Thursday, August 21, 2014

NORA AUNOR AT THE MANDARIN


Twenty years ago today, the Superstar sang her heart out at the Captain's Bar of the Manila Mandarin Hotel in a concert aptly titled La Aunor... Beyond Time. Only the likes of Kuh Ledesma, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Sharon Cuneta and Pops Fernandez appeared at the classy joint. Who ever thought that Nora Aunor can perform to a sold-out crowd in the same venue? The repertoire is a far cry from her successful 1990 Araneta Coliseum concert Handog Ni Guy, it's more laid-back, and the songs were carefully selected by musical director Jun Latonio. My favorites are her numbers with special guests Louie Reyes and the Side A Band. And now, for the first time, watch the complete concert and marvel at La Aunor's unparalleled singing prowess.

Monday, June 30, 2014

NORA AUNOR, THE CINEMATIC ARTIST

Sketch by Vincent R. Pozon

I believe movies are the central art of our time. They bring music, writing, acting and photography together in a feast for the eyes, the intellect and the emotions. Naturally, I get disappointed sometimes, but going on these make believe journeys usually make my endorphins kick into high gear. Movies are probably the most influential medium in our world. They showcase our history, offer escapism and become part of our everyday lives. Films guide us on how we think and behave. I always looked forward to being enchanted by cinematic artistry, enlightened by a great story and inspired by brilliant performances. Nora Aunor is an actress who has demonstrated her cinematic artistry by delivering brilliant performances in films with great stories. Aunor's non-conformity is evident in the type of challenging roles she's chosen during her 47-year film career. She played strong but imperfect women who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Like Aunor herself, what these characters do is at great cost. Among my favorite performances are her roles in 'Merika (1984), Himala (1982), Bona (1980), Bulaklak Sa City Jail (1984), Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo (1980), Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo (1979), Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo (1976), Bakit Bughaw Ang Langit? (1981) and Minsan, May Isang Ina (1983).

With her impressive acting talent, she managed to maintain a longstanding film career. Nora Aunor is a seasoned actress who has displayed remarkable staying power in a business where glamour and youth seem necessary for success. Also, she has a comfort about her age, Aunor doesn't try to be something she isn't. The woman is the greatest Filipino actress alive, hands down. She can take an ordinary part and imbue it with a welcome kinetic quality completely of her own design. It's as if she was capable of transcending gender to become a life force even though no one in their right mind would ever question the fact that she is all woman. Sure, she can act up a storm and perhaps the roles she accepted have contributed to her endurance in filmdom. Aunor's work is marked by an expressive energy. She consistently finds strong and varied physical movements, gestures and facial expressions in defining the characters she plays. She demonstrates the same kind of vocal energy, lines are shaped and pointed so that they have maximum effect. Crucially, this expressiveness is combined with intelligence and this is what marks Nora Aunor out for me. Energy alone isn't enough, it can produce undisciplined, over-the-top performances. But in watching her films, I have been struck by the sense that the choices she has made are the right ones. They are based on a deep understanding of the dramatic context she is working within, and the human context to which the dramas refer.

Personally, I'm impressed by the way Aunor gets to the heart of her characters, endowing them with dramatic individuality while paying close attention to the way each one interacts with other characters in the movie. More concerned about the truth of a feeling than how it's projected, Aunor excels at acting for the camera, which can pick up the tiniest flicker of emotion. She observes and listens well. Besides developing the qualities mentioned above, Aunor brings an appealing physical appearance to the big screen. Still for me, it's her eyes that expresses so much and makes me care about the characters she portrays. By looking into those incredible eyes we can see Beatrice Alcala's vulnerability and intelligence in Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo, Angela Aguilar's poignant toughness in Bulaklak Sa City Jail, Bona's inner strength, the gut-wrenching determination of Amy Mercado in  I Can't Stop Loving You and Azun's self-absorbed pride in Nakaw Na Pag-Ibig, to cite a few examples. The wisdom of her experiences touched my heart, reminding me of what I already knew. Aunor demonstrated the hard work of mastering her craft and the self trust acquired through finding its personal authority. She shared a sense of uncertainty about her voice and the process of artistry until she developed a sense of authority and trust in the relationship between herself and something that was beyond language, a common rhythm within a piece, the heart of a character's story or an intuitive sense of direction. But the connection was consistent when she learned to let go of barriers, controlling the effort and allowed the heart of the piece to emerge. The combination of interest, emotion and context formed the pattern that guided the structure and process, for the individual work of art, for the artist's life and for the film community.