Animation films have been doing wonderfully well across the world and grossing as much as or sometimes even more than live movies in this past decade. Disney has produced some of the most interesting and charming animated films, which have not only attracted children, but also held the interest of adults because of their engrossing stories that need not necessarily be for kids. More directors around the world are now coming forward to bring their stories in the animation format and “Chico and Rita”, is one of them. Directed by Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba, Spain has come up with an original animation film of its own that takes us into the hypnotic world of Cuban music of the late 40’s.
Gathering inspiration from the Afro-Cuban musicians of the time, Fernando Trueba and co-writer Ignacio Martinez de Pison have etched out a satisfying script that focuses on the famous Bebo Valdes, but is not his biography. Chico and Rita is about two music lovers, Chico (Emar Xor Ona) a pianist and Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses and sung by Idania Valdes) a singer and their 60-year romance that consists of heartbreak, separation and longing, but the spirit of romance lives on. Chico falls in love with Rita the moment he sets eyes on her while watching her perform at a small Havana dance club.
His love for Rita is however intervened by an already present mistress, who lashes back furiously in order to keep the two apart and although they are deeply attracted to each other, their love barely leaves the ground. They however manage to couple up for a radio music concert, which they eventually win and during which their passion for each other is ignited. The romance sadly fizzles out sooner than it had begun, as Chico cannot keep his mistress from interfering. In the meantime Rita leaves for New York and to Hollywood from thereon with Chico pursuing her in an attempt to win her love and be together as a couple.
Destiny on the other hand has other plans. Chico is deported back to Cuba while Rita travels to Paris and Las Vegas and it is not years but decades that pass without the two meeting or hearing from each other. In all the years of separation, Chico and Rita have not been able to forget each other and their romance is still alive in their hearts with each hoping to meet the other once again. It is not until Chico is offered an opportunity by a young artist that he is able to leave Havana to revisit America, but does this imply that the long lost lovers will meet again to relive their romance that could not be successful back at home in Havana?
With excellent music scores from Cuban music of the time, Chico and Rita is a joyful treat to jazz lovers with outstanding jazz performances by Bebo Valdes on the piano as Chico along with a duet with Estrella Morente who plays herself and Freddie Cole. All greats of the past, these musicians lend a magical touch to this musical romance making the soundtrack the largest asset to the movie. Jazz enthusiasts can expect a whole heap of musical entertainment even if the animation itself does not make a mark. The movie may have been better directed as a live action rather than in animation, as it would have brought out the actual pathos of the story when compared to its animated counterpart.
Another point that offers credibility to “Chico and Rita” is the well-researched depiction of Havana and Las Vegas in the late 40’s. The director has tracked back to that age to show a correct image of these places during that period, which is commendable on his part. As for the animation, it has all that is required by an animation film, an interesting plot with twists and turns and a climax that always ends on a similar note. The animation may not stimulate your nerves, but the music is certainly going to bring a smile on your face. Whatever be the reaction to the film, Fernando Trueba has done a good lot of work on the animation, which is likely to appeal to all those who have an ear for music.
Director: Fernando Trueba,Javier Mariscal,Tono Errando
Nominations: Telluride Film Festival,Toronto International Film Festival