Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
Apr 27, 2012
09:19 AMTalk about Arts
Movie Review: Chico & Rita
Films opening this weekend:
Chico & Rita - Screening Room Café
Five-Year Engagement, The - Maple Ridge; McKinley Mall, Flix Dipsons; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Hollywood Regals; Transit Drive-In - REVIEW
Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Eastern Hills Dipson
Pirates! Band of Misfits, The - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, McKinley Mall, Flix Dipsons; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Hollywood Regals; Transit Drive-In
Raven, The - Maple Ridge; McKinley Mall, Flix Dipsons; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Hollywood Regals
Safe - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade; Elmwood, Transit, Galleria, Quaker, Hollywood Regals
Set during the synthesis of Latin Jazz in Cuba and its spilling over to the United States, Chico y Rita [Chico & Rita] gives us a love story that lasts half a century. Animated in a charmingly two-dimensional way devoid of gradients in lieu of clearly defined shadows superimposed atop solid shapes of color, the imperfect lines and fluid lights match the slow-tempo bolero songs and dance filling the screen.
It's an era of excitement and music between friendly nations as Woody Herman comes to the Tropicana in Cuba and native percussionist Chano Pozo travels to America on tour with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The sound drove these young musicians to notoriety and created passionate love to mirror its peaks and valleys. It's what brought Chico (Eman Xor Oña) and Rita (Limara Meneses) together before ultimately tearing them apart.
Beginning present day, memories of 1948 flood back as we're whisked away to a small club where a younger Chico and best friend Ramón (Mario Guerra) have a couple Yankee tourists on their arms. Out for a drink and fun, Chico locks eyes with the evening's singer and falls in love with both voice and beauty at once.
The problem, however, is that too much love is in the air and a morning at the piano composing the tune "Rita" turns into a catfight between the eponymous woman and Chico's girlfriend Juana. It's but the first of many rough patches as the relationship between our leads goes on and off again. A constant series of misassumptions eventually finds them on opposite sides of the Gulf of Mexico as Chico's inability to trust leads him into a drunken stupor while producer Ron (Lenny Mandel) takes Rita to the states for a career in the pictures.
Admittedly, the tumultuous ups and downs of the titular pairing can get a bit annoying as just a second can turn anger into a passionate embrace. Perhaps there is a cultural divide in this regard, though, and I'll give screenwriters Fernando Trueba and Ignacio Martínez de Pisón the benefit of the doubt.
But while the love story may fall prey to convenience, schizophrenic reversals, and an overall stereotypical trajectory towards fate finding a way to keep them together, the real appeal of Chico y Rita comes from the world directors Trueba and Javier Mariscal have created. And I don't mean just visually with the stunning landscapes of Las Vegas, New York City, and Havana possessing full frames of neon lights, skyscrapers, and the hustle and bustle of city living, but also the non-fictional history of Latin Jazz's origins at work in the background.
Deserving of its Goya for Best Animated Feature in Spain and its Oscar nomination in the same category here in the US, Chico y Rita is definitely a work of art worth seeing. Parents should not be confused and assume the lack of rating makes it safe for children, however, since the film does contain nudity, drugs, and violence throughout, but it is a wonderful change of pace to the Hollywood machine for a mature audience who loves culture. Full of a Cuban flavor and jazz pieces that may be familiar to fans of the genre, the rather sentimental romance at its center shouldn't negate the success of everything happening around it.
Chico y Rita [Chico & Rita] 7/10 | ★ ★ ★
 Chico & Rita, nightclub.
 New York street, night time.
courtesy of GKIDS.