Chico & Rita

Chico & Rita

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The November UK release date granted to this Spanish language animation makes cosying up with it all the more attractive, since it offers an escape from the chill of the British weather into a world of warm romance, Latin rhythms and, for the most part, a welcoming golden sub-tropical colour palette. But whatever the weather, it has plenty of charms to offer both fans of animation for adults and Cuban music.

Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque, Calle 54) teams up with artist and designer brothers Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando to create a fictional tale of enduring love against the backdrop of the real-life Cuban and New York jazz scene of the late 1940s and 50s. We first meet Chico (Emar Xor Ona) in present day Cuba, where he shines shoes for a living before shuffling his way back to his apartment to listen to jazz oldies on the radio.

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Flashing back in time, we see the young Chico, a brilliant piano player with a penchant for the ladies, who falls for the voice - and body - of Rita, a singer he sees while out on the town with his bosom buddy and 'manager' Ramon. The film goes on to track the turbulent relationship and careers of Chico and Rita (Limara Meneses, with songs by Idania Valdes), that will see them travel to the bright lights of America in an attempt to make a name for themselves and try to keep their romance alive.

The animation is highly stylised, with more emphasis on shadow and light and the movement and rhythm of the characters than on intimate detailing. However, this impressionistic style suits the ever-present, free-wheeling jazz soundtrack composed by Cuban musical legend Bebo Vald├ęs, and while the story is as old as the hills, its simplicity allows the atmosphere and events of the period to shine through.

There's good use of colour to suggest place, from the hot tones of Cuba to the cold, grey streets of snowy New York and the neon bright glitz of Las Vegas, and there's plenty of colour in terms of background story, too, including comments regarding the segregation of blacks and whites in both America and Cuba and changes brought about by the revolution. As with Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, there is a real sense of place being evoked - although, here the devil isn't in the detail, but in the broad brush strokes suggesting vibrancy and life.

Perhaps a slightly difficult sell, since this is most certainly for adults, not children - sex scenes abound and they are surprisingly sultry and sexy - Chico & Rita has visual and musical charms that make it well worth a look.

Reviewed on: 09 Nov 2010
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The turbulent romance between a Cuban pianist and a singer in Forties and Fifties.
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Director: Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba, Tono Errando

Writer: Fernando Trueba, Ignacio Martinez de Pison

Starring: Mario Guerra, Limara Meneses, Estrella Morente, Eman Xor Oña

Year: 2010

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Spain

Festivals:

SSFF 2013

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