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Another look at ‘Larawan’

05:04 AM January 08, 2018

The movie “Ang Larawan” deserves the accolades it was given by the Metro Manila Film Festival and the “A” rating it received from the Cinema Evaluation Board. The production design, acting, music and other production elements were excellent.

The meat of the story is in the title of the original material, “A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino” by National Artist Nick Joaquin.

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In the movie, Don Lorenzo Marasigan, a painter, was at a stage where he was struggling to produce artworks. He only had one painting left which he and his spinster daughters refused to sell despite the fact that they were in dire financial need. The rest of the family (and family friends) pressured them to sell the larawan to make money and save them from their predicament.

However, even if “Ang Larawan” was of excellent quality, it might not hit box-office standards. For this, some were quick to judge Filipino moviegoers as “low” (of low taste or baduy) or uncultured (whatever that means).

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Even if not specified, this remark generally refers to the masa or ordinary folks, because it is their number that can make or break a movie.

Blaming moviegoers’ taste is perhaps too simplistic. Perhaps the movie itself has its shortcomings. For one, “Ang Larawan” may be hard for the masa to relate to. The movie is a 1940s period film and the main setting was the Marasigan family home in Intramuros, the bastion of the elite during that time. Almost all of the actors with talking parts are ilustrados.

The characters talked about and feared being impoverished. The movie did not delve (or even mentioned) about the masses outside of the walls or in the countryside who have long been living in poverty.

While the movie’s theme touched on the traditional vs the new emerging culture, it was a contradiction different from that of the masses’, whose struggle was for food, land and freedom.

Nonetheless, the movie’s theme with regard to artists is universal. The situation is real up to the present. With a society whose measure of success is how much money one makes, artists are usually confronted with the dilemma of selling or selling out. This is true not only for artists but for the rest of society.

Congratulations to the actors and creators of “Ang Larawan” for this quality film, and to the Metro Manila Film Festival for giving Filipino films a chance to dominate our theaters even for only two weeks.

JULIE L. PO, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, [email protected]

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TAGS: A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino, Cinema Evaluation Board, Inquirer letters, Julie L. Po, Larawan, Metro Manila Film Festival, MMFF, nick joaquin
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