Reviewed: Chico and Rita & Metropolis

Released on November 19, Chico and Rita is an animated love letter to Cuban jazz, while the re-released Metropolis shows a world that the Tories aspire to.
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Released on November 19, Chico and Rita is an animated love letter to Cuban jazz, while the re-released Metropolis shows a world that the Tories aspire to.

Chico and Rita is a totally unique film. The story of Chico a virtuoso Cuban piano player with big ambitions and Rita, a singer with a splendid voice, it begins in Cuba in 1947 and, by following the couple’s journey tells of the extraordinary influence the island’s music had on jazz. Nothing unusual about that perhaps, but it is when the film is a full length animated feature that boasts one of the finest jazz sound tracks of any film in decades.

“I had seen some of Javier Mariscal’s drawings of Old Havana and a light went off in my head,” says director Fernando Trueba. “So I suggested we make a film based on his drawings beginning in Havana in the 40s, intertwining the story of Bebo Valdés and all that great Afro Cuban jazz we love so much. It’s not the story of anyone in particular, but I always had the notion that Chico (the protagonist) personifies all of the Cuban musicians of that generation: those who left the island, and those who stayed such as those portrayed in TheBuena Vista Social Club.”

And while the animation took several years so did the recording of the music. “I did not simply want to toss in a bunch of classic, older recordings and have the soundtrack feel like a compilation album,” explains Trueba. “And although many of those older recordings sound amazing, I didn’t want the music to appear outdated. It was a crucial to the film that these classic pieces of Bebo’s as well as other Cuban works feel re-vamped, fresh and new.”

Trueba set out to find musicians who might not only interpret the songs in the spirit of those featured in the film, such as Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk, but add something of their own. “The driving force was the musical score,” explains Trueba. “ I was always thinking to myself, “What is the music that represents this or that scene?”

Lest we forget, the Tories are now slyly using the so called economic crisis to slowly erode the society that we have dutifully fought and paid for and, by raising student tuition fees, ensure that those on the lowest rung remain there.

Also released this week is a newly reconstructed and restored version of Metropolis,that including 25 minutes of footage previously thought lost to the world, was directed by Fritz Lang in 1927 maybe one of the most influential films of the 20th century it depicts a dystopian future world where society is distinctly divided into two halves where above ground the workers go about their endless mind numbing drudgery while underground their toff rulers and bosses enjoy a life of unmitigated luxury and leisure surrounded by great libraries, sports arenas  and attend  decadent parties the cost of which would feed a school. A film that basically depicts the world that Thatcher, Cameron and The Conservative party have always strived to create, it, although taking things to the extreme, is nevertheless a wake up call. Lest we forget, the Tories are now slyly using the so called economic crisis to slowly erode the society that we have dutifully fought and paid for and, by raising student tuition fees, ensure that those on the lowest rung remain there, thus creating a divided society which is what this film is about.

And yes, made in the twenties, just as the world was about to be engulfed by depression Metropolis is a parabolic caricatured tale but, featuring some of the greatest ever set pieces (like the workers marching through the tunnels, the montage of machine parts and the creation of the robot) its status as a great and massively influential work of art remains.

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