Saturday, November 26, 2016
The big news of the day - internationally speaking - is of course the death of Fidel Castro, "El Comandante" in Cuba since 1959. The last big political figure of the 20th Century died yesterday and tears in Havana, Cuba, contrast with joy of Cuban exiles in Little Havana, Miami, as Castro was loved or hated depending on what side you were. I have one story for you that you won't read anywhere else and it's about a GORGEOUS movie filmed by Mikhail Kalatozov, award winning Russian director in the early 1960's. Castro had asked him a movie about the Cuban revolution and Kalazotov did "Soy Cuba" a sumptuous movie which in fact starts before the revolution, showing the era of dictator Batista and ends with the revolution forces marching on La Havana. The movie took three years to be filmed and had its premiere of course in La Havana. But there is a big "but" as what happened next is that, inexplicably, Fidel Castro hated the movie and ordered that the movie was never shown!
During the next thirty five years or so the film stayed on the shelves of the Mosfilm archives in Moscow until it was finally shown late 80's - early 90's during a film festival in America. Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola who were there almost fell off their chairs when they discovered it, and Scorcese said at that time that "if the world could have seen this movie in the early sixties the way to film movies would have been changed forever". Why? Because Mikhail Kalatozov had filmed almost the whole movie in "sequence shots", i.e there is no "cuts" during a five minutes sequence, or more. And this at a time when the "Steadycam" was not invented yet, neither the visual effects by ILM wizards! The result is that we have a movie in which in fact "it's the camera which tells the story" as Scorcese said, as there is just a few dialogues during the whole movie. The whole film is fascinating and truly gorgeous, so gorgeous that it's on my list of one of "the ten movies i would take with me on a desert island" if i had to choose ten. I can't recommend enough to anyone to find it and watch it, and i still don't understand why Castro hated it as it is a hymn to Cuba and the Cuban people.
I've found for you two amazing sequences filmed, as i've said, in "sequence shot" mode. The first one below is the very start of the movie - which, by the way, is entirely filmed in a gorgeous black and white - and, after a start with a woman reading a poem about Cuba while the camera follows a fisherman boat, the next scene shows a fashion show on the top of a hotel of Cuba when Batista was still in power ( so before the revolution began ). WATCH what the camera is doing all in one shot without cuts. Nowadays the sequence shots are often used but back in the 1960's with he exception of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Rope" ( which was filmed entirely in studios and not outdoors like here ), there was not a lot of movies which were filmed that way, as it is incredibly difficult to stage a scene with no cuts during five minutes. The other sequence, even more incredible is below.
And this other one "sequence shot" is even more incredible. In that scene the camera follows funeral of a young man killed by the forces of Batista police. Look closely how the camera starting in the street goes up all along a building, enter a room with dozens of people making cigars and then goes out again literally flying over the crowd of the funeral in the street below. It's this kind of shot who left Martin Scorcese voiceless when he discovered the film, and Martin had to see the film again and again to find how they did it. Absolutely beautiful! Again, try to find "Soy Cuba" and watch it, it's one of the most beautiful film in cinema history, not only for its beautiful sequence shots but also for its humanity!
For those interested ( and you should be, believe me! ) Soy Cuba (also titled: I am Cuba ) is available on Amazon.com in its "ultimate edition" ( Dvd only ) HERE for $24.79. Language: Spanish with English subtitles - Run Time: 141 minutes.
Also exist in French DVD with French subtitles in normal edition for 15.99€ on Amazon.fr HERE.
"One of the most deliriously beautiful films ever made". - --Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly