I Am Cuba

141 mins.
Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov
NR
Spanish, English, and Russian with subtitles
1964

Presented in a new 4K restoration.

A Soviet production started a week after the Cuban missile crisis, I AM CUBA was designed to be Cuba’s answer to both Sergei Eisenstein’s POTEMKIN, and Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS. But the film turned out to be something quite unique — a wildly schizophrenic celebration of Communist kitsch, mixing Slavic solemnity with Latin sensuality.

The plot, or rather plots, feverishly explore the seductive, decadent (and marvelously photogenic) world of Batista’s Cuba — deliriously juxtaposing images of rich Americans and bikini-clad beauties sipping cocktails poolside with scenes of ramshackle slums filled with hungry children and gaunt old people.

Using wide-angle lenses that distort and magnify and filters that transform palm trees into giant white feathers, Urusevsky’s acrobatic camera achieves wild gravity-defying angles as it glides effortlessly through long continuous shots.

But I AM CUBA is not just a catalog of bravura technique — it also succeeds in exploring the innermost feelings of the characters and their often desperate situations.

Shown unsubtitled at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I Am Cuba received two standing ovations — during the screening.

The first movie ever jointly presented by master filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, I AM CUBA is one of the great discoveries in cinema.