Movie Review: 'Oro, Plata, Mata' shines anew in HD

The words “epic” and “saga” have lost some of their luster of late. Co-opted by modern marketing teams to denote seemingly anything with a sequel.

Fortunately, unlike the overhyped, soulless soap opera fodder contemporary audiences have been forced to endure, the opening film of this year’s Cinema One Originals film festival, Peque Gallaga’s “Oro, Plata, Mata”, has been re-released to show everyone how it’s done.

Let me get this out of the way: “Oro” is not a perfect film. But as a testament to the creative abilities of a group of filmmakers at the peak of their powers, this is one local film that has more than earned its “epic” superlative.

The exodus scene, restored in HD, is as beautiful as it is iconic.

The object of over 1700 hours of frame-by-frame digital refurbishment by Central Digital Lab as part of the ABS-CBN Restoration Project, “Oro’s” HD resurrection brings to the big screen a vigor and vitality unknown to those who have only experienced the film through home video or the odd academic screening.

While not quite pristine, one is hard-pressed to complain; the film shows few of its 30 years, creating the effect of nothing less than a cinematic time machine. Looking for all the world like it was shot last week-–albeit with old film stock and lenses-–it takes little effort for the viewer to be transported to a place and time when Joel Torre and Cherie Gil were just starting out in their careers.

Colors long seeped into one another through copies of copies now pop off the screen, and details once-thought lost to the ravages of time and neglect assert themselves with renewed brilliance. Portions of the film that have benefited most from the restoration are the opening sequence (which formerly looked like it was shot through a Vaseline haze) and segments of high contrast, such as the families’ exodus (which rivals “Gone with the Wind’s” burning-of-Atlanta for sheer cinematic conflagration symbolism) and Manuel’s (an impossibly-young Joel Torre) inevitable trip into the jaws of Tartarus to rescue Trinidad (an even younger Cherie Gil).

The three-hour run time has always proven daunting for some, with some going as far as to suggest that the story told here would have been better served as a mini-series. But, having seen it now in the proper context-–far removed from the scratchy, nigh- incoherent VHS copies of yore-–one gets the impression that the pacing was entirely intentional.

Chronicling the experiences of two affluent families, the Ojedas and the Lorenzos, who live through the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, Gallaga begins his tale in a manner immediately familiar to followers of Rizal, Coppola and turn-of-the-century upper societal classes: with a large family gathering. Lovingly shot and meticulously choreographed, the sequence is an exercise in classical storytelling, with the occasion’s ceremony, interactions and sub-interactions telling us everything we need to know about these characters and the rarefied world they inhabit, without the need for extraneous exposition.

From the hacienda’s social structure to the families’ penchant for gossip over endless rounds of mahjong, all the while attended to by a small army of servants, Gallaga infuses in his audience a familiarity–-not necessarily affinity-–for these characters. This he does to the point that, when everything comes undone, and their wealth and complacency are stripped away, it is just as jarring for them as it is to the viewer.

We never actually see the enemy–-save for one wayward soldier late in the film-–but their presence permeates every moment. As the months go by and the families embark, unknowingly, on their descent into the wilderness of madness, we gain context into the country’s situation through second-hand information, gossip (mostly from Lorli Villanueva’s Viring) and outright speculation. Joel Torre and Sandy Andolong play Oro's doomed lovers

Taking the lead in a cast of future superstars is Manny Ojeda as Don Claudio Ojeda, who brings a preternaturally old-school dignity and calm to his scenes. Even as misfortune after misfortune befalls the clan, and everyone around him spirals into insanity, you never doubt for a second that he remains the patriarch. It is heartbreaking when he is finally broken into shell-shocked, submissive silence.

“Oro, Plata Mata” was designed as a commentary on the follies of excess and consumption at a time when such commentary may not have been the wisest or the safest action

to make. That the film was made at all with the degree of artistic fealty on display is tribute to the filmmakers’ tenacity--or is it insanity?

Before last Wednesday’s premiere screening, Peque Gallaga declared “Oro” as the work of fools who didn’t know any better. Had they known what they were in for when they started, they probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, let alone see it through.

Thus, not knowing any better, the creators of “Oro” proved that, as far as many a follower of Philippine Cinema will attest to, they damn well were the right fools at the right time. Today, with digital technology replacing traditional techniques and a new generation of fools at the fore, this reviewer will remain ever grateful that this saga got an even break.

We should all be so foolish. --KDM, GMA News

A lifelong fan of cinema and literature kept ambulatory by an ungodly mix of sugar, caffeine and adrenaline, Mikhail Lecaros is a professional magazine editor and freelance writer who's decided that he wants to be Hunter S. Thompson if and when he is forced to grow up. The views expressed in this article are solely his own.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • United States seeks access to Philippine bases as part of Asia pivot
    United States seeks access to Philippine bases as part of Asia pivot

    The United States has asked for access to Philippine military bases in eight locations to rotate troops, aircraft, and ships as Washington shifts its forces to Asia and as China expands its military presence in the South China Sea. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a speech in Arizona, has outlined Washington's next phase in its Asia "pivot", deploying its most sophisticated destroyers, bombers and fighters to the region. The Asia "pivot" has already seen U.S. Marines rotating through the …

  • China's island-building to loom large at SE Asia summit
    China's island-building to loom large at SE Asia summit

    China's creation of new island footholds in contested seas will hover over a Southeast Asian summit that has become an annual test of the region's nerve in standing up to its massive neighbour. The South China Sea hot potato drops this year into Malaysia's lap as the rotating chair of the 10 member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and host of Monday's meeting. ASEAN states Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the strategic South China Sea, but Beijing …

  • Philippines, China trade accusations over sea threats

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines accused China of aggressive maneuvers against its reconnaissance plane and fishermen in disputed seas where Beijing has stepped up construction of artificial islands, but China reiterated its claim on the strategic waterways. …

  • Indonesia orders execution of Mary Jane, 9 others
    Indonesia orders execution of Mary Jane, 9 others

    Indonesia has ordered preparations for the execution of 10 drug convicts, including Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, as the Philippine government filed yesterday a second appeal for judicial review of the case to save the maid from death by firing squad. The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) of Indonesia released an official letter dated April 23, instructing prosecutors to prepare for the execution of 10 convicts, the Jakarta Post reported yesterday. The execution would be conducted after the …

  • Noy to visit Canada, Japan
    Noy to visit Canada, Japan

    President Aquino will embark on a state visit to Canada in May and Japan in June to meet with his counterparts and promote Philippine interests. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino accepted the invitation from Canadian Governor General David Johnston to make a state visit to Canada from May 7 to 9. Tied to this trip is the President’s one-day working visit to the United States to meet with potential investors and with the local Filipino community in Chicago, Valte …

  • Business groups back K to 12 program
    Business groups back K to 12 program

    The government’s K to 12 program adding two more years to basic education received support from various business groups yesterday. However, they urged relevant government agencies to deal with issues regarding the implementation of Republic Act 10533, the Enhanced Basic Education Act or K-12 Law. In a statement, business groups led by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) said RA 10533 is a milestone piece of legislation that intends to bring the Philippines up to par with the rest of …

  • Happiest nations: Phl ranks 90th
    Happiest nations: Phl ranks 90th

    Switzerland is the happiest country in the world, while the Philippines placed 90th, according to a global ranking of happiness unveiled in New York on Thursday. Switzerland was followed closely by Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada. The 2015 World Happiness Report is the third annual report seeking to quantify happiness as a means of influencing government policy. The United Nations published the first study in 2012. …

  • Asean leaders want binding sea code with China
    Asean leaders want binding sea code with China

    Southeast Asian leaders will seek to speed up plans for a binding code of conduct with China governing behavior in the disputed South China Sea at a summit next week, Malaysia’s foreign minister said Friday. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said a massive flow of Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to neighboring countries will also be discussed at the two-day summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which starts Monday. Anifah said leaders are expected to raise concerns …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options