Funnily enough, I always get excited at the opportunity of seeing a ‘classic’ animation feature film. Growing up immersed in a culture where such artisanship was common film practice, the stoutly seven year old kid inside me jumps with joy to see these drawn stories brought to life. Oh, nostalgia is great thing, but the latest film from Spanish director Fernando Trueba and animator duo Errando & Mariscal affects on more than a stylistic level, it’s a timeless love story.
Chico is an up-and-coming, black jazz pianist, Rita is an up-and-coming, hispanic jazz lounge singer. After a felicitous, ‘love at first sight’ moment – and one very raunchy sex scene – the pair’s unbridled desire and passion for music means they are drawn together, but are constantly torn apart. Excuse the former, unforgivable pun. I’m not sorry.
Using the romance as the film’s narrative arc, Chico & Rita also attempts to tackle the significant political issues revolving around the Cuban Revolution, when jazz, and many other cultural idioms, were considered as enemy-art from the American neighbours. This is perhaps where the film falls a little short of sensational, with the weighty contextualisation dragging down which is otherwise a perfectly simple film.
Although the lush animation speaks for itself (just look at the screenshot downstairs), Chico & Rita is an audio-centric film. With a vibrant soundtrack combining classic latin american Jazz, as well as a cameo from bebop prodigy Charlie Parker, there’s enough tasty aural morsels for jazzophiles and rookies to chew on alike.
Remember that silent, b&w French film last year? Yeah, the one with the dog? Much like The Artist, Chico & Rita doesn’t feel in anyway showily vintage in style. Encapsulating a diverse, changing Cuban setting and two complex central characters, it is a film that could have only been animated and told in this idiosyncratic, beautiful way. Long may the dying animation movie live on.