Monday, January 3, 2011

Rosario

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Fresh from New York, liberated Rosario (Jennylyn Mercado) comes home to visit the family hacienda in Isabela where she meets a man, who according to the societal norms of the time is not suited for her, and does something that raises eyebrows: She sleeps with him. Narrated by the main character’s son portrayed by Dolphy, the film tells the story of a woman who flirts with the liberal flame of a society transitioning from one colonial power to another, and eventually gets burned more than once. Based on the life story of businessman Manny Pangilinan’s grandmother, Rosario offers a glimpse of life during the American Period, built around the tale of a woman whose questionable decisions contribute to the tragedy that is her life.

You see clearly that back then class difference was the primary ingredient to launch a successful social scandal. Are you rich? Sleep with someone out of your class and you provide the whole province with a decade’s supply of endless gossip. Nowadays that usually happens when people of the same sex sleep together, or when Lady Gaga makes a new music video. The issue at present is more on gender. The issue back then was class. Should we say that class issues are already passé nowadays? Well, not really, but you can see that society chooses to focus on something else every now and then. Society does evolve too.

It is hard to judge the makeup specially if you have no inkling regarding their fashion sense during that time. There are instances when Carmen (Isabel Oli) looks like a geisha. Many times Rosario resembles Dennis Trillo when he appeared in drag for his role in Aishite Imasu. And then there is Rosario’s father (Philip Salvador) who seems to have chosen the Pringles mascot as his style icon. The costumes and makeup still serve their purpose as Rosario manages to stand out from everyone else onscreen during the early parts of the movie thanks to her signature Vampire-Fresh-from-a-Kill look, while the rest literally pale in comparison.

Everybody knows that the MMFF is really more of a farce than a legitimate award giving body. The Jennylyn Mercado snub further affirms this. Her performance is probably not what one can consider a Filipino version of Oscar-bait, but she at least deserved a nomination. She carried this movie well, and one can even go as far as to say that she owned it, if not only for the strong support she got from her co-actors. Dolphy narrates and has a short appearance which is moving enough to justify the supporting actor trophy he won, although one can argue that Sid Lucero gives a more convincing performance.

The film runs with English subtitles since the characters do occasional code-switching between Tagalog and Spanish, but more than this perhaps the main reason is that the producers are already gearing up to join film festivals abroad. They would probably be treated better there, and get the accolades that they deserve. Rosario is not perfect and the plot unfolds slowly which makes it a bit of a bore to watch, but it is still one gem of a Pinoy period film, and is definitely one of the better entries in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival.

As an additional note, the lettering used in the letter Vicente (Yul Servo) gives to Rosario is far better than the the title font on the poster, which makes the movie look like a horror flick. Minor details.

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