Friday, December 16, 2016

Review of MANO PO 7: CHINOY: Fil-Chi Family Focus

December 15, 2016




"Mano Po" is a series of films produced by Regal Films that was dedicated to telling stories about Filipino-Chinese (or Chinoy) community. I had seen that first one in 2002 that starred Maricel Soriano and Kris Aquino as sisters. That one swept the Metro Manila Filmfest awards that year, if I am not mistaken. I had seen some of these sequels, but the following films did not really match the critical and box office success of the first one. 

Prior to this one, the "Mano Po 6" starring Sharon Cuneta was shown back in 2009.  It is Regal Films 50th Anniversary this year, so the Monteverdes wanted this latest episode to be their entry in the Metro Manila Filmfest, like the others before it. However, due to changes in judging parameters, this one (directed by Ian Lorenos and written by Senedy Que) did not make it to the Magic 8. Regal decided to release it a week before the festival instead. I'm not sure why they subtitled this one "Chinoy", when all the films in the series were already about Chinoys. 

I wanted to watch this film because for once a real Chinoy actor is in the lead, Richard Yap. I thought this would certainly up the authenticity of the film, which did not always do well previously due to casting of talented but obviously non-Chinoy actors, like Vilma Santos. Sharon Cuneta, Zsazsa Padilla, or Angel Locsin as leads. As a result, the Fookienese Chinese dialog, one of the unique features of this series, sounded stilted and awkward. 

The Wongs have been married for 25 years. Wilson (Richard Yap) has been too engrossed with his upscale real estate business, and his wife Deborah (Jean Garcia) feels she is being ignored. The eldest child, and only boy, Wilson Jr. (Enchong Dee) is their black sheep, a bum and drug addict who frequently brought shame to the family. Their daughter Carol (Janella Salvador) is a music student majoring in cello at the university, but really wanted to take up voice instead. The subplots about Wilson's wife and children unfortunately felt generic and contrived, and not uniquely Chinoy. These issues have been tackled in many other local films before.

Richard Yap gets to speak not only Fookienese here, but also Mandarin. Even if the character he is playing is the stereotype cold Chinese businessman, I feel this is the best performance I have seen him in, thanks to his connection with the language of the script. I usually see him as stiff and uncomfortable in his TV roles. But here, his scenes with his Chinese co-stars playing his mother and his auntie were all on point.  

Garcia, Dee and Salvador do well, but are limited by the way their characters were written. They all had dramatic highlights which they performed well, as we have seen them play on TV. I felt it was a waste how Dee was not made to deliver lines in Fookienese as well. I think this would have made their father and son confrontation scenes better.  I guess this is also to show how the younger generation is losing touch with their Chinese heritage, even in strictly traditional households. The role of the youngest daughter Catherine (played by a miscast Jana Agoncillo) did not seem necessary at all.

The roles played by Jake Cuenca (as Deborah's customer Marco) and Kean Cipriano (as Carol's music teacher Mr. Denver Vera) were obvious from their first scenes, as with Marlo Mortel (as Carol's classmate Henry). We have seen them play these characters on TV before. Jessy Mendiola felt totally wrong in her role as Jocelyn Lee, a girl Wilson Jr. met in the drug rehab facility. Her sexy scenes with Dee were out of place in the film. Eric Quizon though connected very well with his role of Wilson's estranged older brother Jason.

For me the best performer in the whole film was the incandescent Rebecca Chuaunsu who played Wilson's mother Erlinda. I do not think I had seen her act before on TV or other films, but her screen presence here was simply so radiant, outshining her other more famous co-actors. I recognize several strong Chinoy senior ladies I know and love in her effective and moving portrayal of her dignified character and in her delivery of those lines brimming with wisdom. She never became over-melodramatic, which was refreshing.

Those flashback scenes in sepia still resonate with nostalgic effect, as they did in previous "Mano Po" films. With the number of film in the series, there are already repetitions with regards to the Chinoy customs shown, like the engagement ceremony. Those scenes of the family visiting the elaborate Buddha Memorial Center in Kaoshiung, Taiwan felt like a travelogue only with no distinct dramatic purpose in the storytelling.  

Overall though, I still liked this film basically on the strength of those beautifully-scripted scenes involving Wilson and his mother Erlinda. These scenes were written in the Fookienese language, and for the first time in "Mano Po" history, we hear the lines in the dialect authentically delivered by the actors. The emotional impact of these scenes are very strong and touching. These scenes elevated this movie and gave it a special flavor. 6/10.



UPDATE:  February 7, 2017

Translated into Chinese (care of Mr. Kevin Lee) and published in local Chinese newspapers today in time for the return engagement of this film in cinemas tomorrow due to insistent public demand:

"吻手系列電影是在講述有關菲律賓華人 (或稱菲華人社會中的故事。我第一次看這系列的電影是在2002年,那時的演員是Maricel SorianoKris Aquino,她們在電影中飾演姐妹的角色。如果我沒記錯,那部電影當時榮獲了馬尼拉電影節的眾多獎項。之後我也有再看那部電影的續集,不過續集並沒有像首集如此的成功及精彩。

上一集"吻手6"主演是Sharon Cuneta,上映日期為2009年。今年是帝王娛樂電影的50周年慶,因此Monteverdes製片人想以這部最新的續集電影進入馬尼拉電影節,就像之前幾集一樣。但是因為電影審核規定有更改,這部電影 (導演Ian Lorenos,編劇Senedy Que很可惜並沒有成功進入Magic 8的八大電影。帝王娛樂決定在聖誕節的前一周上映此電影。我不太清楚為什麼他們將這部片的副標題定為"菲華人"Chinoy,因為這系列的電影本來就都是在講有關菲華人的故事了。

我之所以會想看這部電影是因為僅此一次,電影的主角-Richard Yap是個真正的菲華人,我認為這樣絕對會更增添電影的真實性。之前幾部影集的演員(像是Vilma SantosSharon CunetaZsa Zsa Padilla或飾演女主角的Angel Locsin)雖然很有才華,但很明顯的一看就不是菲華人,所以感覺還是差了那麼一點。華語的方言之一福建話是這系列電影的特色之一,那些不是菲華人的演員在片中講的福建話聽起來就很奇怪而不自然。

王氏家庭已經結婚25年了。Wilson (Richard Yap太專注於他的高檔房地產事業,全心投入其中,因此他太太Deborah (Jean Garcia覺得自己被丈夫冷漠了。他們唯一的兒子Wilson Jr. (Enchong Dee是個敗家子。他吸毒成癮、遊手好閒,總是帶給王家負面的影響。Wilson的女兒 Carol (Janella Salvador是主修大提琴的大學生,但其實她很想選擇唱歌的。 整體編劇上很可惜的,Wilson 太太和孩子的問題這條劇情支線感覺有點普通且不自然,而且並不像一般菲華人家庭中會出現的情況。這些片中的問題和情況其實在之前其他的本地電影中就有被討論到了。

Richard Yap在片中除了要講福建話,還要講中文普通話。儘管他在片中扮演的角色是個很老套傳統的冷血華商,我卻感覺這是我看過他所有演出中表現最傑出的一次,這也多虧了劇本中的中文台詞設計。我通常看到他在電視劇中演出的角色都是呆板而不自在的,但是這一次他和其他飾演他媽媽和阿姨的華人演員的每一幕演得都很到位。

GarciaDeeSalvador因為飾演角色的限制而發揮有限,但也是表現良好。他們在電視劇中的演出都有引人注目的亮點。我覺得Dee在片中沒有福建話的台詞很可惜,也許這會使他爸爸和兒子在面對那些場景時更自在。我猜這也顯示了年輕一代的菲華人已經漸漸失去了傳統的中華文化,即使是在很傳統的菲華人家庭也是一樣。片中小女兒Catherine的角色 (Jana Agoncillo飾演,感覺角色安排不當其實是有點多餘的。

Jake Cuenca (飾演Deborah的客戶Marco) Kean Cipriano (飾演Carol的音樂教授 Denver) 飾演的角色很明顯地是從他們第一次和Marlo Mortel (飾演Carol的同學Henry) 演出的場景來的。我們之前就有在電視劇上看過他們演這些角色了。Jessy Mendiola 在片中飾演Wilson Jr. 在戒毒所遇到的女孩子,演得有點糟糕。她那幾幕和Dee 的性感鏡頭在電影中完全不恰當。不過Eric Quizon在片中飾演和Wilson疏遠的哥哥Jason,感覺就連接得很到位。

對我而言,整部電影中最傑出的演員是閃亮耀眼的Rebecca Chuaunsu,她在片中是飾演Wilson的媽媽Erlinda。我之前沒有看過她在電視劇或其他電影中的演出情況,但這次她在這部電影中的演出是如此的耀眼驚豔,完全超越了其他一些有名氣的演員。我個人很佩服幾位實力堅強的菲華人女士,而這位Rebecca Chuaunsu女士,我喜歡她在片中講著那充滿智慧的台詞,她以令人印象深刻又令人感動的演技描繪出她在片中所飾演的高貴角色。她的演出令人耳目一新而不過度誇張。

那幾幕棕黑色的倒敍的情節就如同之前幾部"吻手"電影一樣,依然呈現出懷舊的效果及感覺。不過因為此系列影集已經出了很多部,在菲華人傳統風俗文化(像是傳統的訂婚儀式)上已經做了許多呈現,因此片中Wilson家庭去參訪台灣高雄的佛光山佛陀紀念館的場景感覺就像旅遊紀錄片一樣,在整個故事情節中沒有明顯的用意。

整體來說,從電影中那些Wilson和他媽媽Erlinda演出的場景中美麗的台詞及張力來看,我仍然喜歡這部電影。那幾幕場景中的語言是福建話,這是在"吻手"系列的電影中史前無例的,我們可以親耳聽到演員們講著道地的福建話台詞。另外這幾幕場景不但帶給我們強烈且令人感動的感情衝擊,也提昇了這部電影的水平和層次,並且也使這部電影有另一翻特別的風味。


此篇影評源自作者在部落格"Fred Said."上的貼文。


11 comments:

  1. Salamat po, Fred Hawson. I cried when I read your glowing review. Hope to meet u in person someday :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Salamat po. I cried when I read your glowing review. It is an honor to portray the mother, a role I have been dreaming all my life. The role of a lifetime. Hope to meet you face to face soon. I will be watching at Trinoma and SM North Edsa on Monday and Tuesday. Xie xie!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Salamat po. I cried when I read your glowing review. It is an honor to portray the mother, a role I have been dreaming all my life. The role of a lifetime. Hope to meet you face to face soon. I will be watching at Trinoma and SM North Edsa on Monday and Tuesday. Xie xie!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I remember watching Mano Po 2 way way back when I was younger. From a Chinese person's perspective, it's very funny but also culturally true. Their diction of the Chinese dialect is very funny for me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. It so happens many a times that we have high expectations on squeals after a mind blowing film, and they prove to be below par...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mano Po has never failed the audience since it started way back. The casting line up isn't also that bad so I'm really looking forward to watching this as soon as I can get some free time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. It does get a more Chinese flavor with Richard Yap. I like how the movie introduces us to the chinoy culture.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love sweeping, historic, family sagas like this one. Since I don't know enough about Chinoy culture, I'd love to see it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is something different. I don't think I will ever get a chance to watch a chinoy film in Singapore, but hope to be able to review and watch this if I can~

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interesting! Am not sure whether I will watch this movie. But my philipino friends must be surely knowing about this saga. Would be great to talk to them and know what they feel..

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh wow this is the seventh. Unbelievable! The first movie was shown I guess several years back, when I was still in the Philippines. I didn't watch it though. I'm not a fan.But for this to reach its seventh sequel the past "Mano Po" films must have been great hits. Well it's good for the film industry and the country's economy in general.

    ReplyDelete