The society of respected film critics that hands out the annual Gawad Urian in cinematic excellence

Kasalanan Bang Sambahin Ka (1990)

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The film career of the young filmmaker Chito Rono has been blessed with works that have enjoyed very positive reception, from his debut "Private Show" a few years ago to "Itanong Mo Sa Buwan," his most honored, and last year's "Bakit Kay Tagal Ng Sandali." One way or the other, the films have won local awards or been sent to foreign film festivals ("Itanong" in Calcutta, India last year, and "Bakit Kay Tagal" in Singapore early April of this year).

"Kasalanan" has won the nod of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino for its effective and intelligent portrayal of a mad woman obsessed with a man with whom she has a one-night stand. The situation easily recalls the much-acclaimed and highly-profitable Hollywood thriller, Adrian Lyne's "Fatal Attraction," but Manunuri elder Bienvenido Lumbera has said in the group's deliberations that Rofio's thriller makes more sense, is more cohesive, and probes more satisfyingly into the psyche of the leading female character, than the foreign movie.

The Rono version is not without its flaws, but few local movies have carefully and - to a large extent, thoroughly and successfully - examined the deterioration of the mind of a contemporary woman, played by Vivian Velez, and turned this study into intriguing and suspenseful entertainment. It is a good thriller but also a dramatic piece about a quarry and her prey, the relentless and desperate pursuit by a lonely woman of a betrothed (and then married) man, played by Julio Diaz, who has come to avoid her like the plague.

In telling his tale, the director has artfully har¬nessed the various elements of film. The script assiduously looks into the main character's state of mind and background, taking note of the strange behavior of her mother (Angie Ferro) and dying aunt (Estrella Kuenzler). Interestingly, the doomed heroine has equally gutsy and determined nemesis in the man's fiancee-wife, Dawn Zulueta.

The cast is wonderful, led by Ms. Velez in what could be the performance of her career. Denigrated for her "sex symbol" image, which she has enjoyed since she wowed moviegoers with her physical at¬tributes several years ago, Ms. Velez has battled against this "Ms. Body Beautiful" tag to prove herself a worthy actress. Major acting awards have failed to convince many cynics of her ability, even as the recent telecast of the old movie for which she earned the award would seem to indicate that she in fact deserved those awards, after all. In "Kasalanan Bang Sambahin Ka," the actress tackles yet another challenging part, and does it exceptionally well.

She gives flesh and blood to a tragic heroine who degenerates from a normal-looking, glamorous and quite seductive career woman into a psychotic pursuer of a man. As the smart, genial woman at the early part of the picture, she is irresistible, quashing any doubt about a guy's willingness to go to bed with her. But as the story unfolds, she becomes scary, as though one could see fangs in the kind of monster she has gradually been transformed into.

Zulueta's character is not about to be dominated by this deranged creature, so she puts up a fierce and intense fight, the two women's showdown culminating in an explosive climax. — Mario A. Hernando, from "Kibitzer," Malaya