MANILA, Philippines - There is magic in old movies.
Thanks to the enterprising spirit and dynamism of the Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA), a piece of cinema considered as one of the landmarks in local production was shown recently.
The group screened the 1974 blockbuster “Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae” at the Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) last Saturday.
The film was directed by veteran prizewinning filmmaker Elwood Perez and produced by an independent film company Juan de la Cruz Productions.
It has carried with it nostalgia, revisit and revelations of filmmaking in the past.
A U-Matic version of the film, said Teddy Co, Vice Head of the Cinema Division of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, was found and retrieved by SOFIA recently. The group has excitedly kept it, announced and scheduled its exhibition so that the contemporary audience could retell and relate to the sense of filmmaking in the 70s.
“Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae” might be a relatively old movie but it is quite comparable to the current upsurge of campy yet meaningful spectacles that commonly flood a number of films, indie or no indie, and soap operas today.
The film is a trilogy of sorts. It is stringed together by a single character (Amalia Fuentes) to create one coherent story of three women with various social underpinnings, including her own tale.
Perez had created his masterpiece in an atmosphere of free expression however the landscape of authoritarian rule. Also, the gender politics at the time evoked a new concept of feminine awakening in their sappiest moments.
Perez might not be your social realist proletarian artist in the mold of Lino Brocka, but he nonetheless exposed the social imbalance among class struggles in his characters.
To begin with, three literary writers were the backbone of its storytelling namely Wilfrido Nolledo, Joey Gosiengfiao and Orlando R. Nadres.
An ambitious adopted screen star daughter (Pilar Pilapil), a martyred but chatty common-law wife laundrywoman (Boots Anson Roa) and a rich, flirty stepmom (Fuentes). These were all female symbols of the kind of women Nolledo, Gosiengfiao and Nadres had composed in their entire writing career.
The epoch was the tail-end of the bomba and bold eras. But Perez was able to avoid the censors’ ire.
Pilipil and Fuentes had love scenes with almost nude Ricky Belmonte and Orestes Ojeda, respectively. Ojeda even had a complete, titillating shower scene in his birthday suit.
Anson Roa has been known to be your girl-next-door type, convent-bred image, but she went out of her comfort zone in the film. Her character caught sight of Ray Marcos only in his underwear.
During the open forum after the showing of the vintage film, Fuentes, who watched the film at the CCP with fellow stars Anson Roa and Marissa Delgado, was happy that the film was screened again. She also recalled her rigorous experiences as an actress under Perez.
“Dito talaga sa pelikulang ito, nahirapan ako nang husto. Pagkatapos ng shooting, hindi agad ako makatulog dahil sa kailangang masunod ko mismo si Elwood,” she said.
Anson Roas was elated people still showered her with praises. She did a very challenging role contrary to her traditional portrayal of a Mater Dolorosa.
Delgado was equally excellent as an anti-heroine and was uplifted by such accolades from critics now and then.
“Walang kupas si Marissa,” said veteran writer Alice Vergara.
Ojeda, who was in the audience, couldn’t contain his excitement each time his scene came out.
“I feel nostalgic. I feel proud I did this film. After 37 years, I still feel the same passion for acting,” he said.