Quick Thoughts: I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba, 1964)
Made by Mikhail Kalatozov, this is the Cuban film of the series.
I Am Cuba is, in many ways, a masterpiece. It’s a story told in four episodes by Cuba, the island, itself. But, this is not an objective film, instead, it is highly political–even a piece of propaganda. It was funded by the Soviet government (made by a Soviet director) in the interest of promoting socialism and the Cuban revolution. However, this film was received badly in both Cuba and Russia, and would later be discovered in the 90s. What is so striking about this film is the camera work. It needn’t be said, but… awe-inspiring. For the first 3 episodes, the direction and technical work embody the concept of an ethereal being telling a story wondrously, taking work that Welles would do in segments of Citizen Kane, The Touch Of Evil and The Magnificent Ambersons, and putting into a 140 minute experiment. In the fourth episode, things drop off, and such seems to be a consequence of how fantastically shot the third episode is. But, the best way to describe the cinematic language of this film is to say that this would be a wet dream of André Bazin’s. The realism imbued into the long shots, the ‘truth’ captured by the close-up impressionism, the fluidity of the seemingly alive and conscious frame, all come together to create a liquid tapestry of omnipotence, one that transcends much of the politics.
The only draw backs of this film for some may be the pacing. I found this no issue at all. The story didn’t amount to much (though, the second episode is very memorable) in my view, but the technical achievement of this film is utterly immense. I Am Cuba is a film to be found and then beheld. A technical masterpiece.
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