Chico & Rita
Release date: November 19, 2010
Director: Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba
Screenplay by: Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Fernando Trueba
Cast: Eman Xor Oña, Limara Meneses, Mario Guerra
I’m taking the liberty to tag Chico & Rita with our Cuba tag because you gotta love Cuban music and culture to fully love this film. It adds that extra something special to the film, I think.
Chico & Rita tells the story of Chico (Xor Oña), a piano player in La Havana remembering the good old times he shared with on/off lover, Rita (Meneses).
As a young piano player in 1940s La Havana in search of the perfect voice to match his playing skills, Chico hears the sound of Rita’s voice at a bar when he’s about to use his charm alongside pal Ramon (Guerra) to bed two American women.
Enchanted by the magic in Rita’s voice and allure, Chico tries to convince her that they’re meant for each other — musically and more. Rita is hard to get, but her feistiness isn’t a match to Chico’s charm and they end up sleeping together. Up the next morning, in animated naked bliss, Chico is inspired to compose the melody for his song, which he obviously entitles “Rita.”
Chico & Rita is a chronicle of long lost love. The couple’s relationship is a roller-coaster of emotions as Rita falls madly in love with Chico to then storm out of the room swearing she’d never want to see him ever again. Chico then tries to win her over, they make beautiful music together to start the cycle once again. It’s Latin passion at its best in a Spain/UK co-production! Surprising, huh?
Anyone expecting a bit of insight on today’s Cuba and Fidel are out of luck — the revolution is but a passing mention in the film. But Chico & Rita does get a bit of a commentary once Rita ends up in New York as a movie star, or more specifically a second-class movie star when the film reaches its climax.
The style of the film is handled by Spanish designer Javier Mariscal , who’s famous for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Mascot Cobi (La Mascota Mas Genial ). The production recreated 1940s La Havana by visiting Cuba — leaving the city almost unchanged — and taking a look at the extensive photographic archive of the era. They shot live action for four weeks to be able to give the animators  the right material for the characters and the story. The result is full of soul.
The music is full of flavor, handled by Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes who’s worked with director Trueba before in Calle 54. You can never listen to renditions of Besame Mucho  and Sabor a Mi  enough in one lifetime. The music, of course, is a central part of Chico & Rita, chronicling the evolution of Cuban music into what we know as Jazz, later evolving into Latin Jazz.
Except for Winnie the Pooh, I had really lost hope with this year’s animated films — sorry, Rango didn’t quite cut it for me. I hope Chico & Rita gets a chance for, at least, an Academy Award nomination. Though, it should really win because it’s really about time audiences stop seeing animation as films for children and start seeing it as just a medium.
I REALLY need to see this movie. There are so many that I’m missing out on. I’ve got loads of catching up to do.
@Camiele, it was really a great surprise. I think the trailer gives too much away from it, though… so better go as fresh as you can.
This was much better than I expected and I agree with your rating completely. It’s definitely deserving of its Oscar nomination.
“Though, it should really win because it’s really about time audiences stop seeing animation as films for children and start seeing it as just a medium.”
That’s not gonna happen anytime soon. Kids are still a money market.
The Pooh film (haven’t seen it yet) got fucked over because I guess its timing for the release in the USA was really poor. In July, who’s going to care about cutesy honey-eating Pooh when blockbusters are abundant, especially with Transformers and Harry Potter being around?
@Rodrigo, Pooh thought it was being targeted at a different market than Harry. It was a expensive marketing mistake… I dunno about its lack of nomination. Maybe over Cat in Paris… but the animation in that is definitely more interesting.
The Oscar animation nods are sketchy, in that they don’t tell you if they rate these films based on animation technique or overall movie, meaning… if there’s really bad animation but has a good story, it has a chance in getting a nod.
this review makes me so happy! I can’t wait to see this!
@Candice Frederick, I’ve been telling everyone they should all watch it before bashing the Oscar animation nods xD Hit me back once you’ve gotten the chance to watch it :)
I liked it on my first watch and yes, I would have given this one the Oscar, but just barely. I think I’m gonna need a second viewing of this film. Part of my not fully enjoyment is due to me watching this while being sick .
However, the naked fighting scene stood out to me in a non-pervy way, lol.
@Rodrigo, you liked Rango, right? I thought it was trying too hard, while this one just is like it is.
@amy, I didn’t like Rango, lol. I would have swapped that one with the Pooh film and the other 4 were fine by me, but I haven’t seen Arthur Christmas yet, haha.
Chico & Rita felt natural in terms of storyline, but I thought the main character was a douche and at times the story felt a bit slow. :S But I think I’ll re-watch it soon and then get a decided grip on it.