Chico & Rita

Chico & Rita movie poster

From pre-revolutionary Havana to New York and Hollywood in the fifties, Paris in the sixties and modern day Las Vegas, the retro animation of Chico & Rita is visually stunning. Vibrant hand-drawn animation tells the tormented love story of a beautiful singer and talented piano player narrated in the form of a tragic bolero with the great Bebo Valdés tickling the ivories. The result is a valentine bathed in nostalgia, sensuality and revolution.

The film opens in Havana circa 1948. Chico the piano player and Rita the sensual Cuban chanteuse meet, fight and fall in love. They take their act to the top in Havana, and then pride, misunderstanding and fate separate them. Spanning sixty years, we follow them from Havana to New York and Hollywood, Paris and back to modern day Havana and, of all places, Las Vegas. The animation is sublime and most definitely for adults – onscreen love scenes are daring in this animated world. In addition, the film reveals both the Havana of our imagination as well as the small poor neighborhoods where great music is born.

In a sense the film is an amalgamation of the experiences of so many Cuban musicians. There’s a hint of Bebo’s story here, a hint of Celia Cruz and Tito Puente there, while in other scenes members of the Buena Vista Social Club make themselves known. The great American jazz greats are also present, from Thelonius Monk to Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie Parker. The film beautifully captures the intoxicating energy of jazz and to visually trace its steps along the narrow street of Havana and the snowy alleys of New York is pure joy.

The thread of racism, both in Cuba and in the US in the fifties, is ever present. We see Rita struggle as a Latina in Hollywood and how musicians are exploited by those willing to sacrifice integrity in order to make a few dollars more.

Chico & Rita demonstrates how music is a bridge, between Cuban and African American jazz musicians, between lovers, between heartache and love, between the cities of New York and Havana and between the past and the present. Ultimately, it’s a valentine and tribute to the great jazz musicians of the last sixty years.

Director: Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba – Actors: Mario Guerra, Limara Meneses – Running Time: 1:34 – Year: 2010 – Country: USA

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Anji Milanovic

Anji Milanovic

Anji is a co-founder of Plume Noire and lives in Los Angeles, California. She speaks 5 languages and works for the Art Commission.
Anji Milanovic

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