Up To A Certain Point
Tomas Gutierrez Alea’s 1984 film deals with machismo by means of a Brechtian playwright in preproduction in a (Shakespearean trope) play within a play. There is a love story that takes over the film as Oscar, the director, falls for a stereotypical spitfire. This female charcter is as the Beatles would sing the "Lady madonna..child at her feet" and engaged in non-comittal relationships in an effort to take care of herself.
Zuzana M. Pick’s article in the new Latin American Cinema talks about how this film accompanies Alea’s move to errode auteurship of cinema; yet seems oblivious to the irony that the main character of the film is an auteur and that his production staff is never fleshed out. When Oscar is on screen, he controls the camera and his thoughts alone are externalized by music or sound effects. However, the film does serve as a knockout love story, present one of the coolest actresses ever to be seen: Mirta Ibarra (move over Lilian Gish !), and gives a really useful sample of what everyday life in Cuba is like.
The books available on everyday life in Cuba are like weird coffee table type things that if covering Texas would have tumbleweed and cowboys throughout. The film is so much more condusive of how alike Cuban life is to anywhere else. Beyond the presence of weird green pods in their rum, nothing in the film seemed foreign.
The other big deal is that assigning this film as representative of life in socialist Cuba seems awkward in that it did not seem like Socialism at all. There was still a huge gap between classes, capital was the goal of all, and it seems more like the film is representative of all life. This is really useful in destroying the myths of poverty and misery that allow US voters to allow Bay of Pigs type stuff to happen. The US concept of Cuba does not include the knowledge that Gitmo US Navy Base is there on their island. Miami local news is always full of stories about refugges from Cuba and this kind of film can serve to dispel the ignorance that is bred from unquestioning news-watchers. How do you get them to watch? Make it a love story!
T.G. Alea shreds. No one would believe a movie about happy Cubans in a perfect society. By the same token nobody would believe (I hope) in a wretched oppressive society of miserable Cubans. So then TG Alea’s vision as a complex multi-dynamic story where there is no manichaen opposition lets a sincere potrait emerge as a kind of document of what was really going in Cuba at the time.
B A C K to Third World Cinema I N D E X