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REVIEW: Bulaklak sa City Jail

Film Ratings Board 1984

Rated “B”

Excellent performances mark this otherwise hackneyed film of
predictable and occasionally monotonous recitals of jail woes. Nora
Aunor delivers a strong performance as usual, rising high above the
tremendous supporting performances elicited by director Mario
O’Hara. Celia Rodriguez satisfies with a reined-in delineation of a
cynical, aging prostitute. Newcomer Maritess Gutierrez is a revelation,
her quiet face and manner belying a strong screen presence
suggestive of the young Ingrid Bergman. Perla Bautista, Maya Valdez,
Gina Alajar, and Zeneida Amador likewise render effective
characterizations.

This film is half won with its excellent casting. Mario O’Hara
delivers the other half of this cinematic bargain. Not only does he
dictate the forceful quality of the performances, he successfully
manages to weave his way around the melodramatic contrivances of
the screenplay to arrive at a gritty, realistic depiction of human
interrelationships in the hell behind bars.

At times, however, even the strong direction suffers with overextended
sequences which are obviously meant to wring the audience
emotionally dry. There is for instance the largely unbelievable episode
of having a myriad police officers staging a large-scale operation
simply to hunt down one pregnant escapee in the person of Nora
Aunor who finds herself trapped within the zoo grounds. In a climactic
scene of rather contrived dramatic intensity as well as cinematic
indulgence, the hunters zero in on Aunor having given birth inside an
empty zoo cell. Menacingly they flash their lights down on her, the
escapee who not only has delivered a child in a modern manger, but
has done it behind bars as well. The symbolism is deafening,
needless to say.

The happy ending is likewise questionable, as it seems to mitigate
the dramatic intensity and artistry of the earlier episodes inside the city
jail, apart from obviously attempting to appease the ordinary
moviegoer with a light, highly commercial denouement.

Notwithstanding these flaws, however, “Bulaklak sa City Jail
clearly belongs to a short list of the year’s best films, chiefly due to the
stand-out performances and the sure, solid directorial work.

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