Slow but rewarding, "Suite Habana" is an affectionate photo album of daily life for a handful of Cubans.
By PETER THEIS
A fly on the wall and in the street, the point of view in "Suite
Habana" takes in Havana and its denizens with an affectionate gaze. Lacking
narrative drive, drama, and even speech, the non-fiction film is a lyrical
document, humanist catalogue, kinetic photo album, and an ode to everyday
moments, joys, lulls, and tasks.
The unit of focus is the family, and almost a dozen are featured,
shot in chronological, day-in-the-life style. The film skirts from one
subject to another, and the characterization of each person is patiently
constructed as morning passes to afternoon, afternoon to night. Just a
sampling: a hospital launderer by day performs in drag by night; a railroad
mechanic plays saxophone in his church's choir; a young man does carpentry
work on his family's home before dancing ballet; an elderly woman keeps
house for grandson and husband before painting in night's silence.
|Original title: Suite Havana.|
Written and directed by: Fernando PŽrez.
Cast: Francisco Cardet, Amanda Gautier.
Cinematography: Raœl Perez Ureta.
Edited by: Pedro Oscar PŽrez, Julia Yip.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site
| RELATED ARTICLES|
Havana Film Festival in New York|
Tribeca Film Festival|
Happily, the sum of the film far exceeds a diary of a day's
activities; like the recent arthouse hit "My Architect," the film coyly uses
an uncomplicated method as cover for touching on great human themes, such as
devotion, loss, and the pursuit of dreams. Confident in the music of its
subjects' modest lives, "Suite Habana" discreetly promotes its humanist vision
that there is sanctity and beauty in even the plainest day, and that human
bonds and realizable dreams are sufficient riches.
Much is omitted, of course. Everyone featured is good if not
angelic, and, despite the poverty and cramped conditions that the subjects
endure, there is no abuse, crime, desperation, repression, or even frayed
nerves. Sex and sexual desire are hardly even suggested (perhaps erring too
far in a corrective move to counter tropical stereotypes). For all its
humanism, the film, Hallmark-style, is selective in its affirmations and
forgoes critique of any kind, creating a picture of an innocent world which
we wish we could, but can't, describe to our children. Both edited and
epic, this is Clean Havana, the parallel city to the filthy, crumbling,
wracked, licentious and louche Havana depicted in Pedro Juan Gutierrez's
novel "Dirty Havana," where poverty invests all its victims with a mercenary
psychology and horizonless hopelessness.|
As a near-silent lyrical treatment of place and people, "Suite Habana"
works the same cinematic corner as one of the most famous films about Cuba,
the '60s Soviet agitprop piece "Soy Cuba." However, in contrast to that film's
Marxist methodology, "Suite Habana" is a purely organic picture, where truths
arise unforced from the particularity and specificity of the lives of its
subjects. As far as attitude towards Cuba, if "Soy Cuba" is a skilled heart
surgeon, diagnosing the ills of pre-Castro Cuban society and illustrating
them forcefully in unnuanced black and white to a crowd of admiring
students, "Suite Habana" is an elderly family physician, who knows his
patients intimately, and cares for them deeply. The old-fashioned warmth of
this physician, and this film, should not be resisted.
|MAY 1, 2004|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Suite Habana:
Post a comment on "Suite Habana"