Chico & Rita
Isle of Man Film
Now Showing at: Cincinnati World Cinema February 14-15
Review by: Larry Thomas
It’s not often there’s a chance to see something as novel and refreshing as a bittersweet love story, wrapped in the jazz milieu of two countries, in Spanish with subtitles… and it’s animated. But that’s what you get in Chico and Rita, one of the five films nominated for this year’s Oscar as Best Animated Feature.
Chico and Rita is set in Havana and New York City beginning in 1948. Chico is a talented jazz pianist looking for fame and fortune amidst the bustling Havana nightlife. He encounters Rita, a smoldering free spirit who not only gets his music, but is also a terrific singer.
The look of the film is an art director’s dream, especially in the representation of Cuba both pre- and post-revolution. The settings and characters use warm, vibrant tones in the color palette, and it’s almost as if it feels more real than a live-action film.
Not only is the story enhanced by the use of jazz, but also when’s the last time you saw animated representations of Woody Herman, Dizzy Gillespie and other jazz giants in a movie.
While the plot is no different from a standard Hollywood flick from the fifties, Chico and Rita is bolstered by not only the animation and music, but in the feeling instilled in these characters. Not to mention it’s great to see an animated film for adults.
Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Fernando Trueba, along with a team of animators, Chico and Rita is a seriously beautiful film. Normally with films like this, I usually bemoan the fact that it seems to take forever for them to appear in our back yard. Not this time. Although Chico and Rita has been on the festival circuit for a couple of years, it has only recently secured U.S. distribution. It opened this past Friday in New York City. And it’s playing here on Tuesday and Wednesday via Cincinnati World Cinema in Covington’s Carnegie Arts Center. And, as usual, the World Cinema folks have come up with a special way for you to enjoy the film and celebrate Valentine’s Day at the same time.
On Tuesday, you can enjoy a four-course dinner from Europa served at the Carnegie, with live music by vocalist April Aloisio with pianist Phil Burkhead. The music and dinner begin at 6, with the film following at 7:30.
Or, on Wednesday, you can have the same menu at Europa Bistro in Covington at 6, then come to the Carnegie for the 7:30 screening. Either way, seating is limited and reservations are a must.
Although unrated, Chico and Rita would likely be rated R for brief nudity, sexual situations, drugs, and smoking.