Saturday, June 22, 2024

Bona (2023 restoration Kani Releasing and Carlotta Films)

Lino Brocka: Bona (PH 1980) with Nora Aunor (Bona) and Philip Salvador (Gardo).

PH 1980. D: Lino Brocka. Scen.: Cenen Ramones. F.: Conrado Baltazar. M.: Augusto Salvador. Scgf.: Joey Luna. Mus.: Max Jocson. Int.: Nora Aunor (Bona), Philip Salvador (Gardo), Rustica Carpio (padre di Bona), Venchito Galvez (madre di Bona), Spanky Manikan (fratello di Bona), Marissa Delgado (Katrina), Nanding Josef (Nilo). Prod.: Nora Villamayor. DCP. 86’ Col.
    2023 restoration. " Presented by Kani Releasing and Carlotta Films. New 4K version restored by Kani Releasing and Carlotta Films at the Cité de Mémoire (Paris) laboratory using the original 35 mm film and sound negatives archived by LTC Patrimoine. The audio was restored by L. E. Diapason. Released in cinemas across France by Carlotta Films on 25 September 2024. Attended by Vincent Paul-Boncour, director and co-founder of Carlotta Films. " Cannes Classics 2024  
    From Carlotta Films
    Introduced by Vincent Paul Boncour (Carlotta Films) and Cecilia Cenciarelli
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 2024: Cinemalibero.
    In Tagalog with English subtitles by Dodo Dayao.
    Viewed at Jolly Cinema, 22 June 2024

Marion Durand (Cannes Classics 2024): " Screened at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Festival de Cannes in 1981, and showcased now for the first time this year in a restored version, Bona by Lino Brocka sees the Cannes Classics comeback of a film that had been left to languish from the moment it was released. The Filipino film-maker was up for two Palme d’ors in the eighties: first in 1980 with Jaguar, and again in 1984 with Bayan Ko. "

" Like Insiang, Bona was partially filmed in a slum, a setting this film-maker returns to again and again in his sociological, gritty films that generally shine a light on the Philippines’ middle classes. Bona‘s young protagonist ditches her studies and parents to follow Gardo, a bit actor she has become besotted with, and who tolerates her presence in his home, provided she accepts his endless procession of conquests and undertakes demeaning household chores. Mistreated by everyone in her life, including her own father who rejects her out of frustration, she nevertheless does her best to hold on to her dignity. "

" The protagonist is played by national sweetheart Nora Aunor: an actor, singer, and the film’s producer, too. The Filipina superstar wanted to move away from the blockbusters and make more arthouse films, and the way in which Lino Brocka breaks down her image as a silver-screen starlet is an intriguing plot twist in and of itself. In this role, she remains practically silent throughout, and is subjected to humiliation without ever reacting or standing up for herself. The actor’s performance is searing in its expressive simplicity, all the way up to the magnificent final revolt. " Marion Durand (Cannes Classics 2024)

Cecilia Cenciarelli (Bologna catalog 2024): " A student from the Filipino middle class, Bona becomes infatuated with Gardo, a narcissistic, womanising B-movie actor. Her father’s violence towards her after discovering that the two spent the night together prompts Bona to abandon her family and move in with Gardo. Completely subjugated by the man, she ends up serving as his servant and mother. The melodrama mounts to a cathartic denouement. "

" “To claim that Lino Brocka has influenced our cinema is not accurate. Lino Brocka is part of our DNA, part of our national psyche,” said Lav Diaz, one of the icons of contemporary Filipino cinema. Coming to international attention thanks to Pierre Rissient in the mid 1970s, Brocka’s cinema has imposed itself with disruptive force since his first appearance at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 1978. "

" Brocka is a master of neorealist melodrama with a natural instinct toward experimentation, and his legacy is an extraordinary example of popular cinema that has become fierce political criticism. Bona is no exception: “I revised the screenplay. I was not interested in making another Adèle H., my story goes well beyond amour fou,” Brocka said. Rather, the film looks at women’s subjugation in patriarchal Philippine society, as well as the alienation and violence of a system in which repression is the dominant mode. Bona’s “descent into the underworld” – which takes place in the slums, amid dilapidated shacks, open sewers and garbage bonfires – is reminiscent of that of two other powerful female figures portrayed by Brocka, that of Ligaya Paraiso (in Manila in the Claws of Light, 1974) and Insiang (from the 1976 film of the same name), both masterfully played by Hilda Koronel. They, too, are daughters of institutionalized subjugation, allegories of the Marcos dictatorship and the martial laws that strangled the Philippines and against which Brocka mobilised with all his might, paying direct consequences. " Cecilia Cenciarelli

AA: I see for the first time Bona. I have now seen only three films by Lino Brocka, although I have been a convert since I saw Manila in the Claws of Light (1975) in 1985 at Arsenal in West Berlin. A great Lino Brocka promoter was Pierre Rissient (1936-2018), instrumental also in the restoration of Insiang (1976) screened at the Ritrovato nine years ago.

From my meager perspective, Bona and Insiang appear as sister works. Both feature a young woman living in the slums, full of hopes and aspirations, struggling for dignity, for survival, in extremely demoralizing circumstances. The family does not support her or guide her to fulfill her potential, on the contrary. In Insiang, her single mother takes a young lover who abuses Insiang, too.

In Bona, the young woman falls for Gardo, a handsome actor who performs stunts and bit parts, but is starting to lose even them. Increasingly, he tries to fortify himself with alcohol. He is also a ladies' man, pursuing short-term affairs only.

Like in Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), Bona falls for Gardo not for what he is but what she imagines him to be. Both are devastating studies of the great illusions of love.

While conveying Bona's odyssey in illusions, Brocka excels in the portrayal of reality. He creates a passionate, violent and colourful account full of life.

Bona was financed by its star actress Nora Aunor, and I cannot help comparing Bona also for this reason with Letter from an Unknown Woman, in which the driving force was Joan Fontaine longing for a worthy vehicle. Both films are anti-star vehicles, in aspiration for greatness beyond surface glitter. In the circumstances of Il Cinema Ritrovato 2024, I am also thinking about Joan Fontaine's sister Olivia de Havilland and The Snake Pit (1948). Stars as auteurs.

Nora Aunor's performance is deeply moving in its restraint. But a relentless series of disappointments and humiliations reaches literally a boiling point. The revenge tragedy culminates in a finale as horrifying as in Insiang.

The restoration is gorgeous, the colour is juicy and vibrant, full of a life force that transcends the tragic fatality of the narrative.

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