Chico & Rita (2010) – Review

4 Stars

Chico & Rita is a dazzling adult animated film; filled with such rich detail of character, time, place and music that it transcends the genre. This isn’t the twisted work of Ralph Bakshi or Anime pandering to fanboys, but a full-blooded love-story set inside the frame-work of a musical that transpires over the course of five harsh decades. This a fantastic film that deserves adulation for its endless visual creativity and intelligent writing, to the exceptional music performed by Cuban legend Bebo Valdés.

Chico is a womanizing piano player, looking for the right female vocalist to front a duo. One night in a club in Havana he meets Rita, a beautiful woman with the right look and sound. Chico is infatuated and relentlessly purses Rita, eventually romancing her and thus convincing the talented singer to partner up in the quest of getting from Cuba to New York, with the likes of Tito Puente and Chano Pozo. Before long the love affair goes south and threatens the newly formed union on a personal and professional level.

In a moment of weakness Rita is signed by a rival talent agency that sends her to America and leaves Chico without an act. In the States, Rita rises to the top of the musical world and is even headlining movies, something that is not lost on Chico, who catches a screening while touring with Dizzy Gillespie in Europe. The competing success of both parties and years of hardened emotions leads to a number of bitter and serendipitous encounters.

Would this story have the same impact if it had been filmed live-action? I don’t believe so. Firstly, the period production detail would have been far too costly to recreate, whereas the animation allows the artists to imagine virtually any environment or landscape to accommodate the evolving story. Chico & Rita is a nearly flawless movie with only a few lapses in narrative momentum, but the startling weight of the story and splendor of the visual style add aesthetic beauty to a heart-breaking show-biz love story.

Director:Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal

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