Saturday, 15 January 2011

Chico and Rita

Originally I heard about Chico and Rita back in November and I was intrigued.  I made plans to see it at the Picturehouse, but unfortunately those plans fell through and I wasn't really in a cinema mood for a while after that.  When I finally looked for a cinema that was still showing the film, I was so disappointed to find I'd missed it.  I couldn't find it anywhere.  I couldn't even find it online *shh - I was desperate*! 

Thank God for facebook.  After an impassioned plea Film Chick came to my rescue and pointed me towards a little cinema off Leicester Square for film lovers.  It shows films that have finished their general release as well as some old flicks and preview screenings.  They were showing Chico and Rita until the end of the week.  So today I took myself to Green Park, strolled down Piccadilly and settled into my leather seat in Leicester Square, hoping that all the effort had been worth it.

Check out the trailer:

How beautiful is that?

It was definitely a readjustment, remembering how to appreciate hand drawn animation.  The imperfections, the movement, the facial expressions all added to "el espíritu de la película"**.

Visually the film was a treat.  Musically it surpassed even that.  Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie made two of many jazz musician cameos.  There was a little Casablanca, a little Josephine Baker and the song - Beseme Mucho.  I don't know who sung it originally, but Nina does it justice below. 

The film was never silent.  40s/50s jazz played a starring role with its own moods and the characters seems to act in accordance with the music rather than the other way around.  The film could have been a music video - and that is meant in every way as a compliment to the way that the images and the music combine for a truly sensual experience. 

Sadly even after all of this I left the film spectacularly annoyed!


The film centres around Rita, a beautiful Cuban singer from 1940s pre-revolution La Habana.  She meets Chico "the most talented piano player in Cuba" at a bar.  After a few semi-minor hiccups, they fall in love, as expected, and perform together around La Habana.  During one of these performances Rita is offered the chance to go to New York and perform without Chico.  Initially she refuses, but after a night of being hurt by his drunken mistakes, she accepts and leaves the next day.  

Chico and his friend Ramon follow her to New York and after many years (yes, I said years) of trials and tribulations, making up and breaking up, they decide to go to Las Vegas and get married.  Awesome! Right? No.  The night that they are supposed to meet, Rita is left waiting on a bed in a motel room unaware that Chico has been deported back to Cuba.

The film then returns to present day.  Where Chico hasn't touched a piano since Castro's revolution labelled his music as imperialist.  He is sought out by a young singer who wants him to play with her, and finally he reaches the dizzying heights of success he should have achieved long ago.  Back in America he searches for what became of Rita....

...and finds her in the SAME MOTEL ROOM in Las Vegas, waiting for Chico to return, 47 years later.  


Is this supposed to be romantic?  

Is this romance?  

To me this is nothing but an ending of abject misery and it ruined an amazing film.  Rita waited 47 years, working as a chambermaid to pay for the room and board.  She abandoned singing, had no lover, husband, children, grandchildren, career.  She'd just spent 47 years waiting for Chico to arrive.  

And if he hadn't?  

If he'd never again left Cuba?  

She would have died, in a skanky motel room, waiting for love.  Truly tragic.  And a reminder if ever I needed one, that patience is not so much of a virtue as people would have you believe.  If you want something or someone, don't wait for the universe to align the stars correctly, do what you need to do to make it happen.  If your efforts are in vain, you try something new or give up and move on.  No, it's not easy, but it definitely beats 47 years of waiting for fate to intervene. 


A truly tragic ending, in the worst sense of the word. 

**The spirit of the film - google translate is your friend

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