Caveat had thought of the books written about the craft of acting after having gone into a lengthy discussion over pizza and iced tea with Luis Manzano, one of the very few articulate actors we have in the business.
With Luis as my trigger, I would in the direction locate the germinal concept of acting in particular for the movies, tracing in part how acting for films has come to have a logical and scientific life of its own partially seen from the lens of the history of Philippine cinema.
Pushing back, realistic acting in modernistic time came into the scene with the emergence of famous movie directors like Lino Brocka, Celso Ad Castillo and Ishmael Bernal. Previous to them there was Gerry De Leon. These directors have made a dent in terms of portraying psychological realism, ample away from their predecessors, whose school of acting was largely based on physical nuances, almost devoid of what’s called “guts out” performance or “hugot,” as they say it now.
Realism in film acting was brought into being from an original school of acting popularized by Konstantin Stanislavski, the famous Russian guru known worldwide for his “Stansilavski System.” The same system was renamed “Method” when transported to America and popularized by Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler.
Famous in the Stanislavski System is the “affective memory” recall exercise in which one resorts to reliving similar and highly emotional experiences in the past as stimuli in approaching a role in parallel terms to come up with a more organic and truthful performance.
This is commonly called “inside out” technique as opposed to “outside in” attack in which the primary stimulus is in the cognitive understanding and interpretation of one’s role based on the script at hand that involves discussing it with the director, finding subtexts and the like.
On this vein, Luis Manzano locates himself more on the “outside in” technique of acting more than the “inside out,” saying that scraping one’s innards and guts as stimulus to come up with specific psychological truth in acting is not exactly his style of acting. He had successfully made use of the “outside in” technique in most of his comedies including In My Life as gay lover to John Lloyd Cruz and son to Vilma Santos.
This has been his approach even long before he got into all sorts of acting workshops like the one he had under Laurice Guillen who popularized Eric Morris’s Being and No Acting Please school of acting in the country.
This is not to say that Luis cannot do an “inside out” technique usually associated with Method Acting. He has done this successfully the last time he shot a film abroad with Toni Gonzaga for Star Cinema.
The scene called for a wedding ceremony between him and Toni who was dying of terminal cancer. Luis recalled he was already agonizing from some kind of unexplainable deep pains cutting inside him which seemed to explode any moment before he could actually shoot the scene with Toni.
The tension worked organically well in this particular scene with Toni, but he had the most difficult time getting out of the so-called “lived character” even after the shoot. He has to carry the scathing weight of the monkey on his back so to speak the morning after.
Luis has a dream role in mind: to portray the character of a mentally challenged. The mere thought of it however makes him shrivel in fear, admitting to the fact that it’s one challenge of a lifetime he could not pass on if it comes his way.