Combustible Celluloid
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With: Andy Garcia, Tomas Milian, Steven Bauer, Inés Sastre, Millie Perkins, Elizabeth Peña, Enrique Murciano, Nestor Carbonell, Victor Rivers, Julio Oscar Mechoso, William Marquez, Jsu Garcia, Dominik García-Lorido, Richard Bradford, Gonzalo Menendez, Juan Fernández, Bill Murray, Dustin Hoffman, Tony Plana
Written by: G. Cabrera Infante
Directed by: Andy Garcia
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Running Time: 143
Date: 09/03/2005

The Lost City (2006)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cuba, Si!

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cuban-born Andy Garcia has literally been working on The Lost City for decades, working from a screenplay by the late Cuban writer and sometime film critic G. Cabrera Infante. It finally opens amidst a smattering of critical "blahs," but it deserves a chance. Over-directed, yes, it's still an epic, passionate portrayal of Cuba before and during the rise of Castro, painted through vibrant music as well as brush strokes from Casablanca and The Godfather Trilogy (in which Garcia appeared). Garcia stars as nightclub owner Fico Fellove, whose El Tropico showcases the latest singers and costumed dancers. Fico comes from a large family; his father expects everyone at dinner every evening at the same time, but not a second late. Though Fico is neutral and relatively happy, his brothers become revolutionaries against the ailing Batista regime. When one brother dies, Fico finds himself taking care of -- then falling in love with -- the cast off fiancée (Ines Sastre). Bill Murray turns in a memorable, hilarious supporting performance as a washed-up comic forever planted on Garcia's couch, mooching drinks and offering witty asides, and Dustin Hoffman makes a menacing Meyer Lansky, who wishes to establish a casino in Cuba. Che Guevara (Jsu Garcia) makes a brief appearance, but as a scruffy bully instead of the heroic, selfless figure portrayed in The Motorcycle Diaries. Even with the film's extreme length (143 minutes), Garcia fails to really find balance between the historical and soap opera aspects of the story; often he merely breaks up disparate scenes with more flamboyant stage performances. Nevertheless, each moment is portrayed with its own ferocious gusto, and many individual scenes stir and sing. Garcia's trademark as an actor is a kind of contained, simmering heat, and that persona burns into his directing. He may lack the rigor or precision of more skilled directors, but he knows how to play with fire.

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