Saturday, May 18, 2013


“May mga anak ako, Nagtratrabaho ako, Nag-aaral ako tapos lagi pa kaming nag-aaway na mag-asawa. So tense, Minsan gusto ko ng tumalon sa bintana.” - Ellen

“Bakit nababawasan din naman ang pagkatao ko kapag sinisigawan mo ako!” - Ellen

“Ang marriage trinatrabaho yan…twenty four hours…" - Ellen

Basic Information: Direction: Ishmael Bernal; Adapted Screenplay: Ishmael Bernal, Bing Caballero, Jose Carreon; Original screenplay: Bing Caballero, Jose Carreon; Cast: Vilma Santos, Christopher De Leon, Orestes Ojeda, Lito Pimentel, Tessie Tomas, Richard Arellano, Cesar Montano, Len Santos, Ray Ventura, Harlene Bautista; Original Music: Max V. Jocson; Cinematography: Manolo Abaya; Editing: Jess Navarro; Production Design: Len Santos; Sound: Rudy Baldovino; Producer: Lily Monteverde; Production Co: Regal Films; Release Date: 2 September 1983 (Philippines) - IMDB

Plot Description: Trapped in a world of hectic schedules, pressure and little time for each other, Ellen (Vilma Santos) and Rene (Christopher de Leon) decided to have a temporary separation. One of the things that is against traditional Filipino culture is a marriage break-up. And that is what they went through as their maariage reaches one of its lowes points. Saddled by their two children, Ellen tried her best to live a normal life as possible, eventually finding a prospective lover (Orestes Ojeda). But something is missing from her life that not even a new flame could fill. A self-discovery both for Ellen and Rene, one great film that will surely make you realize the value of marriage. - Regal Films (READ MORE)

Rene (Christopher de Leon) is a police reporter for a daily newspaper married to Ellen (Vilma Santos) who works as TV production assistant. Both are full of enthusiasm, career-conscious individuals who have no time for each other or for their two children, until they are forced to try to live separately. Broken Marriage won awards from the 1983 Urian for best picture, (Ishmael Bernal), best actss (Vilma Santos), best screenplay (Jose N. Carreon), best editing (Jess Navarro), as well as several nominations from the Film Academy Awards and FAMAS. Music by Max Jocson and Cinematography by Manolo Abaya. Also stars Orestes Ojeda and Spanky Manikan. From Regal Films. - Trigon Video

Film Achievements: Gawad Urian: Best Picture - Regal Films, Best Actress - Vilma Santos, Best Direction - Ishmael Bernal, Best Editing - Jess Navarro, Best Screenplay - Jose Carreon, Bing Caballero, Ishmael Bernal, Best Sound - Rudy Baldovino, Best Actor nomination - Christopher De Leon, Best Cinematography nomination - Manolo Abaya, Best Music nomination - Max V. Jocson, Best Production nomination - Len Santos, Best Supporting Actor nomination - Len Santos, Best Supporting Actor nomination - Ray Ventura; FAMAS: Best Actor nomination - Christopher De Leon, Best Actress nomination - Vilma Santos, Best Child Actress nomination Harlene Bautista; Official Selection: 1984 Moscow Film Festival; Prague Film Festival; Vienna Film Festival

Film Reviews: Broken Marriage comes as a second wave to the noisy ripple created by Vilma Santos’s award-winning performance in Relasyon. The Regal people have banged their bongos so much harder this time that viewers will expect that Ms. Santos’ cards for this year’s awards derby will be more than secure. The hint is that Broken Marriage is a Vilma Santos movie. Lest the moviegoer expect too much from this year’s quadruple winning best actress, he should be forewarned that the movie is about, well, a broken marriage. After more than 10 years of marriage, two young persons find each other repugnant. Ellen is a television floor director who hops from one set to the other shooting sitcoms and soaps. Her husband, Rene, complements her rapid lifestyle in investigative reporting. The movie commences with Ellen coming home in the morning from overtime with a crew party on the side. Rene greets her with an ugly nag. The house turns topsy-turvy as they proceed to hurl invectives against each other. The exchange is extremely exhilarating; and just as the viewer breathes a sigh of relief, another quarrel starts and ensues as if it were the final assault.

Eventually, they decide to separate at the cost of their boy’s understanding nod and their little girl’s distaste. Rene moves to a house populated with such absurd characters as an artist who carves sexy sculptures, a friendly bit-part actor, and a gay art director who cuddles the upstart. Ellen, meanwhile, has to see to it that the children are not left out in their school activities - even standing as an athletic parent during one of her boy’s scouting engagements. She also has to check the advances of her bodyache-complaining producer, to whom she later gives in anyway. Gradually, the two people realize the great loss that comes with division. Ellen, with the two children, is forced to move to her mother’s place after her house is burglarized, thus realizing the difficulty of an unmanned house. Rene substitutes a whore in the absence of his wife’s caresses. It is when Rene gets beaten up by a city mayor’s goons for nearly publishing a detrimental article and is constrained to recuperate in his mother-in-law’s house that the couple starts patching up the seams of the rent relationship. The ending is of course happy: reconciliation, what else?

Comparisons dawn inexorably: how does Broken Marriage fare as a follow-up to the bravura of Relasyon? This is tough inquiry. If intentions were to be the starting point, then the new movie is a better achievement. Relasyon, judging from its title, was supposed to be about a man and other woman relationship; but the feminist tendencies of our cinema had pinned the movie to a fateful drift: the travails of the modern mistress. Broken Marriage never swerves from its goal; from start to finish it is a portrait of two persons and the bond which they discover smothering and smoldering. But the ordinary moviegoer does not assess by artist’s intentions - he does not even care about the artist (I mean here the one behind the work. On one hand, the film in front of him is the present; and on the other hand, it is the past. Broken Marriage is made to appear to him as a sequel to Relasyon. The process of integrating the past and the present is a challenge for him. For him are opened two avenues: to start with past and proceed with present; or start with present and proceed with past. If he chose the former, the condemnation for Broken Marriage would clang like a wild cymbal. If he chose the latter, the outcome is a laudatory comment).

Nonetheless, one has to prove that the new movie can stand on its own feet. What Relasyon sadly lacked (albeit not too sadly) was humor. Broken Marriage has tons of it - the caustic swaps, the funny characterizations, the clever plottings - so that the audience’s conditioned response for a supposedly serious movie shifts irrevocably to playful irreverence. Vintage Ishmael Bernal. It is a masterly stroke - the proverbial Bernal sleight-of-hand at work, this time with more gusto and style. If the Inquisition were still around, he would be branded and burned seven times as a heretic for turning a marriage gone sour into an off-beat frolic suddenly turned sweet - at least, to the viewer’s mirth-hungry belly. But none may claim that Bernal’s treatment loses its mark of delineating the disadvantages of separation. The humor chisels the message so that it comes to us shining and double-edged, while doing its duty of alleviating an otherwise gloomy impression which accompanies every disillusioning subject matter. Not only does it come through humorously but also simply. Nowhere is the strain which anyone expects from grave subjects present here. It is as if the dreary topic had been borne on the Lord’s shoulders so that the yoke - and audiences love to be martyrs of maudlin tears - becomes, this rare time, light and easy. The scene where Rene visits his family and finds Ellen and the children agitated by the swift burglary of the house, and the producer wrily comments “Mahirap talaga ang walang lalaki sa bahay”(It’s difficult to have no man in the house) is casual but very biting so that the urgency of the hero returning to his gamily throbs mercilessly like a set clock.

In the same way, Bernal shows Ellen’s retrospective mood minus the conventional flashback: her younger sister is engaged to be married, and Ellen watches the two lovebirds running like children, with a bright but painful smile, even with jealousy, knowing that after the ceremonies, the two will lose the innocence which tradition stifles. This is a repetition of the technique Bernal used in Relasyon - the mistress attending the wedding of her cousin - with just the same effect, namely, sympathy. The screenplay plunges right into the boiling point, the issues hurled to the foreground like machine-gun fire, the familiar scenes of hatred and division treated like aimless confetti so that the audience neither breathes nor is excused. It jolts us at the outset and after the terrible whipping, when the squabbles lessen and finally ebb into peace, we realize that these two handsome people must have had only one tragic flaw: they did not keep mum for a while. Manolo Abaya’s cinematography dances with the jetstyle rhythm of the two protagonists. From the clever blocking of the morningjumble scenes to the hurried bustle of the television studio, Abaya’s camera sweeps avidly and flawlessly. In his hands, the incessant quarrels of Rene and Ellen seem like a vengeful lovemaking. The long shots, conventions of a Bernal, are more developed here. Above all, Abaya’s camera has humor and pathos. The production design never digresses from its limited scope but manages to make poetry out of cluttered rooms and artificial television set-ups. The claustrophobia one feels at the outset of the movie with the couple’s disorderly room easily renders the hopelessness of the two people’s situation. The music filters the emotions of the characters with a detached but effective air. Jesus Navarro’s splendid editing is a breathless canvass of cosmopolitan animation.

The supporting actors are remarkable. Spanky Manikan as a loony reporter getting loonier everyday must not be denied mention; so with the actors who play the sculptor and the gay art director. Lito Pimentel as the gay’s idol is a relaxed performer with a talent for effortlessness. Christopher de Leon endows the character of Rene with the right sense of machismo and basic weakness. When Rene is compelled to act maturely, De Leon unflinchingly turns him even more childish with useless tantrums; and when Rene finally learns his lesson, De Leon adds a boyish smile as if the lesson were amusing. We watch De Leon, elated and entertained: he is never so old as to appear too distant nor is he too young as to seem undocile. Broken Marriage is a gift to this actor. He is not propelled here to be more manly; since his character is made to contribute to a lot of oversights, De Leon’s doesn’t have to put a mask of strength: he just has to be himself and act with ease. Vilma Santos is not about to be a letdown, not this time when the most important female roles are coming her way. A new intelligence she infuses in the character Ellen. Like De Leon, she turns Ellen into a woman-child, but the stress is less on her part as she has done similar roles before. Her beautiful face is flush receptive: the quiet moments of just observing the people around her are moments of perfect acting. Her body moves with an agility that is both funny and dramatic. Her two monologues - the first with her friends in the cafe when she informs them that she is bored, and the second with Rene when she tells him that they are not children anymore - are her best scenes: the camera lingers upon her countenance and she enunciates in return with ironic ease. She should watch out for next year’s awards race - there is simply no stopping her at the moment. - Joselito Zulueta, "A Bond that Smothers and Smolders," Sine Manila 1983

"...Though in the last cited awards, Karnal did not make it as best films, it nevertheless gave Broken Marriage a tough fight for the honor, in fact winning more nominations than Berna's films. It evetually won prizes for performances, cinematography, music and editing...A product of film schools, Marilou earned her M.A. in Film and Television from Loyola Marrymount College in Los Angeles and received a diploma in film from the London Film School. In May, she will be flying to Moscow to attend the Philippine Film Week, where Karnal, Broken Marriage and Soltero will be exhibited. Then it will be Prague and Vienna for both Karnal and Broken Marriage. Her earlier work, Brutal has also been invited to Tokyo's Pia Film Festival, which is sponsored by critics and journalist to showcase the works of young directors from 10 countries. International may have come her way, but at the moment, Marilou is earnestly preoccupied with starting her latest project, Baby Tsina, which will star two-time Urian best actress Vilma Santos, and written by Marilou's signature scenarist Ricky Lee. In a few days, the camera are set to start grinding for the director's new film..." - Justino Dormiendo, Movie Flash Magazine, April 26, 1984 (READ MORE)

"...On a final note, it’s rather unfair that when it comes to actors, Brocka always gets the authority to be called the actor’s director. Not to discredit Brocka of course but Bernal always exceeds Brocka in terms of directing comedies. And humor is only as hard as drama can get; and oftentimes even harder. Ilagan, Andolong, Ranillo, and Locsin may not be the best to portray their roles but their characters don’t need the best—they need believability more, and their youth exudes that, more than their acting chops. They grip on their dialogues so much that watching them is such a delight. There’s this anecdote told by Vilma Santos when she won her grandslam for Relasyon that she walked into Bernal’s shoot a little unmotivated and still high after her big win. She couldn’t get her acting right. And then Bernal said to her, “O, bakit parang lutang ka diyan? Porke’t naka-grand slam ka, feeling mo, magaling ka na?” That’s one-big-“OH”. And to think that Ate Vi was already a big star that time, and getting bigger and bigger thanks to her roles, it does not only give an impression of “katarayan” on Bernal’s part, but more of brilliance..." - Richard Bolisay (READ MORE)

"...O, bakit parang lutang ka diyan? Porke’t naka-grand slam ka, feeling mo, magaling ka na?...” Bernal scolded Vi when she reported to the set of Broken Marriage, still high after her grand slam wins for Relasyon and a little unmotivated. - Richard Bolisay, Lilok Pelikula, 15 May 2010 (READ MORE)

"... Reportedly Ms. Santos, buoyed by the many acting awards earned by the previous film, was so eager to do well in the new production that Bernal got irritated, locked her in a bathroom, and delivered to her an ultimatum: she was not coming out till she got over her 'hysteria.' One sees what made the latter so successful, the same time watching this one sees why Bernal didn't want to simply duplicate that success. Relasyon was a lean and elegantly told melodrama that took a sidelong glance at the institution of Filipino marriage; in Broken Marriage Bernal wanted to examine the institution directly, without the oblique glances. He didn't want to film some doomed struggle to keep love alive but something less dramatic, far more difficult to capture: the aftermath of a protracted war, where the ultimate casualty is married love. He in effect didn't want Ms. Santos at her perkiest and most energetic--he wanted her exhausted, looking for a way out, and to her credit Ms. Santos delivers exactly this with her performance..." - Noel Vera, Critique After Dark, 08 April 2012 (READ MORE)

"...In Filipino melodramas, the heroines often lean on against a hostile environment. Some no less combative women have created a permanent place in the film industry of the country...Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal devoted themselves repeatedly with a strong social and political consciousness of the popular form of melodrama. More than Brocka himself Bernal frequently focused on strong female characters that need to manage their lives under unfavorable circumstances. In his films female stars in the spotlight, without the problems of everyday life would go by the board. With Vilma Santos in 1982 he turned Relasyon, wherein the main character wants to escape from a stifling marriage and not only emotionally, but also legally reaches its limits (a year later with Santos Bernal turned the thematically similar mounted Broken Marriage). Was produced Relasyon of Lily Monteverde , who plays an influential role in the Philippine film industry today. Already at the beginning of the 20th century there were in the studios and production companies in the country powerful women who ruled with a firm hand and were addressed by their subordinates even as mothers. "Mother Lily" made his mark as a hard nosed business woman, often more economic than artistic interests followed, understandably, not just friends. The young director Raya Martin let her in his short film Long Live Philippine Cinema! (2009) even to death to save the Philippine cinema..." - Michael Kienzl,, 10 Sep 2014 (READ THE TRANSLATION)


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