It has been 35 years since she last walked the red carpet at Cannes, and Filipino actress Hilda Koronel is on cloud nine as she prepares to return to the world’s biggest film festival this month for the world premiere of the digitally restored version of Lino Brocka’s 1975 masterpiece, “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag.”
Last time Hilda was there, she had gone for another Brocka film, “Insiang,” which screened in the Section Parallèlle or Directors’ Fortnight in 1978.
“Maynila,” restored through the efforts of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation, will be shown alongside Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s “Cleopatra,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” in 3D, Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” Patrice Chéreau’s “La Rein Margot,” Francesco Rosi’s “Lucky Luciano” and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” among others, in the esteemed Cannes Classics section.
In an e-mail interview, Hilda, now based in the United States, told the Inquirer: “I’m very proud and excited that ‘Maynila’ was chosen to be screened with movies like ‘Cleopatra’ and ‘The Last Emperor.’ It’s a tremendous honor. We should all be proud as Filipinos.”
She has made all necessary arrangements to travel to the south of France later this month, with the help of FDCP.
“I’m looking forward to watching ‘Maynila’ again. It will surely bring back a lot of wonderful memories and I am certain that my husband, who is going with me, will enjoy it very much as well.”
Hilda is now married to Filipino-American lawyer Ralph Moore Jr. “He loves watching my old movies, even the ones without subtitles,” Hilda said.
Among Ralph’s faves are Brocka’s “Hayop sa Hayop” and “Angela Markado,” Danny Zialcita’s “Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan” and “Palabra de Honor,” Laurice Guillen’s “Tanging Yaman” and Mark Meily’s “Crying Ladies.” Ralph has also seen Hilda’s recent big-screen comeback, Olivia Lamasan’s “The Mistress.”
“Insiang” is on top of her husband’s viewing list, of course. The movie made Hilda the toast of Cannes in 1978. “Going back there will be fun, nerve-wracking and a bit sad,” she confessed. In the very least, it will be a sentimental journey.
“I still remember how Lino would help me get ready [for public appearances],” she recounted. “He did my hair for that famous newspaper photo with Farrah Fawcett.”
Hilda is referring to the front-page feature in the daily France-Soir, which ran a big photograph of hers beside a smaller pic of Farrah.
“Lino helped put my outfit together as well, with Filipino designer Christian Espiritu,” she recounted. “I think the French really loved my white terno, so the photo landed on the front page. The terno was beautiful and elegant—everyone else opted for casual wear, or was mostly undressed!”
She and Lino had traveled to Cannes to drumbeat interest in the film. “Lino was very popular in the whole of Europe, not just in Cannes. He loved screening his films there and they just adored him. He worked hard to promote his films and bring glory not just to himself, but to the country.”
Hilda feels strongly about revisiting Cannes, if only to honor her late mentor.
“[This restoration] is important to all of us. The social issues Lino discussed in our film are still relevant today,” she said. “I will always be proud to have been part of his cinematic legacy. We do make a lot of great movies, but today’s young people are not aware of them.”
She hopes that “Maynila” costar Bembol Roco, who is vacationing in the United States, can make it to the festival, too. “I haven’t seen him in ages.”
She is certain that this will be a trip to remember. “When ‘Insiang’ went to Cannes, Lino and I secured a place in Philippine cinema history. No one can take that away from me,” she said. “Now, ‘Maynila’ will be screened there … it just warms my heart.”