Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Pinoy Film Focus: T-Bird at Ako (1982)

(T-Bird and Me)

Director: Danny L. Zialcita

Writer: Portia Ilagan

Cast: Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Dindo Fernando, Tommy Abuel, Suzanne Gonzales

It could be argued that there was a time in the history of Philippine cinema when the movie-going public was divided into just two sectors: the Noranians and the Vilmanians. You were either one or the other; there was no middle ground. Both Nora Aunor (known by the moniker "Superstar") and Vilma Santos ("The Star for All Seasons") were already established, acclaimed actresses by the time bright minds came up with the brilliant idea of bringing them together in one film. The offscreen environment may have been nowhere near as exciting--definitely not as tense--as that of Hollywood's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring bitter rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but the titillatingly titled T-Bird at Ako is just as energetic an acting extravaganza.

Aunor plays a tough, no-nonsense lesbian lawyer (thus the "T-bird" in the title) and Santos a bar girl with whom she falls in love. These roles easily play on their respective personas in the industry at that time, with Aunor being the less feminine of the two and Santos being known for sexier roles. Director Danny Zialcita manages to use these personas (and of course, the sheer talent of the two stalwarts) to good effect, although Aunor's Sylvia seems much more fleshed out. It is to her credit that she plays the lesbian character without fuss; it is a highly credible performance. While the supporting actors are also effective and some sequences, particularly those in the courtroom, are well made, the movie is essentially and unabashedly a vehicle for the power coupling. It is an exploitative film, in that sense, but it is certainly a local film novelty that is worth seeing, if only for the sheer delight of seeing two acting powerhouses sharing scenes.

Photo from Video 48

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