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Cuba, 1948. Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey - in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero - brings heartache and torment. From Havana to New York, Paris, Hollywood and Las Vegas, two passionate individuals battle impossible odds to unite in music and love. Written by
Seductive sounds and a disarmingly warm animation style
The new animated romance Chico and Rita follows the relationship of two young Cuban musicians: Chico is a gifted piano player looking to bring the sound of Havana to New York; Rita is a beautiful singer who treads the precarious path between Latin musicians and white investors looking to cash in on the popularity of this new music. Like all star crossed lovers, their journey is not an easy one their musical and romantic tribulations will continue over 60 years against the striking backdrops of Havana, New York, Paris, Hollywood and Las Vegas.
The real strength of the film is its ability to portray a classic love story in both an innovative, sensual and sensitive way. The syncopated grace of Cuban Jazz combines with a disarmingly child-like animation to create a sparkling tribute to 1940s and 50s Havana culture.
The film exudes real passion for both the music of the period and the locations of the film, beautifully re-crafted within the animated landscape. The Cuban sound is brought to life with a truly uplifting assortment of records, including classics from Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. Like the heady improvisation of a be-bop trumpeter, this film bounces between soft melody and excited fragmentation, always bursting to give the audience something new and exciting.
Yet this does not mean that the film is purely for Jazz aficionados the affection that directors Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba bring to their work ensures that this film doesn't become simply a musical tribute aimed at a conceited minority. The scale of the narrative will leave you breathless, and yet the story is all told through the seemingly innocent hand of traditional cartoon animation. In a post-Pixar world, this kind of hand-drawn animation has gained a retro charm all of its own. Chico and Rita is a delicate reminder that genuine action and emotion can still be expressed without the pixellated glossiness of CGI.
Chico and Rita really succeeds in bringing the colour and vibrancy of early 50s Havana back to life from the delightfully evocative soundtrack, to the re-telling of a classic love story through the medium of hand-drawn animation, the film is a fitting expression of the vision and compassion of its creators.
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