Chico and Rita, good movie!

A typical cuban song is an artful mix of images and phrases… selected from the long  history of cuban songs, with new ideas added in.
Chico and Rita is like a typical Cuban song: it mixes a wide range of stories, facts, images of Cuba in just the same way.  Like the successful songs, this movie makes an excellent mix.
The hero is an old man once famous, now reduced to shining shoes.  He is hunted down by a young artist who heard his old records.  He is wanted to play piano for the first time in many years, for a new recording in a studio that is obviously the old RCA studio used for Buena Vista Social Club.
If you know the story of Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer on Buena Vista Social Club, that’s them … the details are mixed… and they aren’t ever named.
But Chano Pozo is named in a later sequence: there’s the story of his tragic end… being killed over a drug deal in New York… falling against the jukebox playing Manteca.  The story has been told many times on paper, here it is finally dramatized in a way that will be hard to forget.
So many details of Cuba are just there, without fanfare, clear and true.  The piropo, the chisme, the banter of neighbours in the barrio, love playing out with inevitable passion and inevitable tragedy.
But especially the music.  In fact, much of the music is new, but entirely in the mold of real Cuba.
Bebo Valdez has been a personal friend of director Trueba since before Calle 54 was a success, and his brilliant music infuses the movie.  He recorded this at over 90 years of age.  Many other excellent musicians are presented.  The sound is clear, full of nuance, it is always “center stage”.  The story is a backdrop for the music rather than vice versa.
The co-directors obviously have a love story with Cuba like previous moviemakers Wim Wenders and Ry Cooder, only this one has lasted much longer and learned much more… there’s lots to savour in Chico and Rita.

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