filmireland.net review of Chico and Rita by Peter Larkin

Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba’s Chico and Rita (2010) 1hr 32mins

What a beautiful film this is. The animation is hand drawn to stunning effect. Chico & Rita is co-directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando. Trueba won an Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film in 1993 for the Penelope Cruz picture Bella Epoque. Marsical is said to be the most famous and successful designer in Spain. Trueba and Ignacio Martínez de Pisón wrote the poetic screenplay. It is a love story set in Cuba in 1948, about a piano player named Chico (voiced by Eman Xor Oña) and a singer named Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses). There is a great sense of the period; there are references to the social and political affairs of the day.

The film takes Chico and Rita from Havana to New York, from Paris to Hollywood and finally to Las Vegas. Bebo Valdés who turned 92 recently, composed all of the extraordinary music while also providing the singing voice for Chico. At the beginning, Chico is an old man, who shines shoes. He remembers as a young man when he was a talented pianist and how he meets Rita. It is about the love of the period, its characters and the beauty of the handcrafted animation.

There is full frontal nudity in the film, which may surprise some viewers. There is also violence, which is done in a manner that would not look so out of place with in an epic gangster picture. The visuals are magnificent; there is a transcendental quality to them. Through every bit of detail and beauty lies the richness of what cinema can do with animation. Every frame that displays the canvas of this detail will stay with you. With David Fincher’s The Social Network and Mike Leigh’s Another Year on release, there is plenty to be excited about.

Chico and Rita is like a dream that you don’t want to wake up from. This dream is part of inventive cinema. It is one to be cherished. You do not have to be a film lover to appreciate its dazzling creative brilliance. It is film that you will remember after leaving the cinema, which quite rare these days, lets face it. For an experience like it you will always find something special, if you look beneath the surface of the mainstream offerings.

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