Huwebes, Nobyembre 25, 2010

Star Cinema, "Kailangan Kita"....

I am not really a blogger nor a film critic.  I am just your typical film lover who cries and laughs about my favorite movies and believes in the possibilities each film viewing experience gives me. =)

When asked to do a film review about any Star Cinema film, I was saddened by the thought that gone were the days that this biggest movie outfit was able to make the best films of the recent years. For me, some of the best output of Star Cinema were: Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “May Nagmamahal Sa’yoCarlitos Siguion Reyna’s “Ang Lalaki Sa Buhay ni Selya”, Chito Roño’s back-to-back Lualhati Bautista novels: “Bata, Bata..Paano Ka Ginawa” and “Dekada ‘70” and Olivia Lamasan’s “Sana Maulit Muli”.  Even Chito Roño’s remake of Celso Ad Castillo’s “Patayin sa Sindak si Barbara” was unquestionably great and perhaps can even be considered as the best remake of a Filipino classic film. A few years ago, I was always looking forward to a Star Cinema movie because the production outfit has its splendid way of mixing commercial appeal with artistic integrity. But now, what our audiences have are movies featuring teeny bopper commercial extravaganzas; at least mostly. Oh, where, oh, where is the Star Cinema that I used to know?

I am not being picky here but as an audience I just know what I want in a movie the reason that now I take refuge in watching foreign films because I am looking for films that would let me look at life in a different light. Of course, I sought to be entertained but there’s the television set complete with all the lure of the commercial and the popular so why watch movies that are both redundant and predictable? But what usually caters to the elite doesn’t generally appeal to the masses and like all businesses, Star Cinema needs to gain revenue.

I was not able to find a copy of any I mentioned a while ago but was only able to grab a copy of Rory B. Quintos’ “Kailangan Kita”, a 2002 film about a love story shot in the scenic Bicolandia. Claudine Barretto plays the lead role, Lena, a simple lady in the province and Aga Muhlach as Carl, a Filipino working in the United States who made a visit to Bicol.

New York-based chef Carl (Aga) was returning to the Philippines after being away for several years to marry his supermodel fiancée Chrissy, in her hometown. With Chrissy still being held up somewhere in Europe for a photo shoot, Carl has to meet her family by himself and instantly impressed everyone except for Chrissy's father (Johnny Delgado). Here, Carl gets to meet Chrissy's other sister - Lena (Claudine) whom he taught was just the family’s maid as Lena’s the one doing all the household chores and all the cooking.

Through Lena, Carl will eventually come to terms with his forcibly forgotten identity - both as a son and as a Filipino. And with Lena, he will eventually find true love as with all romantic dramas truly ends.

It sounds like a predictable storyline and I just said a big no for the same old banana but this film is like food with the same ingredients but with a distinctive and thoroughly lovable aftertaste. One thing that striked me is that “Kailangan Kita” was somehow done in the tradition of Alfonso Arau’s “Like Water for Chocolate” sans the magic realism though.

One could see and smell the romanticism with all the magical and sensuous imagery brought about by the sumptuous food, the feast, the family and provincial tradition and Claudine Barretto who’s all too simple in this film exudes with sensuality as never before seen in her previous films or even in all of her films combined for that matter. I believe this would be her first mature role after a stint of movies with matinee idols Rico Yan and Diether Ocampo. She was not only sensuous but was also able to express her emotions even without uttering a word. This was her first great performance as an actress.  I love the scene when she was dancing like a goddess both graceful and divine. This was also the only film wherein in almost all of the scenes, she appeared not to be wearing any bra (e.g.  the scene where she had a wet look when she was watering the plants and later was bathing her nephew in the movie) but nevertheless that really helped in making her look enigmatic.

One thing I didn’t like about Aga is that he was too good- looking to be taken seriously. I believe that no matter how good he is as an actor, his looks will always betray him like the serious case of Brad Pitt. The only time that I took him seriously was during his subdued performance in Olivia Lamasan’s “Sana Maulit Muli”-- or perhaps it was the magical chemistry between him and Lea Salonga.  Though, the scene in which the blind man who was later on revealed as his father ( played by Dante Rivero) teaching him how to make Laing was enough to convince me Aga indeed is more than a pretty face in local movies.

Good performances not only from Claudine and Aga but also from acting heavyweights Johnny Delgado and Liza Lorena among others. Good cinematography and production design. Good theme song. I had fun watching this film which is indeed a break from watching all those heavy foreign films and documentaries.  I was just annoyed with that child actress singing “chuva-choo-choo” every now and then.

“Kailangan Kita” is not my best Star Cinema movie. But it is a genuine example of how this biggest production company seamlessly blends high production values with box-office appeal. I just hope that Star Cinema will continue churning out the same movies today, films that celebrate love, life, food – all entwined and interdependent like life as we know it.

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