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ISSN 1213-1792


Jan Čulík


Karel Dolejší


Michal Panoch, Jan Panoch

Grafický návrh:

Štěpán Kotrba

ISSN 1213-1792
deník o všem, o čem se v České republice příliš nemluví
3. 7. 2006

Andy Garcia's The Lost City: Too much glitz

This year the fanfares and streamers at Karlovy Vary were for Andy Garcia, who was awarded the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema. He came with his directorial debut, The Lost City, under his arm, and we went to see it on Monday morning.

I always like to hope that people will exceed my expectations. Unfortunately this is not the case here, as the film reminded me of so many others made under the same circumstances - a successful, and indeed accomplished, actor takes his place behind the camera as well as in front of it, and the result is a shiny and professional movie, which has an unfortunate tinge of slight self indulgence. I do not want to rain on his parade too cruelly - as he says, "Every single detail, everything that I care about, everything that I love, everything that I think about, everything that I am is in that movie.", but it does feel like that - the Andy Garcia movie.

The Lost City paints the upheaval of the revolutionary changes in Cuba in the late 1950s, and follows the life and loves of Fico Fellove (played by Garcia), a nightclub owner and family man, and prince of the social elite, who never has to pay for his drinks. We see the warmth and intimacy of the Fellove family, which meets for Sunday dinner every week at 6 o'clock sharp, and then watch as it disintegrates under the pressure of the political changes taking place around them. First one and then another brother becomes victim to the revolution as they give themselves up to the cause of a free Cuba, and Fico's glittering elite world crashes down around him as members of the new government march into his club and prohibit him from using saxophones in his orchestra, 'as they are a symbol of hated imperialism'. A love story also emerges as Fico takes his brother's distraught widow Aurora into his care, sweeping her between beaches and glamorous restaurants to amuse her, and intimacy grows between them. "I had a dream last night," says Aurora, "It was about us, and Luis was there. He said it was ok.." And on the gleaming white sands they kiss under their wide brimmed hats.

The emotions of the characters are genuine, but unfortunately they are wrapped in the cellophane of Hollywood glitz and glam, and we cannot quite enough empathise with them. Once the oppression of this new regime has become too much for Fico to bear, he flees to the land of golden opportunities, New York, leaving behind his beloved, who has gone to work with the revolutionaries, "One day you'll understand." One night after the restaurant has closed, as he, with tousled hair, is mopping the floors, she appears at the door and they have a brief sentimental reunion. The shots are reminiscent of classic films of this very period, the 1950s - close ups of her tear stained face, still glamorous under her red painted lips. But we are not living in 1959, but 2006 - these techniques sadly do not fit with our time, and do not have such an impact on us, accustomed as we are to brutal realism. To use this style it must be with a new edge to it, otherwise we cannot relate to it. It seems almost empty as Fico utters, "I love you, but I can't love you there." The words are just a little too polished.

The movie is not entirely in this style - for example, a moment when Fico sits playing the piano, and Aurora stands listening to him at the door. Just a brief shot of her feet shows him glance and notice her - this is a more modern approach, of focus on small details - but can you really combine the two? They somehow do not fit together.

Another moment as Fico's choreographer is dancing alone on a dark stage, Fico and his companion The Writer stand up in his office - we see just the yellow circles of his shuttered windows against the darkness, and their two silhouettes. "I wish I could start again", says Fico. "I like beginnings." replies the ever witty Writer, "Nothing has happened yet and there is optimism and opportunities lie ahead. Not like endings, I don't like those. They don't call it the end for nothin'. Unless your ending is also a beginning, though. That's different.." "So where are we now?" asks Fico. "Well, if you can't tell, then we aren't at the beginning or the end, it must be somewhere in the middle." Nice ideas, I like the dialogue.. but this super-stylised scene doesn't quite fit in with the drama of the rest of the film.

The Writer character is one of the saving graces of the picture. Played excellently by Bill Murray (as he invariably does), the court jester of the film lightens the atmosphere of the heavy emotions all around him. Be it sitting in sunglasses, leaning into Fico's office plant, playing at being a bodyguard, or sprinkling clever banter into the conversation, The Writer's words feel much more accessible than anyone else's, as they are not hidden behind Hollywood glitz. The Writer is unpretentious, genuine, and intelligent. Especially next to him, Fico is too much of a hero. The virtuous eldest son, he is too perfect. Never once does he step afoul, and I feel he is not played with sufficient modesty to seem so wonderful.

Another saving grace is the music. Garcia says that the main protagonist of his movie is the music, and that it was the reason he wanted to make the film. Indeed, it captures the life and passion of Cuba, and is present in tragic moments as well as the parties in the nightclub - Fico's revolutionary brother, suffering from the immense guilt of causing his uncle's death and disgracing the Fellove family, takes his life to the soundtrack of his uncle's old gramophone playing Cuban swing. This point might have been developed further however, as it was not quite as prominent as Garcia perhaps intended it to be.

In general I left the cinema feeling that this film was almost good - there was a lot of potential for excellence, but the theme was dealt with in perhaps too glitzy a way. The hero is too good, and unbelievable. Why were his brothers complete failures and he an utter success? A less packaged approach would have worked better.

Obsah vydání       3. 7. 2006
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