Strawberries and Chocolate

T.G. Alea’s 1994 film as a look into the lives of homosexuals within socialist Cuba somewhat fulfills the mandate of Garcia Espinosa’s "For An Imperfect Cinema." In the first part of the Espinosa article there is a broad view on how traditional cinema is "reactionary" and not "revolutionary." He talks of the hope of video in giving access to cinema to the masses. I feel Espinosa is somewhat naive in this sense, as he claims painting as art is corrupted by a minority access to it - well, painting tools (or at least pencil and paper) are cheap - yet not that many people jumped on. The point is, only a minority is going to produce art. Furthermore, the Alea film is crisp beautifully exposed 35mm film with only a few video inserts. Strawberries is shot and edited so textbook one could use it to teach. Alea uses over the shoulder shots, POVs, reverse angles, some pans, and never broke 180 degrees. The editing is all traditional L-cuts, T-cuts, dissolves, and fade-to-blacks. There is no experimentation or "imperfection" in the style - only perhaps in the content.

What Espinosa has to say about art is so much less useful than what Aristotle says in the Poetics or what Jean Paul Sartre has to say in What is Literature? In fact, Espinosa is guilty of plagiarizing their work without having understood it obviously. Insofar as the task of art and the examination of its nature go, Espinosa sees it as the kind of "revealer" that Sartre mentions and containing the unity of "action" that Aristotle talks about.

Espinosa says mass art should be made by the masses. Well, Strawberries is not. It was done by a college guy and he used his ensemble of "stars" (which Espinosa prematurely celebrates the death of as a system). Art as a fragmentary social activity is something Espinosa charges cinema with. Espinosa wants art to "disappear into everything." Strawberries is not an answer to this as it exists as a visible innovation. However, the way in which Diego (the gay character) articulates his feelings through novels and other art seems to embody the "disappearance" Espinosa wants.

The motto of imperfect cinema,"We are not interested in the problems of neurosis; we are interested in the problems of lucidity," is indeed evident in Strawberries and Chocolate . Alea clearly shows a gay man, what his troubles are, and how he faces them. While Diego fails immediately, his wins a success by generating sympathy in the other side, the young Communists. The characters do not "suffer" their lot which Espinosa identifies as a "Christian" theme (Guess he’s never heard of Buddhism). The characters in Strawberries work hard toward what they identify as their goals throughout. This work is against society, not "imperialism."


Last Updated on 03/06/00
By JR Kerr
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