MOVIE REVIEW: SANA’Y WALA NANG WAKAS (Leroy Salvador, 1986)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas:

1. Even before the classic Pinoy LGBTQ film Do Re Mi manifested the power of female camaraderie through musical numbers, there was this movie in the late 80’s (probably inspired by the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) that showcased the value of friendship.

If it weren’t obvious enough, the girl group composed of Bianca Eleazar (Sharon Cuneta), Monique Verzosa (Cherie Gil), and Michelle Williams, er, Camille Gonzaga (Dina Bonnevie) was actually named “Friends” and their go-to song was “That’s What Friends Are For” (sung during the opening scene while they wore shiny, silky costumes with gigantic ribbons on the chest area, probably borrowed from the Boyoyong clowns).

Also, Sharon sported a female mullet. Let that sink in.

2. There was one incredibly long montage (worth one full song, I think) where Bianca and Teddy (Tonton Gutierrez, terrible in an Aljur Abrenica way) toured Luzon and it could have been used as a tourist ad for the Philippines (Have some buko juice in Tagaytay! Jet ski in Taal Lake!).

At one point, Teddy dove head first in a shallow pond to get a lotus flower. I thought he was trying to catch a frog, but then it wouldn’t match with Bianca’s ever-changing ribbons on her ponytail.

Naudlot pa ang first kiss nila nang biglang dumating ang order nila na…Pepsi! (We would always complain about product placements in today’s films, but apparently it had been shamelessly done even before. This one also had blatant shills for Master Sardines and Silver Swan Soy Sauce.)

3. It was sad to see the late Dindo Fernando again here, especially since he was one of the finest actors in local cinema that was gone too soon. As Bianca’s father slash music composer, he brought a lot of depth in his character who was prone to making silly decisions.

Upon learning that he had terminal cancer, he did some soul-searching by walking the entire stretch of Manila Bay. He also abandoned his family because he didn’t want to be a pabigat for them, but ultimately returned home for one last deathbed duet. (By the way, this scene was so effective that I was a blubbering mess when it ended. Galing din ni Ate Shawie dito.)

4. As expected, jealousy and fame were the reasons for the group’s eventual break-up. I would have guessed that it was actually Dina’s singing voice because she just sounded awful (refer to Barbie Forteza’s viral video).

There was a scene where Camille was singing drunk and another one where she was warbling while sobbing uncontrollably and she didn’t sound any different from her supposedly better days. She more than made up for it in acting though because I really loved the scene where she started throwing beer bottles at her gay BFF Manny Castaneda.

5. Sample dialogue…

• Teddy being defiant to his overbearing father: “Pigain mo man ako, di mo mapipiga ang musika sa buhay ko!” (Nux!!)

• Teddy’s matapobre father to Bianca: “Magkano ang kelangan mo para layuan ang anak ko?”

Bianca with matching flaring nostrils: “Magkano ang kaya nyong ibayad? Bilhin nyo sya ng pera nyo. Bibilhin ko sya ng pag ibig ko!” (Applause! Standing ovation!!)

6. Burning questions:

• If Bianca was so famous that she was being mobbed by fans, why did she take a cab during her walk-out scene?

• How did Bianca and Monique become huge recording stars if most of their songs were remakes? Greatest Love of All vs Through the Fire? (Sabagay, diamond artist si Nina.)

• What happened to breach of contract? How could Monique miss the farewell concert of the group and get away with it? And did Bianca really have to sing Part-Time Lover (with matching luha) after seeing Camille and Teddy kiss?

• Hindi pa ba uso ang aircon noon? Bakit ang nasa loob ng dressing room nila ay isang malaking electric fan?

7. It was so funny how all the conflicts were magically resolved during the final musical number of Bianca. In this scene, the song composed by her dearly-departed dad won the top prize in a music festival that suddenly turned into her concert, complete with surprise appearances by Monique and Camille.

Friendship was restored, a marriage proposal was done, and Manny Castaneda remained a faithful alalay.

Never, ever question the power of a Willy Cruz song.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MOVIE REVIEW: HELE SA HIWAGANG HAPIS (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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My notes on Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis:

1. Hele. Hiwaga. Hapis. These three words appropriately described my overall experience of the movie. I was oftentimes lulled to sleep, with its 8-hour runtime and scenes that seemed to never end. I was enchanted by the intersecting stories of both fictional and real characters in Philippine history, even if the movie remained a mystery until the very last scene. Lastly, my butt was screaming in pain and sorrow and felt every minute of it (like I had imaginary flaring hemorrhoids and I had to keep adjusting in my seat). I came out of that challenge feeling like the winner in Survivor: Cinema.

(For the record, Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was the exact opposite experience and enthralled me with every minute of its four-hour length.)

2. Don’t get me wrong, this was far from being a bad movie. Each gorgeously-shot misty frame in glorious black and white (this movie really put the mist in mystery) should still be worth the price of admission (plus, the P500 ticket in Newport came with unli-popcorn, a large cup of rootbeer, and a giant siopao; pa-fiesta pa lang ni Mayor sulit na).

I was just never a fan of lyrical poetry. Ayoko ng mga mabulaklak at paligoy-ligoy na salita. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said that “brevity is the soul of wit”? (Believe me, the irony wasn’t completely lost on me.)

3. My favorite characters came in groups of threes. The screen has never been more alive than when the diwatas of Quiroga (Queenmelo Esguerra, Moira Lang, Bianca Balbuena) would appear in their fabulous kaftans, creating chaos with a menacing laugh or a throwaway pick-up line. The other trio would be the excellent tikbalangs (Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino) that mesmerized viewers with every trick played on Gregoria de Jesus and company. I was sold on these characters as soon as Bernardo Squared let out a loud neigh. Such splendid actors!

(Oh, John Lloyd Cruz was fine, although I felt that his take on Mi Ultimo Adios was like a response to Maja Salvador’s Trisha’s “I love you and I will tell you everyday, everyday until you forget the things that hurthhhh.” The less said about Piolo Pascual’s stiff performance, the better. He had the requisite abs scene so no complaints here.)

4. The long takes were impressive, especially the dialogue-heavy scenes. As someone who botched a twenty-line poem in a Talumpatian back in grade school, I could just imagine the amount of time spent memorizing that script. The downside was that there were some glaring flubs (and obviously pulled punches and kicks) that Lav Diaz didn’t feel the need to retake.

It was important to note that if a character started singing a song or reciting a poem, expect that performance to be completed (8 hours, take your time). The same could be said with a lot of scenes that just stretched on for several minutes (Simoun crying in pain, Basilio endlessly digging, nipa hut burning down to the ground, etc). I wasn’t surprised at all when some critics accused Diaz of being self-indulgent. One character even mentioned, “Masyadong makasarili ang sining”. My butt nodded in agreement. Maybe some opium would have helped?

5. My two favorite scenes were:

a) Susan Africa (sans tuberculosis or any other life-threatening disease) as Aling Hule wading in an entire stretch of muddy rice field like it was some sort of punishment from Clara del Valle

b) Alessandra de Rossi as Caesaria Belarmino asking for forgiveness for being the “pinakamagandang dilag ng Silang”. Pak na pak!

6. The movie felt a bit preachy towards the end. I half-expected Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All to start playing.

7. Several people cheered after the screening. I was sure that some really loved the movie. I was just part of those that were thankful that it was finally over.

Rating: ★★★☆☆