From the Chicago Reader (December 8, 1995). — J.R.
I Am Cuba
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
Written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Enrique Pineda Barnet
With Luz Maria Collazo, Jose Gallardo, Sergio Corrieri, Maria Gonzalez Broche, Raul Garcia, and Jean Bouise.
Undeniably monstrous and breathtakingly beautiful, ridiculous and awe inspiring, I Am Cuba confounds so many usual yardsticks of judgment that any kind of star rating becomes inadequate. A delirious, lyrical, epic piece of communist propaganda from 1964 — at least three years in the making and 141 minutes long–it is simply too campy and too grotesque to qualify as a “masterpiece,” but I’d probably care less about it if it were one. A “must-see” may come closer to the mark, but it certainly isn’t a must-see for everybody. This movie has been rattling around in my head since I first encountered it 16 months ago, yet I can’t say it won’t enrage some people and bore others. Worth seeing? Has redeeming facet? Worthless? It fits all and none of these categories. To put it simply, the world doesn’t make allowances for a freak of this kind.
A Russian-Cuban production, it reportedly was hated in Russia and Cuba alike in the mid-60s, at least among government officials; in Cuba it was commonly known as I Am Not Cuba.… Read more »
This may be Antonioni’s most unjustly neglected fiction feature, at least in the U.S. (though even in France, where it’s on DVD, it’s only available in a box set). I reviewed it for the May 1975 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin. –J.R.
Signora Senza Camelie, La
(The Lady Without Camelias)
Italy, 1953 Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
If it lacks the final fusion of purposes characterizing a masterwork, La Signora Senza Camelie is nevertheless so unmistakably and remarkably the work of a master that one is shocked to discover the rather cursory critical treatment is has generally been accorded. A frequent bone of contention is Lucia Bosè’s performance as the starlet in search of an identity –- recalling that the part was first offered, in turn, to Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren, and usually implying some difficulty in accepting Bosè as a persuasive Milanese-shopgirl-turned-sex-symbol. Yet what strikes one at once today is how totally her cold, somewhat remote beauty establishes and “places” the tone of the film, clarifying her cosmic distance from the brassy world of popular filmmaking as well as the natural way in which she might become the goddess of such a realm. In anticipation of Godard’s Vivre sa vie, Antonioni brilliantly opens the film with an image of Clara seen from behind, as an anonymous pedestrian -– tracing her fingers across a move poster and then strolling down the street, the camera gliding slowly after her until she turns into the cinema entrance.… Read more »
From Time Out (London), Sept. 27—Oct. 3, 1974. –- J.R.
‘Amarcord’ (Curzon, Warner West End) is Fellini at this ripest and loudest, which is not to say always at his best. Recreating a fantasy vision of his home town during the fascist period, with generous helpings of soap opera and burlesque, he generally gets his better effects by orchestrating his colorful cast of characters around the town square, on a boat outing, or at a festive local wedding. When he narrows his focus to individual groups, he usually limits himself to corny bathroom and bedroom jokes which produce the desired titters but little else. But despite the ups and downs, it’s still Fellini, which has become an identifiable substance like salami or pepperoni that can be sliced into at any point, yielding pretty much the same general consistency and flavor. There are the expected set pieces (family dinner, fascist rally), the customary cartoon cut-outs (a blind accordionist, a tobacconist with breasts the size of watermelons), and the tearful tones of Nino Rota, as evocative as ever. Fellini’s home town would have liked it. (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
… Read more »