Monday, August 07, 2006

‘Lost’ in the Shuffle

I am going to ask you to do something. You may take it as recommendation, but if so you have missed the point. While I would not hesitate o recommend this film, I am asking.

It is this: Tomorrow, grab your checkbook and stuff it in your pocket. Pull your credit card and carry it with you. Or make sure you have a twenty in the billfold and head out. Then, go to a Target or a Barnes & Noble or your local DVD rental front. But find and bring home Andy Garcia’s Lost City.

The Lost City’s story is the story of late 50’s Havana, a place of dissension, violence, and celebration in the same heartbeat. A despotic rule is finally crumbling as its works come back to haunt it and as the American mob scene decides to cut its losses. But along with the government, the city, the island, there is a family that will never rest in itself the same way again.

When I first heard about this film, back when it was on the festival circuit, I decided I had to see it. I didn’t know what historio-political world-view it would take, what its emphasis was. I just knew it had to be seen. As it turned out, once given theatrical release, only Cuban-Americans had any interest in it (possibly due to a non-existent advertising campaign), and only one city could be counted upon to be playing it any particular week. Finally, I decided to try using my frequent-flyer miles for a trip to one of Miami’s many cooperative movie houses.

As mentioned, the film is directed by the estimable Andy Garcia. It features fine acting talent, including Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray as American expatriates. The first is Batista’s mafia influence, the second the Greek chorus. Garcia himself is not only behind the camera but also in front of it, as what I view as a sober Ricky Riccardo.

I will not say that it is one of the greatest films ever made, a phrase far too frequently used. I will say that you should almost certainly see it. Little seen so far, yet much criticized, it should be emphasized that the flak it has been thrown for “historical inaccuracy” has come from individuals with a greater sense of pop culture than of history itself. The only condemnation I could give this film in honesty would be that it is paced more like a slow, epic novel than a Hollywood film. And that is no condemnation at all. (Please, someone try telling me that Schindler’s List is “too slow” and not “vivacious enough.”)

Largely stylized, probably “artsy,” this is a story of history and culture lost and found created every step of the way by children of that culture and eyewitnesses to that history, a moving portrayal of authentic family discord and kinship, a film worth seeing.

No comments: