MMFF 2017 Best Picture winner Ang Larawan is now filling up theaters after its big win at the Gabi ng Parangal. From being pulled out from cinemas during the first days of the festival, to having more than 70 theaters now and sold out screenings, awards do have an effect at the box office when it comes to the MMFF. I caught a full house screening of the film at a Greenbelt theater and here are what I observed.
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The opening sequence was quite engaging with a seamless transition from old stock footage into the film. We were off to a great start. Plus, we got to see cameos of the likes of Mikee Cojuangco, Martin Del Rosario, and even Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Cayabyab if you’re attentive enough. +3
I loved the first musical number "Ang Mga Tertulya (Soirees)" with Sandino Martin, Joanna Ampil, and Rachel Alejandro. I got excited seeing my friend Rachel gracing the silver screen again! So far, so good! +3
Enter: "Ang Pianista" by Paulo Avelino with that raspy style of singing that just doesn’t cut it. Especially among a cast of theater veterans, it was a bit distracting, to say the least. #Sorrynotsorry. -3
I’ve seen the earlier version of this material A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino by Lamberto Avellana filmed in straight English. I actually appreciated how Loy Arcenas has stayed faithful to its source material, but it felt even more genuine hearing the dialogue based on the libretto of Rolando Tinio in our native tongue and with the music of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. +3
As the film progressed though, it felt as if it had plateaued at some point. But it’s quite a tall order to sustain the level of intensity with the film set almost entirely inside the old ancestral house. That was a ginormous challenge. -2
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This was the first time I experienced Ang Larawan 'cause I’ve never seen it on stage. Halfway through, I suddenly remembered other Cayabyab musicals Katy and Alikabok, and it got me kinda wishing this one was as melodic or catchy as those. But I guess this was really written as an opera mostly in a minor key, which substantiate the film's tone as needed by the material. Then I look to my left, and it seemed that the music has lulled my seatmate to sleep. This musical style was just probably not for everyone. -3
What held the film together for me quite solidly was the amazing screen presence of Joanna Ampil who won Best Actress and completely deservingly so. Her performance was like watching a masterclass in acting. Her eyes were full of subtext especially in her moments of silence. And when it was time to showcase her range, she totally delivers and she just poured it all out on screen like she easily does on stage. One notable highlight from her, and she has quite a lot throughout the film, is her performance of "Walang Ilaw" conveying that heartwrenching emotion of utmost despair. +5
In addition to the main cast were other amazing actors, mostly theater veterans like Menchu Luachengco and ‘Mama Teteng’ Ms. Celeste Legazpi, who has once played one of the sisters Paula and Candida in one one of its stage runs. But what surprised me was Nonie Buencamino’s singing prowess in the film. That one crazy high tenor note that he hit was jaw-dropping. +2
Other stage stalwarts of the current generation Cris Villonco and Aicelle Santos also graced the screen as loquacious boudaville actresses and lend spice to the film with their quirky pizzazz. +2
1But wait, there’s more! Zsazsa Padilla, Dulce, Ogie Alcasid, Noel Trinidad, Bernardo Bernardo, Jojit Lorenzo, and the list went on with all the star-studded cameos to add more excitement to this cultural celebration. +2
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Not bad at all with a total of 12 popcorn points. There’s still a lot to discuss about Ang Larawan but there is no denying that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears were poured into the production of this film, which is nothing short of monumental when it comes to the musical film genre in the country and in the MMFF. But we also have to admit that this material, no matter how relevant, layered, and beautiful the story was at its core, which was about art and commerce and defying the norms and the demands of the world, it was just not for commercial consumption of the mass audience. I applaud the MMFF for including it in its roster.
On second thought, they had to program this film in to add to the legitimacy of the festival, a very smart move on their part. But, bravo to the producers of Ang Larawan for their fervor and I wish that the success of this film would keep their fire burning to create more gallant films like this one!
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Photos taken from AngLarawan.com