Sunday 5 February 2023

I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba) [1964]

 Produced by Mosfilm in collaboration with ICAIC to celebrate the Cuban Revolution, and made when the Cold War was at its frostiest nadir – the Bay of Pigs invasion had just been foiled, and the Cuban Missile Crisis was at its craziest peak – Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba was a dizzying, flamboyant, poetic and rousing political agitprop. Yet, ironically, it resonated neither with the Soviets nor the Cubans at the time, and was largely forgotten until its triumphant “rediscovery” by American cinephiles in the 1990s. The omnibus film, set in pre-Castro Cuba, nonchalantly glorified the country’s rebellious streak and revolutionary path through four episodes, where the respective protagonists representing diverse socioeconomic contexts – a young exploited prostitute in a decadent Havana hotel; an impoverished sugarcane farmer whose farms are sold off to the United Fruit Company; an angry student battling against the city’s despotic police alongside his guerrilla comrades; and a devastated farmer turned rebel in the Sierra Maestra mountains – are all at loggerheads with Batista’s draconian system. Sergey Urusevsky’s dazzling cinematography – filled with technical wizardry, bravura single takes, hallucinatory images crafted using wide-angle and infrared photography, oblique camera angles – made this an idiosyncratic tour de force. Its most jaw-dropping tracking shots included  the camera gliding with a fisherman along a narrow canal between shanty houses; capturing a beauty contest atop a crowded skyscraper, traveling down and plunging into a pool; slipping into a traveling bus and culminating with a 360-degree pan-zoom showing a guy’s getting off it, crossing the streets and walking into Havana University; and moving up from a packed lane into a cigar manufacturing unit, flying out of its balcony, and soaring like a bird observing a funeral procession.

Director: Mikhail Kalatozov

Genre: Drama/Anthology Film/Political Agitprop

Language: Spanish

Country: Cuba/Russia


Rural Manager said...

Shubhajit, I have been coming to this blog on and off for the last 10+ years, and recommendations have always been a delight to add to the IMDB watchlist. Truly happy to explore world cinema with your blog! Great job. - Yayaver

Shubhajit said...

Hey Yayaver, great hearing from you after a long time. Thanks a lot for your kind words & really glad to have been able to send a few good recommendations your way. Do keep visiting & sharing your thoughts.