Ron has sent us more reviews of Nora movies. It's from The Urian Anthology, 1980 - 1989, a Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino collection of movie essays. Urian members, I hope it's okay that I posted the reviews of Nora movies from the book. All Noranians all over the world will be grateful to read the reviews and ultimately, I'm sure, will purchase the book once it is available online. If you want it remove from the website, email me at pinoymovies@yahoo.com and I will remove it immediately. Thank you.
***SOURCE: The Urian Anthology 1980-1989


Alfred A. Yuson Philippine Daily Express, 1983


"Himala" shows how adequate financing, strong support, and sophisticated choice of material and personnel can result in distinctively Filipino films which are definitely world class.

Ishmael Bernal handles "Himala" masterfully, relying more on his superb manipulation of acting talents than on fancy camera movement. Preferring to stay low-key in visual terms, he allows his dramatization to unfold on its own merits of story and characterization. He shuns flashiness of technique in favor of quiet exposition and build-up, as befits the flavor of his narrative. he hardly uses any reverse cutting, preferring to draw out terrific acting through simple one-shots.

Nora Aunor is perfect as Elsa; she leaves nothing to be desired in her interiorization and delivery. Gigi Dueñas is superlative as the counterpoint character of Nimia, the town whore/madame. She stands up stunningly as strong foil to Nora's central character.

"Himala" proves once again how we can upgrade film performance by casting theater talents in supporting roles. The brilliant Aunor gets all the solid backing she can ever get, this time from an array of supporters drawn mostly from the Bulwagang Gantimpala stable. These include the formidable Spanky Manikan in the crucial role of filmmaker, Laura Centeno as the disciple Chayong, Amable Quiambao as the potential successor Sepa, Ray Ventura as Sepa's stoic husband, and Pen Medina as Chayong's boyfriend. All five render impeccable performances.

But it is Dueñas who appropriately steals the thunder with her colorful role, and it is she who is given the best scenes by Bernal. His oblique tribute to Bergman's "Seventh Seal" (also reminiscent of La Saraghina's dance for the schoolboys in Fellini's "8 1/2") with Dueñas leading a bunch of kids in a frolicsome dance up a sand dune, in magic hour, is so simply and expressively beautiful. I hope Bernal doesn't mind so much being compared to the world greats of film, for he has undoubtedly earned the right to salute them in such a manner, nay, even slap "appear!" palms with them.

The only point when I felt "Himala" took an unnecessary dip occurs somewhere in the middle, from where Orly, the filmmaker, confesses to his having witnessed and recorded on film the simultaneous rape of Elsa and Chayong. Orly and the priest exchange dubious lines on the hoary issue of art versus morality, reality versus illusion. Then we are shown Chayong's suicide, evidently after much time had elapsed since her traumatic rape, without any hint of the experience coming from her or Elsa. Suddenly, there is a scene shift to two kids, dying with Elsa powerless to help them. It is obviously meant to be a sequence of events chronicling Elsa's fall from grace, and I feel there is a distinct error in chronology here. The impact of her best friend Chayong's death is severely diffused with the intrusion of the kid's dying scene which is supposed to give more evidence of Elsa's wane. Perhaps, the two scenes could have been interchanged, so that Chayong's death comes with more mounting intensity. Then it could have flowed on the funeral scene more logically.

As it is, the film takes time to pick up the pieces again, and re-establish a chronological rhythm that progresses successfully to the climactic assassination scene. The last gives ample evidence of Bernal's mastery of form and situation, i.e., his establishment of atmosphere, his crowd control, and the simple, remarkable editing. This sequence, together with the rain sequence, are most memorable.

I much prefer Ricky Lee's scripting in "Moral," where the contemporary set-up affords him all the chance to display his virtuous ear for dialogue. In a quasi-universal settings like "Himala," or "Salome" for instance, Lee is forced to lapse into thematic philosophizing, which sound terribly abstract and/or platitudinal. The use of the filmmaker as pivotal character in "Himala" is quite unoriginal, but I suppose there was no other way to incorporate a distanced observer who, at the same time that he is within the framework of the narrative, comments on the turn of events as an observer.