Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

So, who caught "I Am Cuba" last night?


Dargo2
 Share

Recommended Posts

Unfortunately, I only caught the first two segments before the Sandman did his number on me and I feel asleep on the couch, BUT what I DID catch was absolutely fascinating.

 

As Bob O. said before the showing of it, this little propaganda film contained some of the most imaginatively done visuals you will ever see, and I could see why he stated that some of the most celebrated directors out there have included it on their list of great films.

 

While watching the first segment, Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov's use of a story which featured the relationships between three American businessmen and the Cuban hookers they pickup at a bar and presented in a mesmerizingly surrealistic manner in obvious efforts to express the thought of "America money's corrupting influence", it started reminding me quite a bit of the cinematography and overall feel in the 2005 film "Sin City".

 

Did anyone else who might've caught this movie last night get a little feeling of this also?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw it all, and recorded it. I will see it again. It is a great film. Some of my observations:

 

Everyone remarks on the propaganda element. So what? It was no worse than many WWII American movies. In fact, less so. If people absolutely can't stand the mention of Castro, just substitute in your mind your favorite tyrant and revolutionary liberator.

 

The wide-angle, hand-held camera got tiring to watch, despite the brilliance of the direction. I wonder if it was used to smooth out the shots and provide a great depth of field.

 

It is a cruel irony to hear throughout the movie Castro's adherents claiming he is fighting for the liberation of the Cuban people, and ask the peasants if they own the land they farm.

 

Betty is Cuba, a good girl forced into the degradations of prostitution by the corrupting influences of America.

 

Notice the progression in the stories. The first has merely a victim. The second has a victim who futilely strikes out at his oppressors. The third has a more directed victim, whose attempts still come up short. The last story has the victim (a peasant) turned to effective soldier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> slaytonf wrote:

> Everyone remarks on the propaganda element. So what? It was no worse than many WWII American movies.

 

I believe that many movies had propaganda worked into characterizations or plot elements. Action movies require a protagonist and an antagonist and making the antagonist the viewer's real-world enemy is a no-brainer. Adding a little flag-waving here and there does not seriously detract from the movie.

 

My dislike for: *I am Cuba* (1964) is that it is the opposite of that in that its script outline is faithfully Chapters One to Six of: How to Brainwash the Naive Masses in Four Easy Stages - 2nd Revised Edition with characters and story tacked on as needed to sustain the victim's interest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

>SansFin:

>My dislike for: I am Cuba (1964) is that it is the opposite of that in that its script outline is faithfully Chapters One to Six of: How to Brainwash the Naive Masses in Four Easy Stages - 2nd Revised Edition with characters and story tacked on as needed to sustain the victim's interest.

 

Despite it's political orientation, the characters in the film were depicted sensitively, personally, and powerfully, as time permitted for the segments of the film. Certainly more vital than uncounted production-line Hollywood movies with textbook plots, rote characters, wooden performances, and predigested outcomes. The home grown political propagandizing makes them go down easy. It is unfortunate that people's visceral reaction to communism prevents them from appreciating this fine film, which requires no asterisk to enable one to enjoy it. But as I suggested, there is an easy remedy. Simply substitute your preferred political philosophy and liberation heroes, and everything works out just fine.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, I only caught five minutes of which segment I know not. All I saw was several feet of film shot with what looked like water or mineral oil flowing over the image. The remaining footage I saw looked as if the cameraman was lying on the ground, shooting upwards with the subject in constant silhouette.

 

Didn't impress me much. I suppose I'll have to wait to see it in entirety, although if the rest is pretty much on this order, I might take a pass.

 

Sepiatone

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mikhail Kalatozov?s *I AM CUBA* (1964) has some amazing camera shots and gives us a look at the First World metropolis Havana was before and just after the revolution. The pro-Castro and anti-American propaganda will appeal to that audience, but most people who see it today will watch for the cinematography of Sergey Uruvetsky and the directorial wizardry of Kalatozov. As with *THE CRANES ARE FLYING*, I had the thought that Kalatazov is like Ken Russell with talent?or enough talent. *I AM CUBA* is very uneven in quality, not least because Kalatozov is, consciously or not, urban and bourgeois at heart, and the peasant scenes fall flat by comparison.

 

The film splits into four episodes, and the first and the third are the parts I?d like to see again. The first has the amazing camera shot which descends a hotel wall, follows a bathing beauty into the pool, pops out of the pool, and back in. This is the part where we?re invited to enjoy the casino and the bar with great-looking women and hot jazz, all the while clucking with disapproval at the Americans who have the wherewithal to afford the great-looking women, etc. The scene with the masked dancers is like a shaky cam version of von Sternberg. Some of these shots are so elaborate I started watching and even re-winding just to see where the cuts occurred. The actors who dubbed the English lines of the ?Americans? are really atrocious. At the center of this episode is Maria, a poor and devout young woman who becomes a prostitute at the casino to make money. Had an American audience in 1964 seen this, some of them would not have liked the part where the dark-skinned jazz singer flirts with a lovely blonde in a Jean Seberg hairdo.

 

The second part?a tenant farmer who grows sugar cane learns that his land will be sold to United Fruit and he will get nothing--marks a significant drop in quality. The first half of this episode, until the farmer sends his children to town, is full of visual clich?s. For instance, there?s the John Ford doorway shot, the Gabriel Figueroa shot of the noble peasants silhouetted against the sky?now I understand why Kazan did not want Figueroa to photograph *VIVA ZAPATA*. There?s also a scene from the ground?s point of view where the camera whirls around exactly like Ken Russell. The shrewdest bit of social criticism in the entire film comes when the daughter goes to the tiny village nearby and drinks Coca Cola and plays a song on a jukebox.

 

The third episode, the heart of the film, has a storyline similar to John Huston?s *WE WERE STRANGERS*, also a film about revolution in Cuba, but made before Castro?s revolt. Enrique, a student, wants to kill the chief of police who murdered his friend, but another friend, evidently the leader of the student rebels, warns him of the need to change the system, not to get rid of one man. Spoilers: The twists of the plot are quite satisfying. Enrique can?t kill the policeman because he sees him with his wife and child; the policeman will kill the student who urged Enrique not to kill him; Enrique will try and fail to kill the policeman again, during the riot, and the policeman will kill him, but this only gives the rebellion the martyr it needs.

 

The filming of the third episode often took my breath away. It begins with a newsreel of Batista, then pulls back for us to see that we?re at a drive-in, then some young men attack the screen. There?s a beautiful scene of Enrique walking the night streets of Havana, with the shop windows ethereally lit. Any film noir director would be proud to claim the scene where Enrique runs up the stairs (at first we don?t know why, but learn it?s to kill the police chief). Enrique?s funeral inspires the incredible shot which goes up several stories, crosses the street, goes into a cigar factory and out a window and then floats above the street below. This section makes a satisfying film all on its own.

 

The fourth and final episode, in which a peasant gives part of his family?s meal to an exhausted Jesus, er, Fidel and finally decides to join the revolution, can?t begin to sustain the same level of quality. After so much dazzling camerawork, nothing would work more powerfully than simple framing and cutting?appropriate, perhaps, also for the campesino?s simpler way of life?but the camera swoops and tilts and jitters like a junkie waiting for a fix. The only part of this episode which made a strong impression was the moment when the peasant and his wife are reunited near a waterfall. Near the beginning of part four, three captured rebels, when asked ?Where is Fidel?? respond ?I am Fidel!? Hey, the dudes had seen *SPARTACUS*. The ending, with the grinning campesino now part of Castro?s army, comes perilously close to camp. As much as Kalatazov is the perfect director for the urban scenes, he is not well suited to depicting peasant life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Did you write this review, kingrat? 'Cause if you did, I thought it was expertly written and agree with your take on it. Though as I earlier stated, unfortunately I was only able to catch the first two segments of this film because I fell asleep due to its very late night showing.

 

I hope TCM presents it again soon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

> slaytonf wrote:

> there is an easy remedy. Simply substitute your preferred political philosophy and liberation heroes, and everything works out just fine.

 

I am sorry to say I can not do that as my morals are not so flexible as to accept the concept that what is immoral for one side is moral for the other side.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sans my friend, knowing as I do just a little of your own personal history, I can fully understand and appreciate why you would be especially inclined to resist appreciating any film with the premise that "Communism is the 'cure' for the world's(or in this case Cuba's) misery".

 

And while I would agree with your general sentiment here, the primary reason I started this thread was to express my amazement at discovering Mikhail Kalatozov's inventive use of the camera in this film.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...