HAVANA TIMES — Venecia (“Venice”), the latest film by Cuban director Enrique Alvarez, tells the stories of three young women in the span of 24 hours. The street settings – a restaurant, a bar, a disco – are a pretext to comment on different attitudes and ways of regarding life.
Screened recently at major theaters around the country, it won several international awards. The characters are played by actresses Maribel Garcia Monzon, Mayelin Pupo and Claudia Muñiz, who is also the author of the film’s script.
Hair dressers at a State beauty salon, where they only have elderly customers, the young friends converse about their lackluster lives devoid of goals. Monica remembers a past love relationship, Violeta has troubles dealing with her weight and hides behind a mask of sensuality and Mayelin has a brother with mental problems and is expecting an unwanted child.
They all have secrets, feel unsatisfied and are lonely. Even though they’re always together, there’s a certain lack of communication between them.
After work, they stroll about and mingle with people. One has the feeling of watching a documentary. I believe this is the best aspect of the film, as the director manages to integrate them into the events of the city.
At the disco, under the influence of drinks, they open up: Monica has wild sex with a stranger in the bathroom, Violeta dances uninhibitedly, with voluptuous movements, while Mayelin follows a transvestite and does drugs with a group of people.
There’s no mention of a country or even a city: we are in a timeless Havana in which the night brings a change to the habits and status of its inhabitants.
Venecia seeks to establish a tone similar to France’s Nouvelle Vague and directors such as Truffaut, Goddard, Chabrol and Rohmer, with stories told naturally, through improvised dialogues, devoid of a rigid script, typical of auteur cinema. In this case, however, we get a script full of commonplaces, with a poor and far from imaginative language. The Cuban director does not have the expressive talent to even get close to those films.
Also, the actresses lack charisma and expressiveness. They are mediocre, and they pronounce words badly as well. These defects undermine Alvarez’ story.
One misses the old Cuban films, Memorias del Subdesarrollo (“Memories of Underdevelopment”), Fresa y chocolate (“Strawberry and Chocolate”), Lucia, La muerte de un burócrata (“Death of a Bureaucrat”), Los días del agua (“Water Days”), Una novia para David (“A Girlfriend for David”), Hello, Hemingway, La última cena (“The Last Supper”), Retrato de Teresa (“Portrait of Teresa”), Madagascar and many others that conveyed messages and symbols and had something to say. The new cinematic formulas represent a change for the worse, what we see on the screen is not memorable, it leaves no traces. Sex, ever present, works as a hook to attract spectators, but seeing it in such an explicit manner is already becoming tiresome.
Another film to be added to the list of useless works, another disappointment in Cuban cinema.