My notes on Ang Babaeng Humayo:
1. Do you know those times when you would rather watch a silly Adam Sandler movie rather than wallow in all the glorious art of a Terrence Malick film (I still could not finish The Tree of Life without falling asleep)? I had that experience while watching this four-hour Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner from master filmmaker Lav Diaz. Although this one was just half the length of Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, I still wondered if all of those scenes needed the extra two to three minutes of…something (nothing?).
2. I kept imagining the film as a glorified version of Charles Bronson’s revenge flick Death Wish and I had my own wish for a scene where Horacia (Madam Charo Santos-Concio) would throw away her cap, remove her denim jacket, raise her fists, and fight mano a mano with the person that sent her rotting in prison for thirty years. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I kept switching sides during its entirety), this was an art film so instead we were knocked on the head with various metaphors while our heroine waited (and waited and waited and waited and waited…) in the shadows.
3. Speaking of shadows, as with any Diaz film, this was meticulously shot in gorgeous black and white. Every scene was just picture perfect and ready for cinephiles to screencap for their year-end best of lists. (I would like to suggest that scene outside the church with Horacia standing next to a billboard saying “Huwag kang papatay.”)
4. It was a delight to see Madam Charo back on the big screen and she managed to give a good performance despite the long hiatus. There were still moments though when her classy, glamorous persona came out even when the role required more pathos and grit (or angas, especially when delivering lines like “Loaded ako, pare.”).
One scene required her to assault a woman twice her size and it was obvious that she pulled her punches. Another involved a lot of wailing on the stairs after learning that her husband died and it was met by laughter from the audience. At her best, she was able to effectively convey the moral journey of a scorned woman. At her worst, she reminded me of Kris Aquino playing a beggar in Pido Dida.
5. There were several instances where Horacia narrated her own horror story (one kid brilliantly butted in with “Wala bang fairy tale?”) and as soon as I heard that familiar soothing voice straight out of MMK, I immediately started guessing an episode title.
6. My favorite scene in the film involved a joyous song and dance number between Horacia and Hollanda (an epileptic transgender that she took under her wing, played with great nuance by John Lloyd Cruz, as if we expected less from him). It started with Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, then continued with Somewhere from West Side Story, and ended with the familiar “shadam dradam” sounds of Donna Cruz’s Kapag Tumibok ang Puso. It was great to see the characters (and actors) finally lowering their guards and just simply having the time of their lives.
7. When Hollanda mentioned the funny faux story of how she got her name (her pregnant mother spun the globe and her finger landed on Holland), I was so happy that my mom never thought of doing that because Uzbekistan Javier would have been bullied to death in school.
8. Even with Lloydie playing against type (sounding like a millennial gay in the 90s) and hilariously complaining about his painful butthole, the standout performances were from the dependable Nonie Buencamino as the hunchback balut vendor (I craved for balut while watching, no kidding) and Jean Judith Javier (no relation, I swear) as Mameng, the taong grasa that kept accusing everyone of being demons (“Puro demonyo ang mga nagsisimba dito!!”) Applause!
9. In the film’s final moment, it showed Horacia walking round and round (and round and round and round and round…) on the posters of her missing son. Was it a metaphor for her futile search? Was that another social commentary on the state of the country during that time (and even today)? Nahilo ba sa eksenang yun si Madam Charo?