Don Pedro, the elegant landowner of Puerto Rico, is conquered by Astree, the rebellious travelling Swedish woman. They get married and have a child. Their relationship begins to change and Don holds Astree a prisoner. Homesicked, all Astree's pent-up hatred of her husband and his island breaks out when her childhood friend Dr. Sven appears to investigate the cause of a vicious fever to which the island has fallen prey. Don is determined at all costs to prevent the epidemic from becoming public knowledge in order to save his fruit export business. Written by
L.H. Wong <email@example.com>
A real surprise - it has a nice caliente flavour, a very involving melodramatic plot, but above all, shows Sirk's enchanting eye for images. In sum, i love it!
On a holiday in Puerto Rico, Astree (Zarah Leander) falls in love with nobleman Don Pedro de Avila and marries him. Our story begins ten years later, when things have begun to come awry... And things are heating up for Don Pedro who, as patron of the island, has to contend with a pair of scientists who have arrived in Puerto Rico with plans to find a cure for Puerto Rico Fever, which de Avila doesn't want publicised as existing, since it would be bad for tourism.
I love La Habanera. I've seen it twice so far. I was lucky enough to tape it one time when it was on TV, so now i've got this little copy of it sitting on my shelf that i can watch whenever I like (there are no DVD or VHS releases of any Sirk films in Australia - and I wouldn't have chosen La Habanera if i was going to order some Sirk from overseas).
It's melodrama, and designed as crap for the masses - but there's just something beautiful about everything in it. The noble beauty in Don de Avila's face during the courtship scenes at the beginning, which has turned to harshness and brooding intensity when we cut to ten years later. His burning eyes and face burn up the screen. Some of my other favourite things in it are the ceiling fan during the card game, the light through the slats in the scientists' room, the face of Dr Luis Gomez, the scene where Dr Nagel goes out in the street on a windy night and finds the fever sufferer, and, best of all, the magnificent pond in the middle of the room during the scene where Ms Leander sings the Habanera, and in which we see the reflection of the room.
There is a poetry to the images that you may not notice unless you come in half-way through (like I did, on my first viewing), so that you can't really follow what's happening in the plot. Doing this was a revelation for me. I was forced to just look at the pretty pictures, and i found, to my surprise, that there was something transfixing and poetic about them.
Second run through, when I watched it from the beginning, I found I also loved the story and the characters, which was a bonus. I found myself caught up in this little world Sirk had made for me. And the seemingly outlandish soap-opera lines somehow seemed perfect!
10/10. Mainly from surprise at how passionate i've grown for what is essentially a simple melodrama.
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