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Many will claim that Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford were on auto-pilot
while making this film. Based on their previous collaborative efforts, the
well-received Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, The Electric
Horseman, and Out of Africa, which swept the Academy Awards, people wanted
to see their movies. They could make any movie they wanted. They made
Havana, and NOBODY wanted to see it.
Maybe Pollack, brilliant in his own right, set his watch according to Redford's schedule at this time, and history shows that, subsequent to Havana, and its box office failure Sydney Pollack basically quit directing. His influence in film is still served, and may be better served as a producer, witness Sliding Doors, Sense and Sensibility, Fabulous Baker Boys, and Searching For Bobby Fischer, all of which he helped bring to the screen.
But, back to the matter at hand-Redford as a gambler, Lena Olin, his distraction (and what a distraction)--the film feels good, looks good, and gives us some perspective on Cuba in the waning hours of Batista.
Olin (pre-Romeo is Bleeding, post Unbearable Lightness of Being) is properly introduced to American audiences, and is not inappropriate as leading lady to one of Hollywood's leading stars, Redford, who, even on auto-pilot, delivers a strong, engaging performance.
I understand this film was heavily maligned at release, and failed dismally at the box office, but I enjoyed it. It is a beautiful film to watch with attractive leads - and that alone stands it well ahead of many of the alternatives out there today.
A superb Havana noir set in 1958-9 and featuring three great actors, Robert Redford, Raul Julia, and Lena Olin. Lena is the object of desire for the male actors and for any living male in the audience! Robert Redford is an American gambler and poker player who works the high stakes poker games for his own account and for the Casino boss in Havana. Redford is debonair and sophisticated and a devout bachelor who is not looking for love, but it finds him. The beautiful Lena hires Redford to perform a task and he becomes deeply enamored of her. I think Lena Olin is one of the most underrated actresses in existence and also one of the most sensually beautiful. As the smitten Redford works the tables his thoughts continue to dwell on his desire, beautiful Lena, he is enthralled with her memory and must seek her to gain satisfaction. Revolutiuon is afoot and Cuba is both the best and worst of times. The Cuban scenery is beautiful. The movie will take you to a time that is past and no longer exists except in memory. A very beautiful movie with surprises and twists and turns in plot. A Sydney Pollack masterpiece. A treat awaits those who watch.
Jack Weil, played by Robert Redford, feels at home in this corrupt
He's a professional gambler looking for the game of his life
played in every Elks Club and Moose Hall in America
He remembers every
hand of every game and now he wants a shot, only one shot in Havana
But while he is on the verge of winning everything Bobby Duran (Lena Olin) has lost all she ever knew Olin plays the wife of a Cuban revolutionary, Raul Julia Bobby has nothing to lose or to protect And in a super-natural and strange way Jack reaches her And so, as Cuba crumbles Jack is drawn in Bobby's world of the revolutionaries and, in one crucial moment he sees himself he must choose between the greatest card game of his life and the woman he loves
There's a kind of exotic combination between Redford and Olin's characters Between Redford's very American, blond, golden look and Olin's dark, intense Swedish expression
Sydney Pollack's "Havana" is a love story that takes place during the week of Christmas, 1958 which was the last week Batista was in power before Castro came in It was the last week of this kind of a circus that Havana was An attractive city full of gambling, of burlesque, of every kind of hedonistic pleasure possible
How does a cool professional gambler show passion? He gives up the Big Game to rescue his beloved. How can a passionate woman reconcile the two loves of her life--the noble hero and his cause and the man who makes her feel most like a woman? Yes, it's Casablanca revisited. And Lena Olin portrays her ambivalence as ably as her Swedish compatriot, Ingrid Bergman. Fault the script for not delivering the depth of Casablanca, the humor--Alan Arkin could have been the equal of Claude Rains but didn't get the lines. But the cinematography makes pre-revolutionary Havana palpable, in its glamour and seaminess, its whiff of a bygone era. Who wouldn't want to drive a Cadillac convertible onto the ferry at Key West and debark in Havana?
The reviews were horrible when released in 1990. But, what went over the heads of so money people was that this film set at the turning point of 1958 revolution in Cuba was designed to be an over the top romance filled with the style and craft of the early days of cinema. It doesn't matter if it finds inspiration from the crafty Casablanca, one of the best films ever made. Both examine similar themes and play to the adventurer in all of us. Havana is an escapist picture, and both Redford, Olin and Pollack do their jobs here, not to mention a wonderful supporting cast. They transport us to a place rich with color and mystery. Havana is a hidden gem for those who love travel, and spontaneous adventure and love. If you have not seen it, it's well worth the trip to the video store. For those who love Havana and location films I'd highly recommend the independent film "Somewhere," set in Thailand and Malaysia.
Many viewers have noted that Havana is essentially Casablanca in the Caribbean, which is certainly true. But I found the same apocalyptic tension in Havana as in Casablanca, although not quite as effective the second time around. Others criticized the dialogue. I thought it was exceptionally mature, and subtle, which may be what threw some of the reviewers in this forum, who maybe would have wanted something more bombastic. The plot development was very compressed - things had to happen very quickly, and so some thought they happened far too quickly. But I thought Olin in particular showed all of the pain and turmoil necessary to make her quick transitions of emotion believable. You have to believe that the times were so tumultuous that people had to adjust very quickly to changing circumstances. As for Jack falling in love with Bobby so fast, that's entirely believable, and the look they exchanged at the party where Jack meets her husband for the first time was our signal that this love affair was happening, and was one of those insane passions that overtake people, not infrequently, and in this case, again, against the apocalyptic backdrop of this incipient revolution, which made all involved feel very much at loose ends, ready for, or dreading, the vast changes about to happen to them. I though the end was too dragged out, but other than that, the movie mostly plausible.
Havana is a favorite of mine. Sure it's a slick Hollywood movie but I thought Redford and Olin were marvelous together and fit their roles perfectly. Doesn't it seem natural to find Redford in exotic Havana playing cards on the eve of the revolution? And doesn't Olin's intelligence , charm, and beauty fit her role ? The supporting cast were flawless and the intriguing plot stood on it's own merit. The sentimental ending was superb and the musical score which received an academy award nomination was brilliant. Better than mediocre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this extremely underrated 1990 film the worn glamour of gambler Jack
Weill, played with expert subtlety by Robert Redford, is a perfect echo
of the attractive corruption of Havana on the brink of the 1959 Cuban
revolution. Locked in the pursuit of his big game, "with guys who don't
even think how much they're playing for", Redford's character is
unapologetically self-centred. "How many guys do you know who are
really crude?" he asks with a charming leer. But Jack is drawn into a
different climate of feeling when he encounters the earnest, committed
revolutionary social consciences of Roberta and Alberto Duran, played
flawlessly by Lena Olin and the uncredited Raoul Julia. Jack falls in
love with Roberta, and begins to commit himself to a world larger than
the circumference of his poker table. The betrayals and cruelties of
the Batista regime are echoed in miniature around that table, and we
can see Jack's growing understanding that, however he avoided it in the
past, his world is indeed political, filled with kinds of suffering and
commitment that he can't avoid any longer. When he makes his choices,
and lives with the consequences, we watch the brave sadness of a man
who knows that if he'd faced then what he understands now, he might
have won. The excellent performances by Alan Arkin, a perfect
illustration of the world to which Jack once aspired, and Tony Plana,
as the Cuban reporter who yearns to be brave enough to act on his
knowledge, expand the textured subtlety of this picture.
Why was the film spurned in the US when it first appeared? I have to think that American audiences found it difficult to accept a film presenting both a sympathetic presentation of Castro's revolution and a clear condemnation of covert CIA support for Batista's government. Jack Weill's story is a parable of the pain and glory of growing up. That's a process that American audiences seem unwilling to face.
It's 15 years later, but seeing this film for the first time, I was
surprised by its intensity, beauty, realism and acting. This is two
thumbs up from my corner.
I totally believed both Olin and Redford. Yes, they're both very good looking people, but more than that, they both convey intelligence and real emotion. Their performances were relatively restrained and in my opinion that's a good thing.
As a person interested in politics and history, I found the film interesting and balanced especially considering that this was a studio product. This film made me want to learn more about Batista, Castro and Cuba's move for independence.
A superb Havana noir set in 1958-9 and featuring three great actors, Robert Redford, Raul Julia, and Lena Olin. Lena is the object of desire for the male actors and for any living male in the audience! Robert Redford is an American gambler and poker player who works the high stakes poker games for his own account and for the Casino boss in Havana. Redford is debonair and sophisticated and a devout bachelor who is not looking for love, but it finds him. The beautiful Lena hires Redford to perform a task and he becomes deeply enamored of her. I think Lena Olin is one of the most underrated actresses in existence and also one of the most sensually beautiful. As the smitten Redford works the tables his thoughts continue to dwell on his desire, beautiful Lena, he is enthralled with her memory and must seek her to gain satisfaction. Revolution is afoot and Cuba is both the best and worst of times. The Cuban scenery is beautiful. The movie will take you to a time that is past and no longer exists except in memory. A very beautiful movie with surprises and twists and turns in plot. A Sydney Pollack masterpiece. A treat awaits those who watch.
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