat? you got nothing to say about angelica panganiban?


I've been thinking of watching this film. I shall give it a try. Although I do not like the way Jericho Rosales acts, which seems OA.

Have you seen Magnifico? It was fabulous but did not gain much appreciation from our fellowmen. It lasted for only a week in the cinemas and I had to go to SM Manila to watch it (the other was SM Megamall) because it was replaced with the next picture for those in Las PiƱas and Alabang malls.


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