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La Vida Rosa

oks ba 'tong movie na 'to? ok yung trailer e! parang Natural Born Killers...sino na nakanood?
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  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Everything coming up roses

    Noel Vera

    Hollywood's on hold at the moment, trying to retool its production line to create gentler more sensitive films, with nary a mention of the words 'bomb,' 'terrorist' or 'World Trade Center.' The cineplexes have been forced to keep movies playing three, four weeks at a time, for want of anything new to show--I've been seeing the ads for "Bridget Jones' Diary" and "The Princess Diaries" practically forever, though I haven't been able to (and possibly never will) see them.

    Enter by sheer blind luck (I hardly call it 'design') Chito Rono's "La Vida Rosa" (The Life of Rosa), a noir crime thriller about a con artist named Rosa (Rosanna Roces) and her lockpicking boyfriend Dado (Diether Ocampo). Rosa and Dado keep half a dozen schemes juggling in the air, anything from carnapping to blackmail to stealing gifts from a wedding reception; their main source of income, however, are the smuggling and housebreaking operations led by Tsong, a crime boss, and his right-hand man Lupo (Pen Medina). Dado and Rosa have a complex, love-hate relationship with Tsong: they depend on him for jobs and protection, yet at the same time feel an irresistible need to 'sideline'--to commit freelance crimes--behind his back.

    A busy life, complicated even further by Enteng, Rosa's son (Jiro Manio), an incurable gambler and thief, and Rosa's blind mother (Liza Lorena), who likes to sit before church entrances and beg for alms. For his part Dado worries about Jhing, his former girlfriend, now married to another man, and Iris, Jhing's eldest daughter?and possibly Dado's as well.

    You think: it's too complicated, yet another case of a Filipino film throwing everything (including the kitchen sink) into the brew. But Rono miraculously keeps it all airborne, juggling eccentric characters and fast-breaking situations with masterly ease.

    More, something emerges--a distinct point of view, a small-scale vision of Manila's urban streetlife that manages to be both cynical and compassionate at the same time. Its notion of cops and criminals as interchangeable (with cops collaborating if not actually leading crime rings), is as damning a view of the Philippine National Police (or PNP) as that of the recent "Red Diaries" (to which the PNP had made furious objections). Perhaps even more damning, because "Rosa" avoids breaking down into mere cartoon melodrama; the film's milieu is quietly, consistently realistic, made so by patient accumulation of detail--detail you feel the filmmakers have gathered through long observation and careful research.

    The cast is as terrific as anything you might ask for. Angel Aquino takes the small part of Jhing and turns in a gem of a performance, lovely and moving at the same time. Pen Medina as Lupo is an appealing coward, a born second-in-command and yes-man who makes it to the top by default, then manages to stay there by developing practical smarts?and eventually, ruthlessness. Liza Lorena as Rosa's mother is an old yet handsome woman, a source of strength to Enteng and Rosa both; possibly her finest moment is at the train station, when she bids farewell by taking hold of Rosa's head and glaring intently, almost frighteningly, at her--as if trying to will her blind eyes into seeing her daughter one last time. Jiro Manio is simply amazing as Rosa's son; with little effort or fuss, he embodies a boy forced to grow up too fast too soon, yet somehow manages to hold on to something of a childhood. His relationship with his mother is one of the warmest yet least sentimental I've ever seen in a recent Filipino film, and easily one of the most natural.

    Diether Ocampo shows no trace of his former pretty-boy image; his Dado is taciturn and intense, yet strangely passive--he depends on Rosa to take the initiative, to prod him forward with her ambitiousness. There's something moving about the quiescence under his tough-guy exterior: all he really wants out of life is to be left alone, in peace...a wish he will never see fulfilled. Rosanna Roces has always been more of a smart-n-sexy personality than an actress, quick to zap hapless lovers with an improvised funny remark; here she's grittier, edgier, hiding a more desperate vulnerability totally unlike her wisecracking sexpot persona. She holds the film together with a complex, fully realized performance that goes beyond anything she's ever done before--beyond anything I would have thought her capable of before.

    I've always acknowledged Chito Rono to be an excellent technical director--stylish without being really imaginative, distinctive without being truly unique. His recent output is nothing to be proud of, from unabashed hackwork like "Istokwa" and "Dahas" to softcore ***** disguised as pretentious art in "Curacha," to the misguided feminism found in "Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?" (Child, how were you made?), to the equally misguided misogyny driving his "Laro sa Baga" (Playing with fire). In fact, the only film of his that I felt stood above the rest was "Eskapo" (Escapee) a taut, vigorously told prison drama set during the Martial Law--and that possibly because the film had been written by Pete Lacaba, one of the better, more politically committed scriptwriters currently working in the Philippines.

    The script for "La Vida Rosa" was written by Armando Lao, whose previous works include Jeffrey Jeturian's "Pila Balde" (Fetch a Pail of Water), "Tuhog" (Larger Than Life), and William Pascual's near-great psychosexual chamber piece, "Takaw Tukso" (Temptation). Lao is possibly the most underrated scriptwriter in the local film industry today; he enjoyed a modest surge of renewed prominence only as recently as 1998, through his collaborations with filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian. I take special note of this because "Rosa" is the first Rono film I've really liked since "Eskapo," six years ago--not to mention the first I've liked from Star Cinema since they produced "Eskapo." Rono gives "Rosa" its visual style and helped create the remarkable ensemble acting, but the characters and their fleshed-out relationships, the story and aforementioned overall vision are uniquely Lao's. He deserves credit for being, at the very least, a full and equal collaborator in one of the better Filipino films to come out this year.

    (Comments? Email me at [email protected])
  • The script for "La Vida Rosa" was written by Armando Lao, whose previous works include Jeffrey Jeturian's "Pila Balde" (Fetch a Pail of Water), "Tuhog" (Larger Than Life), and William Pascual's near-great psychosexual chamber piece, "Takaw Tukso" (Temptation). Lao is possibly the most underrated scriptwriter in the local film industry today; he enjoyed a modest surge of renewed prominence only as recently as 1998, through his collaborations with filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian

    Isn't it that Armando Lao also wrote the scrip of the first Jetturian film, Sana Pag-ibig Na ? I agree that he is really a good writer. Very realistic without being exaggerated.

    I saw La Vida Rosa and definitely I liked it. Rosanna Roces is a revelation here. The whole cast was very excellent. I didn't like Diether Ocampo's portrayal though I must admit that he improves in this movie. But what I liked most was the cat, a very good conversational piece, indeed.

    Go watch this movie . . .
  • Galing, Noel. You practically said everything I wanted to say about the film and even more. :)

    It's no wonder why this film missed 2 points to be rated an A movie by the FRB. For me, it's Chito Rono's best output ever; he hits the mark perfectly without going overly dramatic or too simplistic, perhaps aided by a script that's indeed tight and well made. Add to that a great ensemble performance—I've never been that delighted with Liza Lorena, but here she does extremely well, and Jiro Manio captures the spirit of Rosa's wayward child. Rosanna Roces shows a little more maturity this time, and Diether Ocampo, though not that impressive, performs in an intensity he's been unable to give in previous off-beat performances (such as in Gusto Ko Nang Lumigaya).

    I especially liked the cinematography; it adds a perfect complement to the noir thriller that the movie is. It's subtly dark and edgy, at important parts in slow-mo, and it really gives that feeling of depravity in the midst of all the hiding and the chasing, and the sepia toned look for the flashback scenes really worked well.

    One reason why I really liked the movie is that it was able to go around the basic cliches inherent in the story and tried to present them in a different light, or execute them in a new and refreshing way. I found the movie easy to digest, mainly because the story was so well-written that it was hard to find fault with it—yes, it's an old plotline, but it's just so plausible and well-documented, and the characters so well-developed, that it's truly believeable. The movie also makes really good use of symbols in the cat and the cow. In short, it's a fairly accurate picture of the fleeting lives of con artists who try to escape the trade but ends up further consumed by it.

    I highly recommend this film. It's really rare when a brilliant director and an excellent scriptwriter collaborate to flesh out what could possibly be the best film of this year. And when you talk about awards, this movie's going to reap most of them.
  • I've sen the film. Pardon my ignorance pero di ko nagets yung meaning nung kalabaw atsaka pusa. Ano ba ang nai ipahiwatig noon? Anyone?
  • neth_rowneth_row PEx Veteran ⭐⭐
    Originally posted by Yoshi
    I highly recommend this film. It's really rare when a brilliant director and an excellent scriptwriter collaborate to flesh out what could possibly be the best film of this year. And when you talk about awards, this movie's going to reap most of them.

    ditto *okay*
  • excellent movie! great story. i think the actors acted superbly. rosanna, diether, pen, jhong, and even "enteng". the relationship of enteng and his mom was so real which made it even a better movie. the cinematigraphy and the editing was very classy.

    but yes, what was the significance of the carabao and the cat? i wasn't able to start the movie kasi.
  • Haven't seen the film, but I am planning to since all of you made such good remarks about it.

    At first, I thought it was going to be a sucky film because of the terrible poster and the terrible title...

    I just don't get the title
    "La Vida Rosa" -- The Life Rose? The Rosey Life?
    if it was supposed to be The Life of a Rose it should be "La Vida de Rosa"

    I just want to point this out, I hope somebody helps me with this... it's just my O-C self.
  • Er, the "bastardized" translation is "Rosa's Life", since Rosanna plays a character named Rosa. Literally translated, it doesn't really hold up.
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Um, can't remember the carabao.

    The cat I think has any number of meanings. Bad luck--ever since they got the cat they had bad luck; their state of homelessness, of endless wandering; and as a note of pathos, as cats are often mistreated, cruelly tortured, and overall given a bad time by people, dogs, and the world in general. The shot of the cat that Roces sees before, you know...it's a nice little moment, sums up all the themes I've cited above.
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    I liked Diether more than you did Yoshi (thanks for the kind words by the way). He interacted well with Osang. I liked it that he was the more passive of the two, and often let her do the thinking for them. I liked it that he's a hothead, and can kill with cause or for vengeance, but can't kill out of calculation. I like his scenes with his daughter, the way he wants to be a father to her, but can't. I even like the casual way he waits, tactfully (and somewhat callously), inside the room while Osang beats her child (also one of Osang's finest moments, that--she's trying to make up in minutes all the years she neglected her child's education).

    It's a film full of fine detail. Look in every corner and I'm sure you'll find something too.

    Maybe later on, I can say why, though I think it's a very good film, it's not exactly a GREAT film...
  • grabe.. naman namatay talaga sa end yung 2 main characters...

    i just say nice movie...

    there's something about the cat and the (carabao at the end).. hehehehe..
  • actually, the most obvious symbolism of the cat can be found in one of Rosa's lines; another one in her mom's lines. they see themselves as rats who are forever on the run. (among other cliches). but eventually, the cat will catch the rat. as in the ending, when Lupo pounces upon the two.

    Sidetrack: Lupo refers to wolf, right? wouldn't it be better if Pen Medina had a name more feline sounding.

    Digress. I liked the film like everyone did. Diet has really improved. he was a very convincing gangsta. but not as a father. the few scenes he had with Iris made him look like a star wannabe in a workshop--and not very good at that.
  • the sheer honesty of the characters more than makes up for the utter lack in logic and focus of the whole film.

    just a question: is symbolism required in Pinoy movies?! seems like they can't do without it.
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Oh, it's logical and focused enough. That's not what makes it not great. Some of the greatest films are all over the place and don't make sense. Check out Intolerance.
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    And is symbolism required? That's a tough question. Strictly speaking, there's no film on the face of the earth that doesn't use symbolism.
  • ok naman sya, maayos ang pagkakagawa. magaling ang script at technical aspects ng pelikula but somehow i personally didn't like it. hindi ako napa-hallejuiah sa ganda. magaling si rosanna pero talagang irritating yung voice nya. it's like she's shrieking all the time. magaling yung cast. syempre ang idol kong si pen medina, galing ever. i didn't like diether though. ayoko lang talaga sya. parang bulol na eenga enga. di ko lang gets, bakit tatlo ang tatay nung anak ni Rosa at bakit isa si Lupo sa mga tatay nito. parang ang labo ata.
  • i dunno, Noel Vera. i just caught myself wondering why people did what they did in that movie. this may have been deliberate so that instead of me empathizing with the richly drawn characters- i can just think that they're incredibly stupid. or maybe people (esp gangsters) are more different from most people i know than i thought they were.

    i thought the film lacked focus coz there were just too many back stories of eye surgery, missing curly haired men, deadbeat politician dads, etc, etc. instead of offering ways to understand (which i presume was the intention) the protagonists, they just ended up to be nuthin' more than a distraction since most of them were inconsequential anyway in the end.

    symbolism may be integral for most films but i doubt if they are as in-your-face as in pinoy films. one could almost hear "symbol! attention everybody! symbol here" im most "serious" Filipino films.

    i still think that one would be hard pressed to see any fault in La Vida Rosa. interesting story, great acting (especially Osang & the kid although i thought Pen Medina was quite underused), polished technicals. one of the better films i've seen this year
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    "wondering why people did what they did in that movie"

    Out of desperation, I thought. People do sideline, and criminals do that a lot. I remember a line from The Grifters, roughly remembered--good you're stealing a little. Because if you aren't, then you're stealing a lot.

    "i thought the film lacked focus coz there were just too many back stories "

    I thought the back stories are what made the movie. The main plot is solid enough, but Lao's concern for the little details of each character's lives, it shows a concern and interest in them I don't find in most writers today, Filipino OR Hollywood. It's a little like the way Altman's films or Jean Renoir's films work--back stories, meandering asides, shapeless, pointless little things that don't necessarily forward the film, but add depth to the characters.

    ""symbol! attention everybody! symbol here""

    Um, movies by Joel Schumacher. And, tho some may disagree, Paul Thomas Anderson come to mind.
  • that's probably why i didn't like the stuff Schumacher ('cept maybe for Tigerland) and PT Anderson came up with. ;)

    and i wasn't really puzzled by why criminals do what they generally do. it's just the rash things they (esp Dado) chose to do- killing a mob boss in a public rest room, fer instance. i may be nitpicking but i felt that it somehow betrayed the beauty of the narrative when i have to be wondering why the heck he did it that way. and as i've said, maybe that's how Pinoy criminals whack somebody. all this doesn't make it a bad film at all though.

    i agree with you that back stories were integral to the story. maybe it isn't about having too many of 'em- rather many of them just didn't have any acceptable explanation of their role in the whole thing. like the apparent disappearance of Boy Kulot for example. there were a lot of worrying and frustration but it all turned out, conveniently, that he was just late. sumthin like "much ado about nothing". again, it was just a distraction fer me.

    oh... i also thought that the characters talkin' in dialects without hesitation or anythin' was a very nice touch. it was like the creators really wanted the viewers to be a part of it all. it almost gave the impression that nothing was contrived or set up.
  • Noel VeraNoel Vera PEx Influencer ⭐⭐⭐
    Diether's character has already been established as a hothead--he's the one who first yells at Vic Diaz, remember, so it's personal. Also, it's his car, and he was tortured for it. And he's not the thinker of the two, Osang is. I can see him killing on the spot--the 'quiet type till you push him too far.'

    And yes, Pinoys kill nowadays for very little reason nowadays. You can read dozens of stories about such cases in the tabloids.

    "didn't have any acceptable explanation of their role in the whole thing"

    Renoir, Truffaut, Altman have done these sorts of pointless little vignettes. Whether they work or not often depends on the viewer. The worry over "Boy Kulot" helped established that some people can be taken at their word--which emphasizes by contrast how most people cannot, even the protagonists.

    Yes, I noticed the dialects. It's a nice touch, something I'm sure Lao thought up.

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