Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning propoganda piece, 7 Jan. 2005
This review is from: I Am Cuba [DVD] [1964] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
I am Cuba/Soy Cuba features the stories of several Cuban citizen-types: a young prostitute, a farmer, a young revolutionary and so on, up to the start of the island's Castro Revolution.
If this sounds dull, then rest assured that the plot is minimal and, despite it's avowedly political purpose, hardly gets in the way of the film's main attractions today. What distinguishes the production is the cinematography. It is not an exaggeration to say that the images and technique in the film are breathtaking, and it is a tour-de-force of bravura camera work. Apparently Martin Scorcese has screened this film privately to work out how such-and-such a shot was achieved, and perhaps it's influence can be found in the famous through-the-kitchens tracking shot in 'Goodfellas'.
This is a film where the camera is constantly in motion, with sweeping balletic long takes, crane and hand held shots, tracking shots, includingsome over and down the side of buildings, through cane fields, into swimming pools, around packed night clubs, even hovering and moving along high over a street in the middle of a packed funeral procession - all without the usual cutting. I estimate the average length of a take in this film at about 2 - 3 minutes, a figure rare enough when done well these days, with the benefit of steadicams - but jaw dropping given the still-unwieldy equipment they were surely using in 1964. In particular one or two large scale sequences must have taken days, if not weeks, to prepare, and presumably needed government marshaling to choreograph. (Ironically, whether or not the film makers intended it, the liberated camera work on display here reflects the notion of revolutionary freedom far more than the actual story vignettes.)
The film itself is shot in high contrast, gorgeous black and white favouring wide angle lenses, and its constant deep focus reminded me of Greg Toland's work for Welles or some of James Wong Howes' work. Kalatozov's use of a handful of character 'types' throughout recalls Eisenstein's (and in fact there is a faint reference to his the Odessa Steps sequence in 'Battleship Potemkin' at one point when the revolutionary rioters march down some steps), but the effect here is far more sensual and lyrical. Among the professional actors, Sergio Corrieri also appears in the better-known Memories of Underdevelopment. The film's 'artiness' is undeniably a distraction from the message of struggle, and to the original viewers the beautiful images must have been a long way from reality in the New Cuba.
Today we don't have this problem and the viewer is left with a visual feast to enjoy over and over again..
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Nov 2010 20:18:03 GMT
P. Barnes says:
Scorcese has viewed the funeral scene over 500 times - and like me, still cannot figure out how it is filmed. Remarkable cinematography.

Posted on 20 Nov 2010 20:18:34 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 20 Nov 2010 20:19:29 GMT]
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