Nonoy L. Lauzon
It is rare for a Filipino film of relative domesticity to be imbued with grandeur. But here, attuned to Bernal’s directorial vision, grandeur overflows from the witty repartee to the characters’ introspection, and individual quiet moments to the scenes of partying and making love.
Classics of Philippine cinema may just outshine the year’s crop of outstanding current features in the country. With the restoration efforts in full gear for certain films of yesteryears, movie-going audiences now enjoy more than ever easy access to great homegrown cinema.
Lino Brocka’s Insiang that made it to the official selection of Cannes last May upon its restoration that had been carried out in world-class laboratories of Bologna, Italy, has readily upstaged any other Philippine title as the most sought-after selection for prestigious film festivals overseas.
Olivia Lamasan’s Sana Maulit Muli, with international star Lea Salonga teaming up with Aga Muhlach has proven itself to be as much a box-office sensation as when it was first released twenty years ago during the premiere for its restored version at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last July.
Cinemalaya, more than made up for the absence of a main competition for full-length features this year, with a showcase of Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Karnal in its full restored glory.
As the year marks the birth centennial for two of the country’s National Artists for Film, namely Lamberto Avellana and Manuel Conde, classic features under their respective directions are very much in the limelight: A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino (Avellana) and Genghis Khan (Conde).
The restoration for Avellana’s A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino has multifarious significance considering that 2015 is also the birth centenary for its producer, Manuel de Leon of LVN fame, and the film that has turned gold with its 50th year of creation is the screen adaptation of the celebrated stage play by National Artist for Literature, Nick Joaquin. Another National Artist involved in the film is lead actress Daisy Avellana, wife of Lamberto and theater icon.
Conde’s Genghis Khan was restored in 2012. Three years thereafter, it remains in the news as it graces this year’s Venice Art Biennale, where the Philippines made a comeback some five decades after its last official national participation.
Joining this illustrious league of immortalized big-screen classics for the year is Ishmael Bernal’s Ikaw Ay Akin, from ABS-CBN Film Restoration. Premiering this Saturday, November 14, for this year’s Cinema One Originals Festival, the 1978 feature that paired movie queens Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, must be truly hailed as the piece de resistance of the current screening season. From any which angle one may look at the film, it is every inch remarkable.
Its production must be considered not only a milestone in Philippine cinema history, but also a monumental celebration. Since it was screened to theaters across the country close to 40 years ago, it managed to have withstood the ravages of time to be rightfully declared a national treasure.
Ikaw Ay Akin shows rivals Vilma and Nora in their thespic best, along with leading man Christopher de Leon, in a performance of a lifetime that put to shame all others in his entire career.
To appreciate Ikaw Ay Akin is to dwell an entire bright era in national cinema. Made at a time of artistic heights for the local film industry, it demonstrates that romance as a screen genre, need not be hollow, shallow and inconsequential.
The film has single-handedly radicalized the discourse on the human need for intimacy to arrive at a higher level of cinema dwelling on affairs of the heart. Along the way, it makes a statement on the feminist movement, machismo or male chauvinism, hypocrisy in society and the contending forces of trust and betrayal that seem to govern every single circumstance by which humans deal with each other.
So much wisdom oozes from the film rendering it as the realization of a thinking viewer’s idea of a romance movie, that doubles as a lesson in philosophy. Textured performances even from the bit players complement an astute play of production elements to comprise a totality of a film very much adept in nuance and meaning.
Most appropriately, the film ends with the moment of greatest grandeur of all: the exchange of glances and suspended conversation between the film’s two female leads in a duel and a duet of spectacular screen acting!