Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oro, Plata, Mata (Peque Gallaga, 1982)

The newly-restored Oro, Plata, Mata is an epic war movie that recalls the fiery grandeur of Gone With the Wind, and the horrors of corpse-filled Apocalypse Now. With a running time of 194 minutes, it is one of the longest films in the pre-Lav Diaz era. Peque Gallaga’s film is stuffed with memorable characters, bravura set pieces, and coruscating images. Jose Javier Reyes wrote the screenplay from a story by Gallaga, Mario Taguiwalo, and Conchita Castillo. 

‘The war turned us into animals,’ said Trining Ojeda (Cherie Gil). An ingénue at the start of the film, she morphs into a chameleon vamp as the hellish hounds of the Second World War reached her paradise of a home. A contemptuous Trining learns to use her charm as a weapon for survival. In the end, she sheds skin once more.

Other members of the Ojeda and the Lorenzo clans slowly shed their inhibitions and bare their true natures as well. Miguel Lorenzo (Joel Torre) makes the biggest transformation. The mama’s boy is the object of Trining’s scorn. Shamed further by guerrillas, he takes to heart the survival and fighting skills training he received from Hermes (Ronnie Lazaro). The ‘torpe’ guy loads up on beastly courage and embarks on a daring rescue-the-damsel mission.

Margarita Ojeda (Sandy Andolong) is unfairly labelled a snake by her sibling. It isn’t her fault that Miguel falls in love with her. The young lad gets some respect from her and experiences tender affection which he didn’t get from Trining.

I loved certain small images that capture perfectly the Silver, and Death segments of the film. Trining’s yearning for a single santol fruit results in a dozen of fruits being strewn away to the ground. This wasteful act foreshadows her selfish desire to save herself at the expense of other people. There is also a dreamy shot of the young adults frolicking with sheeps while being guarded by armed men. It is a memory of their halcyon, innocent days, which ended too soon.

The death of Yaya Tating (Mary Walter) is powerful for being depicted offscreen. The set up at an ominous open field has the hallmarks of a horror film set piece. The frail elder trekking towards her death followed by a long shot of a Japanese convoy ups the suspense factor of the film. All hell breaks loose as hacienda fields go up in flames.

Another vivid image is that of a servant preparing watermelon seeds for the mah-jong ladies. Of course, we can’t expect the ladies to use their mouths for tasks other than eating and gossiping. The four ladies remind me of another quartet of bitchy, foul-mouthed women from another Jose Javier Reyes-penned film Mga Mumunting Lihim

Doctor Jo Russell (Mitch 'Maya' Valdes) stands out from the bevy of flawed female characters. Initially, she comes onscreen as a snooty balikbayan. But, her demeanor and behavior with unexpected visitors shows she has the biggest, plumpest pair of caring heart and intuitive mind.

Oro, Plata, Mata is a feast for the eyes and must be seen on a theater widescreen. Despite the film missing about 90 more minutes in footage, the story is good enough for showing that war is hell. More than the gunshot wounds, the psychological wounds are harder to heal. The inner conflict lingers on lending truth to what Nick Joaquin wrote, 'there has been no peacetime since (the start of the Second World War).'


Joel Torre : Miguel Lorenzo

No comments:

Post a Comment