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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 5, 2013

'Lauriana' Movie Review: A Dark But Riveting Piece Of Local Cinema

WE WERE INVITED to the special screening of “Lauriana” at the DCinema Alliance Corp. studios where all Sineng Pambansa entries are processed. We no longer wonder why it got an A rating from the Cinema Evaluation Board. We haven’t been shocked in the movies for a long while but this one really jolted us. What Allen Dizon did to Bangs Garcia is not for viewers with weak stomachs. There’s a close up of what he did to Bangs private part in its full glory and full goriness and it’s really vomit-inducing.

Ricky Lee wrote the screenplay based on a true story witnessed by designer Rikki Jimenez in his native town in Quezon in the 50s. The character of Rikki is played by brilliant child actor Adrian Cabido as a ten-year old boy and as a very much damaged young man by Victor Basa who’s severely traumatized by all the violence he witnessed as a child that his relationships with women have been adversely affected.

Allen is Samuel, a captain of the Philippine Constabulary assigned to fight the Huks in the 50s. He meets the beautiful “baylarina”, Bangs as Lauriana, and they live together, with the orphan boy, Carding, as their mutual friend. Allen is married to Rich Asuncion and he’s a wife beater, just like his dad who’s abusive to his own mom. But he’s even more possessive with Bangs, who he says is his true love. The jealousy soon escalates to acts of excessive violence.

We just wish that the love affair between them were given more time to develop. The next time we see them after their first meeting, they’re already having an affair and we don’t really know why Bangs was swept off her feet by Samuel. She keeps on saying that she wants to go to Manila. It’d have been better if she were initially attracted to him because of his promise to take her to the big city.

The first act of violence also comes without warning. We wish there were more sweet scenes between the lovers before everything turns into a nightmare, for a better buildup. There should have also been some tell tale early signs indicating that Allen’s true nature and violent streak in him.

The film takes a definite turn for the better and becomes more engrossing when the narrative jumps into the 70s showing the boy as Victor Basa. He’s in bed with his girlfriend Jaycee Parker but cannot get it up and would rather do it on his own in the bathroom. From here, the story goes back and forth in time to the 50s to show what really happened to Lauriana. Carding, now known as Ric, is consumed by deep seated feelings of hatred for Samuel and wants to take revenge on him. He desperately searches for Samuel’s whereabouts and when he finds out where he is, he buys a gun ready to kill him.

You cannot fault the acting. Allen is very persuasive as the monster whose psychosis is a twisted form of emotional insecurity and pain. Bangs puts 100 percent of herself as the object of all his cruelty and comes out pathetic, even if it’s basically an underwritten role (we wish we had known Lauriana better so we can root for her more). Adrian Cabido fully reflects the damaged innocence of the boy who is let down by the military man he idolizes.

Victor Basa is better here than in anything he has done before. Giving excellent support are Jaycee Parker (she shines, in only two sequences, and should definitely get more acting assignments) and Angeli Bayani as the boy’s aunt who raises him after he is orphaned. Nap Jamir’s lensing captures the pristine beauty of the locations in Quezon Province (especially the mangroves) but we wish his night scenes were better lighted. Production design tries to be faithful to the period, what with Philippine money at that time being used in several scenes, also the presence of Ace Publications’ Hiwaga Komiks in one scene and a well known brand of cigarette in the 50s. This film is not a crowd pleaser as the basic material is very dark, but it’s a very riveting piece of local cinema.