Film Review: ROSARIOLOVE, LUST AND INFAMY IN THE 1920S
By Pablo A. Tariman
“ Rosario ” -- the first film production project of TV 5 -- is also the first full-length feature film debut of Albert Martinez and it could be this year’s most exciting entry in the Metro Manila Film Festival.
The trailer alone has powerful undertones of Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal and the cinematography is so grand and encompassing and so well-thought out you end up wanting to watch the film before anybody else beat you to it.
The story is inspired by the life of the grandmother of PLDT’s big boss, Manuel Pangilinan. Rosario ’s son Jesus (played by Dolphy) narrates Rosario ’s story set in the 1920s.
Rosario played by Jennylyn Mercado is described as liberated for many reasons. She has tasted the cosmopolitan life of New York , her views are not anything like the common Filipino folks and she follows her instincts regardless of what her kith and kins will say. She falls in love with her hacienda’s administrator (Yul Servos) then with a close kin’s lover (Dennis Trillo) and was almost tempted to try another relationship with a wholesome type (Sid Lucero). But in the end, she decided it would be too much too soon.
The film’s most engrossing part is the film’s portrayal of love, lust and lifestyle in the 1920s. The era of carnival queens is seen in the parade with Mercado coiffed and attired like the real thing. There is a formal dinner hosted by Don Enrique (Phillip Salvador) with a crooner (played by Desiree del Valle) dishing out an American song complete with western coquetry.
On the other hand, there are poetry readings with subtle anti-American sentiment. With the poems delivered with flair and conviction by Servo, the scene evokes the era of the zarzuela, “Walang Sugat,” and the reign of Macario Sakay.
The office where Rosario witnesses unbridled lust between her close kin and confidante (Isabel Oli) and future lover (Trillo) is a perfect replica of Binondo of the 1920s.
Even the piano recital scenes looked like actual replica of concerts in the 1920s complete with credible audience reaction shots.
Alas, even the visuals even matched the sounds of the 1920s. A Binondo neighborhood is awash with the crackling sound of the voice of zarzuela singer Amelia Carpena singing “Ang Maya.” Earlier in the film, Rosario plays a Chopin etude and later a romantic Liszt which draws another suitor (Lucero) in her direction.
Servo, Lucero and Trillo deliver solid performances, Ricky Davao invests his part with more than its dose of vile and wickedness he ends up the most hateful character in the film. Dolphy – along with Phillip Salvador, Chanda Romero, Jaime Fabregas and Ronaldo Valdez –deliver solid performances. Empress Shuck as the long-lost daughter re-discovered in a piano recital delivers a fairly credible performance.
As for Jennylyn Mercado as Rosario , she certainly captured the daring and helplessness of a liberated woman of the 1920s. She was aided -- to a great extent -- by a good director plus the big bonus of wonderful costume and production designs. Her part carried true grit of the 1920s. In time perhaps, she will invest her part with more intensity and fire.
But on the whole, there is no doubt that La Mercado delivered.
This is certainly Albert Martinez’s remarkable debut as film director and his next project will bear watching. He is no product of the 1920s but he was able to gather an excellent creative team that enabled him to re-create the life of Rosario in vibrant cinematic terms.
For those on the lookout for film excellence in this festival, “ Rosario ” is the first film to watch.
f of PEX