I had enjoyed the adult animated movie Wrinkles (posted here on 21 Oct 17) so much a week ago that I decided to borrow this DVD that I’ve seen on the library shelves a few times before. Ater watching, I wonder why it didn’t win in whatever category it was nominated for in the 2012 Academy Awards.
I really like this Spanish production, so I didn’t mind that it is dubbed: a story of star-crossed love, passion and heartbreak, with the backdrop of the music and culture of Cuba. Everything from the plot, to the music, to the animation is like a magical experience!
The story begins in Cuba in 1948. Chico is a young jazz piano player who first set eyes on a singer called Rita at a club, singing Besame Mucho. Chico has dreams of making it big; Rita has an extraordinary voice and will make something out of it. Chico writes a song and dedicates it to Rita, but which later gets renamed Lily, after a poodle in Paris.
Chico and Rita join hands to take part in a competition as a couple and wins the grand prize with Yesterday’s Melodies which remains their hit after decades. Rita, because of her marvellous voice, gets talent scouted and goes to New York where she headlines a long-running production called Deer In My Heart. Chico, after sporadic gigs (such as replacing an indisposed pianist in Igor Stavinsky’s Ebony Concerto), gets a contract to be a piano player in Dizzy Gillespie’s touring band. When in Paris, he gets to know a lady friend with a poodle named Lily, and decides to change the title of the song he had earlier written for Rita as he feels betrayed.
By a quirk of fate, Rita and Charlie patch up and decide to tie the knot on New Year eve in Las Vegas. However, Chico is deported when someone framed him and slipped three packets of drugs in his jacket pocket. Rita waits in Las Vegas in vain and cancels her show.
People don’t appreciate jazz anymore, and a disappointed Chico ends up shining shoes on the roadside when he is old. He chances on a piano one day and realises that after so many years, he still has the magic touch over the ivory keys. He is invited to perform all over the world with young singers (eg Sydney and the Grammy Awards) but he never stopped searching for Rita, and eventually finds her in a motel room where she’s waited for 47 years in exchange for doing the house-keeping there.
There is plenty of lovely music (I counted 32 in the end credits) here, including Allegro Moderato from Ebony Concerto by Igor Stravinsky, Love For Sale by Cole Porter, Mambo Herd by Tito Puente, Celia by Bud Powell, Fascinating Rhythm by Geroge and Ira Gershwin, As Time Goes By by Herman Hupfeld, Star Dust by Hoagy Carmichael, Blue Monk by Thelonius Monk and Ecuacion (and many more) by Bebo Vades. The all gel into the story very well.
The animation must have involved an incredible amount of people to do the drawings of Havana, of New York, Las Vegas, Sydney, Paris etc, and the detailed interiors and architecture. The graphic art and visuals created are colourful, interesting and fascinating. Even things like the weather – the different types of climate in the different cities – are clearly distinguished. All the details lend the characters and atmosphere greater credibility and beauty.
The movie doesn’t just tell a love story. It also touches on more serious subjects like capitalism, racial segregation and discrimination. Musically speaking, it is a tribute to the jazz greats like Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, Tito Puente, Chano Pozo, Nat King Cole, Bebo Vades and many more.