Dariela Aquique Luna
HAVANA TIMES — I haven’t written an article since May 2015. In fact, the last thing I wrote and was published on Havana Times was inspired by Regreso a Itaca (Return to Ithaca). Today, I am leaving my refuge and it’s a Cuban film that has brought me to the arena of letters again, Ultimos dias en la Habana or Chupa piruli, (Last Days in Havana) by director Fernando Perez.
I didn’t go to see it at the movies, I don’t even know if they are showing it here in Santiago; I haven’t read any reviews or comments about the film. I never go to the WIFI hotspot because the poor connection drives me crazy. So, the only two references I had for this movie was a promotional trailer which has been shown a few times on TV and the opinion of a young neighbor who told me: it’s very natural, very simple, not gripping…
When my partner and I had finished watching the movie at home last night, copied from the Weekly Package, I understood that my young neighbor, like nearly all Cubans, find the most gripping part of the film, everyday life, normal.
I don’t agree at all with this view and I felt something of an obligation to sit in front of my PC again and dedicate a comment to this movie.
With the plot and script written by Abel Fernandez and the director himself, photography by Raul Perez Ureta, editing by Rodolfo Barros and the art direction, production, costume design and soundtrack all worthy of mention too. Once again, Fernando Perez has managed to frame this “inside” Havana like no one else has and to be an excellent chronicler of contemporary Cuba.
My neighbor, the young actor, didn’t understand the fact that Ultimos dias en La Habana, doesn’t want to be a daring movie, nor does it need to be. This movie is just a catharsis, another one, like the so many national film productions that have been made in the last two decades, which highlight the truth that is there, but which many people refuse to see.
Perez isn’t accommodating, his lens isn’t kaleidoscopic, he continues to depict this seedy capital, the ochre colors and its gloomy corners, crumbling buildings and sweaty people, the exhausted faces and popular slang, which many people like to dress up in rosy colors.
It’s as if he wanted to cast his lot with the poor people in the world, and he refuses to make a movie dedicated to the comfortable middle class and the small bourgeoisie that is emerging on the island. He prefers to show our country’s poverty. His movies are the perfect excuse to exorcize our demons and its added value lies in the fact that his movies are honest from start to finish.
The director of Hello, Hemingway, Clandestinos, La vida es silbar and Suite Habana, once again unveils everyday neglect, without concessions, giving us snapshots of these Havana neighborhoods that don’t appear in tourist brochures, the compulsive need to leave the country and the many faces of despair.
Commendable performances and I wanted to first speak about the appearances such as that of Carmen Solar (Fefa), Coralia Veloz (Clara), Yailene Sierra (Mirian) and Ana Gloria Buduen (policewoman), all of whom are renowned actresses who play their characters with dignity.
In the lead role and masterfully performed from calmness and the premise of public solitude, in 100% pure Stanislavski-style, Patricio Wood (Miguel), a middle-aged man who, afraid of everything, takes refuge in his obsession to go and live in the United States, pointing out places on a map where he could possibly settle down. Miguel lost his joy or, worse still, discovered that there is no reason to be happy or to believe to be happy, which is sometimes worse. He lives in the home of a childhood friend who he tends to devotedly because he is dying.
Jorge Martinez (Diego), in one of his most stunning performances in his long-lived career, lives in the skin of a homosexual, sick with AIDs, who is on his death bed, but he holds out so that his last days aren’t empty and sad; he makes jokes, he talks compulsively, he watches porn and pays young men just so that he can look at them naked. He was kicked out of the rural school when Cuba was officially homophobic and it was only his friend Miguel who defended him. But, Diego isn’t the resentful type, nor does he have a bad heart, he still wants to do things for some people before he dies, especially young people.
P4 (Cristian Jesus Perez), a young Asian pinguero (prostitute), who is fighting to get by in Havana’s streets, where everything is good game for him, even taking advantage of a dying man’s good faith.
Gabriela Ramos (Yusi), an inexperienced actress who convinces us with her natural performance, who represents any young Cuban with her soft texts and spontaneity of her movements, which tell us the truth with confidence as if she were throwing darts without having a bullseye in front of her. She is responsible for the end of the movie with a monologue which might seem commonplace to many viewers, but it only tells us the truth, Yusi sometimes wants to cry so much, that she cries… Personally, this movie made me want to write again so much that I’m writing.