Last night we saw "Strawberry and Chocolate" (courtesy of Netflix,
to which we're recent converts, while continuing to occasionally "spot-shop" at
Blockbuster's). It's a Cuban movie that, like one or two other Cubano offerings
we've seen, is refreshingly open about human situations, including the political
situation in its native country.
In fact, Roger Ebert wrote, "As with all statements from today's Cuba,
"Strawberry and Chocolate" can be seen reflected in many different mirrors.
My first reaction was to wonder how Gutierrez Alea could get away with such
pointed criticisms of his country. Yet conservative Cuban exiles in Miami have
called it propaganda, precisely because it gives the impression that Cubans can
safely be critical of Castro. Have it either way: The movie has real strength and
charm, especially in the way it leads us to expect a romance, and then gives us a
character whose very existence is a criticism of his society."
When the film starts, it appears to be about this flamboyant gay fellow,Diego,
trying to "convert" a shy, "straight" guy named David. But as "Strawberry and
Chocolate" progresses, we felt, it explodes any neat compartments about theme
or anything else.
We both came to truly love the characters. In fact, I found Diego, finally,
(it will sound strange when you see him as the film begins) to be one of the most
lovable and noble characters I've ever seen in a movie.
The director, Gutierrez Alea, has a new one out. Or rather, since Gutiurrez
died several years ago, Blockbuster's has recently made another of his films
available in America. I saw it recently and didn't want to get it till we'd seen this
one. Now I'll certainly order it.
For more info on "Strawberry and Chocolate"
"The Son", directed by the Dardenne brothers of Belgium, is another
excellent film. It's a deeply moving story told without any superficial embellishments
of any kind. It exemplifies the kind of thing my first, mentor literature
teacher stressed: dramatizing the essentials and respecting the sensibilities
and intelligence of the reader, or in this case viewer.
"The Son" features a man who teaches carpentry to teenagers who've been in
the penal system. One of his prospective students triggers strange, obsessional
behavior in him. Gradually, we find out why.