Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Limara Meneses, Emar Xor Oña, Mario Guerra
Written by: Fernando Trueba, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón
Directed by: Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, Tono Errando
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 03/18/2013

Chico & Rita (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Heart of Jazz

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Twenty years after Spanish director Fernando Trueba won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film for Belle Epoque, his new Chico & Ritais nominated -- this time in the Best Animated Feature category.

It's a gorgeous, fluid movie, filled with rich textures anda genuine sense of place, whether it's Havana, Paris, New York, or Hollywood.It's even grown-up and sexy, which is rare for cartoons. It's also a good jazzmovie, depicting animated versions of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, andother legends, back on stage as if for the first time.

It's also an epic romance, spanning years, but notnecessarily a good one. Chico and Rita are mostly separated by their own mutualstubbornness, and it can get wearisome to root for characters like that.

Chico (voiced by Eman Xor Oña) is a great piano player inHavana, circa the late 1940s. He's great, but totally unknown. Out on the townone night, he and his best pal Ram�n (voiced by Mario Guerra) spy an exemplarynew singer, Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses), who is gorgeous besides. Chico isnot only smitten, but also he is inspired to bring her into his act.

They spark in a grand romantic style, but due to a misunderstanding,Rita is soon out the door. Later, she gets an offer to go to New York; shewants to bring Chico, but another misunderstanding separates them again. Chicoeventually makes it to New York and finds work in the local jazz scene, whichbrings him to Paris, while Rita goes to Hollywood to make movies.

Occasionally the two meet up again for a quick kiss, a quickroll in the hay, or a quick argument, and then they disappear again. There isalso a strange, baseless betrayal that keeps them apart. The story is told inflashback from the present day. Will Chico ever find his true love again?

It's a bit hokey, but whenever this story stops for somemusic or for a particularly dazzling bit of animated wonder -- such as a dodgycar ride -- then Chico & Rita reallysoars. The animation looks a bit like some of the style invented for WakingLife, partly hand-drawn, with some computeraid to make it flow and feel a bit more dimensional. (Trueba worked with twoco-directors: designer Javier Mariscal and animator Tono Errando.)

Eventually, the movie is a feast for animation lovers andmusic lovers alike. The music in this film ranges from hot Cuban jazz to morefamiliar American bebop, and ranges from heartbreaking to joyous. The animationseems inspired by the music, and often takes flight by itself. If thefilmmakers had been similarly inspired by the story itself, they would have hada masterpiece.

New Video released an excellent three-disc set containing a Blu-ray, a DVD,and a CD soundtrack. Extras on the Blu-ray include a director's commentarytrack with Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, a 30-minute making-of featurette,and a trailer. The liner notes booklet is an excerpt from the Chico & Ritagraphic novel.

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