Photo credit to Festival De Cannes Official FB
I can vividly remember those endless, meshed cables, dirty floors, and that bewitching director who can’t seem to get one teleserye’s taping day going in one scorching summer afternoon, given that most of his lead stars were hours late.
It was oven hot everywhere in a Corinthian Gardens mansion in Quezon City, and this “inconvenience” has pushed the afternoon grind onto the wee hours of the morning in taping scene after scene to beat the deadline for the series’ premiere. And faced with all the stress on set, we still waited for our star interviewee.
But as we waited, and the other cast members were still on their way to the set, one widely admired and multi-awarded actress, always the early bird in filming, was already there on one far side of the set, mumbling, banging a nearby table and gritting her teeth as if she had encountered a vicious adversary who just ruined her day.
And, as we tried to get near this celebrated actress to have a chat, she made one stern look at my face, giving me that “don’t-you-dare” pleasantry as if she was about to utter one villainous diatribe. I still smiled at her, the actress I had held in high esteem since breaking out as a riveting actress in Chito Roño’s Itanong Mo Sa Buwan and Joel Lamangan’s The Flor Contemplacion Story; she gave that cold smirk, with the same chilling gaze and left.
“Sorry po, in-character po siya,” an assistant told me, noticing the “incident.” “Alam ko,” I uttered, knowing very well that Jaclyn Jose, or Mary Jane Guck in real life, was “not acting” but “becoming” the intense character she was to portray that day, transforming to its quirks and eccentricities for even this unwitting set visitor to experience. This was her way of doing her job the best way possible, using a method she knows would bring out her best.
And thus I discovered, her passion and dedication to her craft was something else. Jaclyn lives and breathes her character—bringing the complex, eccentric incongruity even off the camera and lives it in all realistic splendor. It all appeared to me so natural that I felt it was splendidly real—like I was in the actual filmed scene itself.
A “style” so evidently prominent in her now glittering, shining moment as the first Filipino to win Best Actress in the Cannes Film Festival, beating such names as Academy Award winners Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard, multi-awarded French actress Isabelle Huppert, acclaimed thespians Sonia Braga, Ruth Negga, Sandra Huller, and Sasha Lane, and the famous Twilight star Kristen Stewart.
World renowned director and Cannes regular, Brillante Mendoza, who won the festival’s Best Director in 2009 for Kinatay, is one who truly recognizes this incredible talent, closely putting the spotlight on her in his acclaimed works of mostly graphic, sordid depiction of society’s ills. Jaclyn in Serbis was as poignant as it was one of her defining performances in the world stage being one of the first noted Filipino entries, despite protests for its depiction “misery porn,” in Cannes in 2008 being nominated for the Palm d’Or.
Eight years later, direk Dante called on Jaclyn for that perfect, milestone role—a mother forced to peddle illegal drugs to support her family and eventually falls prey to corrupt policemen—in his new masterpiece, Ma’ Rosa. With his instructions to Jaclyn “not to act,” she proceeded with a portrayal again so real, riveting and remarkable.
Again, her knack at being so genuine and natural brought her brilliance out in the open—in the world’s most celebrated and glitziest film festival. Critics hailed her for her “naturalistic grace,” notes Variety and being “resilient yet understated,” as seen by Hollywood Reporter.
Some critics, however, saw this style as “underacting” for a “supporting role” and that she lacked proper merit to win the prestigious award. Cannes jury members defended their choice of Jaclyn as the festival’s best. Mads Mikkelsen says Jaclyn is a “master of her skills” and a “wonderful leading actress” while Donald Sutherland made it quite clear that Jaclyn’s character was a “big-time leading role” fit for the triumph.
While Jaclyn herself elicited her own surprise at her unexpected victory, no one can deny or take that glory away from her. She has emerged from what she described as “loud and campy characters” through the years and has become a force to reckon with in international cinema.
A Cannes Best Actress? It’s definitely natural for one Jaclyn Jose, now primed for greatness in big screens around the world.