Wednesday, August 02, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR... Past And Present
By Gerard Ramos
Business Mirror August 2, 2006

I would have wanted to continue from my recollection last week of the great artist that is Nora Aunor by starting this piece with a meditation on Bona, her third and last collaboration with the director Lino Brocka which was originally released in 1980, and which showcases what is widely regarded as one of the two most magnificent performances by an artist whose filmography is marked by many brilliant performances that remain without peer. (The other one is, of course, in the Ishmael Bernal classic Himala, released in 1982.) However, film and media critic and BusinessMirror columnist Tito Valiente had the privilege of witnessing the recent "homecoming" of Bona, which was financed and produced by Nora’s NV Productions but remained until recently in the property of the French, and thus would be in a better position to ruminate on the film and the awesome power that Nora brings to it beyond the confines of her titular character. He recasts the film in his column tomorrow.

That Bona has come home after more than two decades of being "lost" through questionable circumstances should be cause for celebration—certainly for Noranians, which remain legion and loyal, once more to be richly rewarded for their fidelity by a new viewing of The Superstar’s bravura portrayal of the stereotypical dakilang alalay.

It is, however, a temporary palliative to the profound sense of loss shared by Nora’s fans here, having lost this great artist to the US, which she has chosen as her base over the past few years.

The sense of loss has become even more acute in the face of the utter bankruptcy of anything remotely genuine—emotionally, intellectually—in the current output of the mainstream film and television industries. Long gone are the days when even the guilty pleasure of watching entertainment television seemed not so guilty as Nora, along with her cohorts in Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora on RPN, Nora on ABC and Star Drama Presents Nora on ABS-CBN, usually succeeded in infusing the soap operatic inclinations of the drama anthology genre with glimmers of profound truths about us as a people and as a society. These days, what we get in lieu of the kind of dramatic heft that provides moments of self-reflection are a lot of screaming and plenty of heaving bosoms from Angel Locsin, usually an affecting young actress who seems short-circuited by the utter banality of her top-rating fantaserye Majika on GMA, and her costar Katrina Halili, whose skills beyond keeping her mouth in a perpetual grimace remain totally missing in action.

The situation, unfortunately, is no better in films, with filmmakers already beleaguered ostensibly by the unimpeded flow of foreign products, which is their common and usual complaint, although the movie industry’s greed and shortsightedness have contributed to their misery in no small measure. Consider the current offering of Star Cinema, Sukob, which—for all the valiant efforts of main stars Kris Aquino and Claudine Barretto to inform the proceedings with emotional weight—is ultimately stripped of that clammy sense of dread as it ridiculously mixes local folklore with the staples of Japanese horror films. For more interesting pieces of cinema, you now have to go to independent filmmakers, which Nora Aunor may as well have been back then when she bet her own money on projects, 1975’s Banaue, 1977’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and 1978’s Atsay, to name a few, that would’ve been a tough sell were it not for the fact that they were headlined by Nora herself, for whom the title "Superstar" was coined for reasons beyond reproach.

Of course, it may be argued that Nora Aunor has become irrelevant in the current landscape of popular culture, and her detractors no doubt will be quick to cite as proof her own decision to relocate to the US, where her public continues to be most supportive and appreciative of her craft.

Then again, that irrelevance would be a damning reflection of the vacuity of our own lives where we no longer care to wrestle with the ugly truths regarding ourselves and our place in society, rather than an indictment of Nora Aunor and her artistry.

Some minor corrections on the article:

Bona was not the last Nora Aunor-Lino Brocka collaboration, they did the film Dalaga Si Misis, Binata Si Mister together in 1981.

Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos was released in 1976, and Atsay was produced by Romy Ching's IAN Film Productions