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I Am Cuba
March 6, 7:00 PM$5 - $9
“When Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba — a long-lost, phantasmagoric Cuban-Soviet propaganda film from 1964 — was rediscovered and reissued in late 1995 (with the prominent support of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola), critic Terrence Rafferty wrote the following in his New Yorker review: ‘They’re going to be carrying ravished film students out of the theaters on stretchers.’
“That’s about right. Personally speaking, I certainly needed medical assistance to reattach my jaw, which had dropped permanently to the floor during one of the film’s famed tracking shots.
“Though I Am Cuba is fascinating enough as an historical footnote the reason it endures is almost exclusively cinematic: Given the virtually unlimited resources of two countries at their disposal, Russian director Kalatozov (The Cranes Are Flying) and his cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky turned the newly Communist Cuba into a lush playground where they could experiment with wide-angle lenses, whooshing camera moves, and towering crane shots held for minutes at a time.
“Their assignment was to affirm the revolutionary spirit that had just given birth to a new Cuba, but within those broad parameters, they were free to pull off all the technical wonderments they could dream up. After all, in a movie where the country itself serves as voiceover narrator, there’s no danger in getting bogged down in the particulars of character….
“The four vignettes that comprise the film have a poetic simplicity, building from personal hardships and tragedy to the triumphant movement of the collective…. But where a run-of-the-mill propaganda film might drive home its Communist sentiments with, say, a hammer and sickle, Kalatozov and Urusevsky’s technical acrobatics carry them across with dazzling, unceasing sensuality….”
—Scott Tobias, AV Club.
In Spanish with English subtitles. (Unrated, 135 min., 1964)
Tickets: $9 for adults, $5 for students.
Part of the Monday Night Movies: Revolutions Series.