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Old August 15 2011, 11:31 PM   #641
stj
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Re: Movies Seen in 2011

I Am Cuba, from 1964, a Soviet-Cuban coproduction. Yevgeny Yevtushenko cowrote the screenplay. This is one movie that has very long stretches without dialogue, so it is much more a cinematographer's/director's movie than most I think.

The film is B&W, but the cinematography is gorgeous. There are some apparently white plants in sections of the movie, which is baffling, but it is beautiful to look. The movie is divided into four sections. The first shows Cuba as tourist resort, where a Cuban woman prostitutes herself with a tourist. The second shows Cuba as sugar plantation, where a Cuban sugar worker loses his farm, sets it on fire and dies. The third shows a student who can't bring himself to assassinate a police chief, but is then assassinated by the man during a demonstration as it is violently repressed. The last shows barbudos in the Sierra Maestra.

The takes are long, but unlike the usual arthouse cliche the camera moves. Mostly it glides like a swan, and any cuts are hidden for an even more smooth pace. When it is static, it is usually tilted. Yet, when there is action the camera swerves and swoops. At one point, it whirls around 180 degrees. As the camera swims through the stories, there are reveals of social context.

For example, the camera starts with a parade of women. The camera moves and you see they are carrying number placards. They are beauty contestants. The camera keeps moving and the POV slowly tumbles down the side of the building. The beauty contest turns out to be atop a towering hotel and the camera is descending into the earth of the more common masses.

There is a rippling effect to signal flashbacks and a death experience that is rather different from any I ever recall seeing. The foreign visuals are rather interesting. There is a repetition in different forms of jagged lines of light in one form another crazed across the screen, suggesting the conflict within society (I think.)

Each section is introduced by a poem. Some dialogue is repeated aloud in Russian with the English subtitled in the version I saw. (Netflix) Songs incidental are also highly significant in the film, with repetition and distortion emphasizing the symbolism.

Obviously any preconceptions about drab realism, socialist or otherwise, should be thrown out.

It was a remarkable viewing experience.
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