Must-see Movie: Rosario

1:24 AM

I don't want to pretend that I'm an expert in critiquing movies. However, I can say that I'm a film enthusiast who knows a thing or two about the film language. I've taken a couple of film courses, joined a film organization (UP CAST - Cinema Arts Society) and worked for a few indie/short film productions as a production manager, stylist, talent coordinator, behind-the-scenes photographer, talent, personal assistant and production design team member. My humble experiences in the field have made me more appreciative of Philippine cinema, especially of films with great promise.

Last night, I went to the mall with my mom and sister to catch one of the film entries for this year's 36th Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). As I've observed, Ang Tanging Ina Mo Rin (Last na 'To!) and Si Agimat at Si Enteng Kabisote as expected, were box office hits (just by looking at the lengthy line of movie goers outside each of their assigned cinema). I couldn't help but be upset after seeing that only a mere few (the cinema was half empty) opted to watch my film of choice, Rosario.

Rosario is a a well-made motion picture. It's quality (story and production wise) is something we can be truly proud of as our own. All I wish and pray for is that Filipinos will be critical and mature enough to support outstanding local films. If movies like Rosario won't garner enough audience for it to earn a decent profit, then we shouldn't wonder why cerebral filmmakers get discouraged to create canonical films, or why we haven't produced the next Lino Brocka or Ishmael Bernal, or why our films couldn't be at par with foreign ones. It's just very unfortunate that the prevailing mindset and longstanding trend in the local movie industry has plagued the production of excellent Filipino films.

With that, let me just express my dismay at the recent MMFF Awards Night results wherein Best Director (seriously????), Best Picture (another seriously???), Best Screenplay (weeeh??), Best Original Story (WTF?), Best Actress, Best Musical Score ALL went to Ang Tanging Ina Mo Rin (Last na 'To!). Lokohan na to (It must be a joke)! LOL. Personally, I think Rosario ought to have the first three biggest awards.

Rosario is the first ever movie-venture produced by Studio 5 (TV 5-Kapatid Network's film arm) and Cinemabuhay, a philanthropic foundation (brought to you by PLDT-SMART Foundation) that aims to "help indie filmmakers cross over to mainstream moviemaking".

A biopic based on the life of Rosario Herrera, the grandmother of business tycoon Manuel "Manny" V. Pangilinan (SMART, PLDT, MERALCO, TV 5), the film was set in the 1920s, one of the most colorful periods in history. It is a story of a young and liberated Filipina who has defied the social constructs of her time but tragically suffered the painful consequences of her emancipating yet morally questionable decisions in life.

Kudos to Carlos Mendoza for a grand and well-thought light design. The film indeed looked and felt like an old Hollywood cinema. He achieved the vintage tone demanded by the period (with a little help from the color grading department). A lot of interesting long takes and amazing establishing shots of picturesque landscapes and luxe locations have made the film a masterful work of art as well.

I love how the camera vividly captures the smoke plus the composition and all the other elements in the frame.

The cinematography was able to represent Rosario's different times in life. As a young illustrado who came from New York, warm hues (of yellow and orange) were used during the first half of the film. After losing her affluence, she lived miserably and the cinematography effectively conveyed her misfortune with darker tones.

In most shots, especially the close-ups (CU) and extreme CUs, the subject is clear and crisp while the background is heavily blurred (depth of field).

One of the most impressive sequences to watch out for was the passage of time, from the birth of her first child until it grew up to be a kid come Christmas. Instead of using a series of montage, Mendoza perfectly executed one long take banking on continuous camera movement and fluid lighting transition.

Ang gandaaa (how beautiful)! The light falls perfectly on her face. (First part of the long take.)

Another unforgettable cinematic moment was the night Rosario eloped with Vicente (Yul Servo) for a night of passion and intimacy. I loved the effect of using the gas lamp as the only source of light in the room creating silhouettes which intensifies their forbidden love affair.

One of my most favorite scenes too - sensual and sexy but done in a tasteful, artsy and classy way.

You'd also come across a lot of lovely moving takes and stills of the breathtaking provincial scenery, especially of the Herreras' tobacco plantation.

After working for the period film Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio, I know exactly how difficult it is to meticulously pull off a look that remains true to its era.

Rosario's costume designer Miki Hahn did a good job. Everyone in the film, including the extras, looked quaint and very sophisticated. Fine, I hated the make-up and overly stiff hair. Plus Philip Salvador's mustache, hahaha. The film can be a good source of inspiration for vintage dressing. Fashion lovers might dig the dainty dresses, boater hats, elegant hair pieces, layers of pearls and scarves.

I want to give props to the production designer Joey Luna for recreating a convincing 1920s set-up of houses, offices, streets, etc.

Rosario looked like a goddess in her bedroom.

From the furniture, cars, down to other details like lamps, drapes and curtains, utensils, etc., the production gave a good attempt to remain consistent with the period.

One of the "bongga" scenes, the carnival parade.

Congratulations to their location manager as well for picking out astonishing houses and exterior views.

Office lobby.

Jennilyn Mercado gave justice to the title role by being able to convey emotions in an amazingly effective yet subtle way.

I remember when we shot Ang Paglilitis... for Cinemalaya, Direk Mario O' Hara used to say that "actors of today (the blah ones) act with their mouth but the talented ones act with their eyes." And that's what Jennilyn did, she used her eyes to translate believable feelings without resorting to over-acting or even shouting.

Apart from her classic beauty, her growth as a dramatic actress was very evident as she depicted Rosario in various life stages: a young aristocrat, a wife and mother stripped of affluence and dominated by her husband, an exiled adulterer, a deprived and poor single mother longing for forgiveness which turned out to be elusive until her demise.

Her three leading men, Yul Servo (Vicente Perez), Dennis Trillo (Alberto Fernandez) and Sid Lucero (Carding Arenas) delivered solid performances, all equally deserving of commendation.

Yul Servo, Dennis Trillo, Sid Lucero.

I highly regard Isabel Oli's (Carmen Santos, Rosario's best friend) effortless shift from being a once-conservative girl from the province, to a successful, liberated aristocratic lady in the city, to the protagonist's mortal enemy.

I'm telling you, almost everyone's performance is good and credible. The film has an impressive powerhouse cast - Dolphy (Jesus Herrera-Fernandez, Rosario's son to Alberto), Philip Salvador (Don Enrique Herrera, Rosario's father), Ricky Davao (Miguel) and Eula Valdez (Adela Herrera, wife of Enrique). It also had stellar cameos like Rita Avila (house helper, but I also hate how fake Chinese she is, sana totoo nalang kinuha nila), Precious Lara Quigaman (one of the Santa Cruzan ladies), Liezel Martinez (a nun), Chanda Romero and Bing Loyzaga (tenants/neighbors), Tonton Gutierrez and Jaime Fabregas (party-goers), Desiree Del Valle (entertainer), Jamie Rivera (zarswelasinger), Ara Mina (physician) and many more.

The musical scoring of the film was indeed notable and heartwarming, the screenplay was well written and Rosario's material was well-researched. Albert Martinez did a remarkable directorial debut. I really admire the guts of the producers to push through with this project despite the fact that most Filipinos would rather go for bakya and overrated comedy flicks.

My mom cried in the end - it was that touching that's why. Watch the film for yourself.

I noticed a few editing glitches like minor jump and unmatched cuts. The two sequences (ship and Hong Kong scene) with computer generated graphics wasn't bad but it didn't mesh well with the whole texture of the film. I appreciate it as a good effort though. Also, the movie may be a bit slow-paced (especially on the first part) for some but I personally think it was just right. I also felt like Carding's character could have been established better earlier in the film (like what he is capable of) so as to not take the audience into a weird shock come the climax part of the story.

Also, in the plot where Rosario was sent to a convent, their nun costume wasn't what it was supposed to be. And yeah, the make-up artist failed on some aspect (better blending please, haha), there were off-key (read: zombie) make-up (especially on Ara Mina), didn't like Rita Avila's fake chinita eyes and Philip Salvador for that distracting mustache, hahaha.

The ship in this scene was obviously a CG.

(c) Melai Entuna Dec 2010

All photo credits:
Facebook: Jennilyn Mercado

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  1. First off, the clothes and the era being done is AMAZING!!:) Jennlyn looks epic. I really wanna watch this!:)

  2. @ Ava! Go go go, support GOOD Filipino Films :) Give it a chance, it's a modern cinema gem :)

  3. wow the clothes are amazing!!! i actually love the hair too...or maybe cuz i didn't see them moving..hehehe. will definitely catch this movie!

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  4. Wow..good job on the review :) very well thought and researched :) I haven't watched or read anything about "Rosario" so I'm in no position to comment. My only observation though is the connection between studio 5 and the film's main character. While it would have been nice doing a movie that will help indie filmmakers cross over to mainstream...the motive becomes questionable because the story's about being about the grandmother of studio 5's main man, Manny Pangilinan.

  5. Completely agree with your comment on popular Philippine cinema. I have seen a couple that are very good, but those are usually Cinemanila/ Cinemalaya ones that are shown in very limited locations. How I wish those were what they show at the local movie houses!

  6. I was ABSOLUTELY SURE ROSARIO would have all the attention at the MMFF. It was beautifully done. MY JAW DROPPED in exasperation when I found out TANGING INA MO LAST NA'TO bagged the major awards. LIKE, WTF??? Are you effin serious now??

  7. oh my, you made me wanna watch the film.

  8. i want to see this movie, looks like very interesting!

  9. Girl, you're from UP?? We are too! :P so nice to meet fellow Iskas on the web :)

    On the film, there's quite a buzz about it in my group but I haven't seen the film yet so I can't say anything. I am however more excited to see it now after you've given such a well explained and highly detailed background/commentary!

    Don't worry girl, Filipinos might not have the appreciation for these kinds of films YET but I have an inkling this will get the attention of international press :)

  10. You hit it right on the nail! I've had some minor issues with the lighting too (kaya hindi nag-blend yung CG with the rest, they can fix this naman during the compositing stage). At saka yung make-up, although accurate, medyo halata na hindi plucked ang kilay nila (eh ubusan ng kilay nung 20s) because of the lighting, too. I was getting distracted at first, but by gosh! I liked this film. Honestly, I don't know and will probably never understand MMFF's criteria for Best Picture. Lokohan talaga!

  11. Oh, btw, Melai...I'm sharing your review with our multimedia arts students. :D Kasi they're howling in pain over the multitude of awards that other film got. :) Looks like a lot of us share the same sentiments.

  12. I don't watch TV anymore (I only watch my favorite TV shows via torrents) so I am soooo behind on local news and I honestly wasn't aware of the films included in the MMFF until my officemates told me about them. Your review made me want to watch this :)

  13. You might not now me but I would just like to comment. Rosario is also the Best Picture of this festival for me. No award giving body can make me believe otherwise.

    I also watched TI and yes I laughed all through out the movie. However, I can't remember what the story was all about. I have a feeling that Rosario will be the kind of movie that Filipinos will remember for a long time.

  14. I have watched this movie today and I was so amazed.. I love the story and all the characters in the movie. Jennilyn should have earned the best actress award. My husband and I cried at the end of the movie, and my husband clapped his hand as well. I really love the movie.. I have been searching for MVP's life after watching it.


  16. how i wish MMFF really knows how to give criterion and appreciation in every movie entry to get the satisfactorily reward for the deserving artist and movies

  17. I didn't think they made a mistake with the MMFF awards. I believe this review focused more on the production design and not on the supposed depth and message of the film.

  18. i dont think Filipinas dress that kind of way back in the 20s. it a bit exaggerated.

  19. I couldn't agree more with your review! The film Rosario didn't got much what it truly deserved but nevertheless, it is wonderfully crafted. The scenes, lighting and such. Even the actors and actresses did well. I had to commend Jennilyn Mercado and Yul Servo's acting from all the rest. They really did a great job. Well at least, Yul Servo won as the Best supporting actor in the 2011 Luna Awards. The other films they competed with were a bit overhyped and overrated. Rosario deserved more spotlight. :)
    PS: Oh my. I also loved the gas lamp scene of Rosario and Vicente (Yul Servo). I think it was brilliant. Well played indeed. *clap clap*


I appreciate anything you have to say. Thanks for dropping by. It means so much to me. Love, Melai

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