Chico And Rita – A Spanish Animation Film Of Love And Music

A Spanish animation film

The 8th Spanish Film Festival in Singapore is ending soon.  See if you can catch Chico & Rita (2010) at The Arts House today.  Admission is free on a first come basis.

Chico & Rita is a Spanish animated feature-length film.  The first that was nominated for the Oscar.  The artwork is beautiful.  Each frame could well be made into a wall painting.  The soundtrack throughout the film is equally beautiful, especially for the jazz music lover.  Set in Cuba, a pianist called Chico meets a singer called Rita.  And they have fallen in love.  However, circumstances seem to often get into their way.  Chico & Rita is a journey of love and music from Cuba’s Havana to New York and Las Vegas in a span of five decades.  Due to the rich history behind Chico & Rita and the fact that many of Havana’s pre-revolutionary buildings had decayed, the filmmakers have looked into the photograph archive in order to recreate the era and the mood.

This story is rather dark.  So is the mood.  Perhaps it is the pain the gives forth such beautiful music and inspires such exquisite artwork.

The drawing of Chico & Rita is exquisite.

Tapas And The 8th Spanish Film Festival Here In Singapore

Tapas (2005) A Spanish Film

Cynthia and I were invited for the opening of the 8th Spanish Film Festival at The Arts House Singapore.  Before the main movie Tapas (2005), a 18 minutes short animation called Tadeo Jones (2007) was played.  Now that I have watched the animation.  It does sound like a reference to the Western version of Indiana Jones.

The main character Tadeo was at home when from his window, he saw a cute dog being thrown into a garage by a delivery man, together with boxes after boxes of mysterious packages.  Feeling the urge to save the dog, Tadeo ventured into the house and discovered a bizarre cult in the mist of an animal sacrificial ritual set in a quasi-Egyptian backdrop.  Not the sort of top quality animation as you would expect from a Hollywood movie of the same era.  The story is entertaining nonetheless.

Tapas (2005) is a mix of characters with individual plots that intertwined with one another.  In a Barcelona suburb, a wife of a self-centered restaurant owner cannot take his husband’s unrealistic demand anymore and has decided to quit being a chef.  And quit being his wife while she is at it.  Meanwhile, a Chinese chef who knows kung fu is happy to take up the job vacancy (and the abuse).  He is in Spain because he wants to be with his love.  A lady who sells chickpeas – among other cooking ingredients – has been in a separation for two years and now being in a cyber relationship with a man from Argentina.  Two young teenagers work at the same supermarket.  One of them is obsessed with Bruce Lee and girls of different nationalities while the other one has fallen in love with the chickpea lady.  Finally, there is an old couple with the woman selling drugs to the young and the man dying of lung cancer.

This film is raw, as in, there is little attractive about the characters and their living conditions.  Yet, it feels so real.  Ordinary people going about with their ordinary life dealing with real life challenges while learning from them.  Of all the sub-plots, I enjoy the story of the old couple the best.  It is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

The 8th Spanish Film Festival is starting from now till the end of the month.  Every day at 19.30.  Admission is free and the location is at The Arts House.  Check out their website for further information.

8th Spanish Film Festival in Singapore

The Hanged Man (Spanish Title: El Juego Del Ahorcado)

As we left the Shaw Lido cinema after the movie premiere event, I have spotted a huge poster that I could not take my eyes away from.  It is a Spanish movie.  What a coincidence.  In our last Spanish class, our replacement teacher Gloria was asking us if there are Spanish movies playing in Singapore.  The rest said no.  I insisted we have, from time to time.  If this movie was not R21 rated, I would recommend “The Hanged Man” in our next class.  Just that we do have some young students whom I have no idea how young they are.

The English version of the poster, I remember, has three marketing words.  I cannot remember the first world.  Something and then passion, and crime.  Is it horror, Cynthia and TK asked after I booked the tickets for the three of us.  I surely hoped not.  They warned me that if this was a horror movie or was as boring as that Spanish movie, I would be banned from picking a movie title.


Fortunately, “The Hanged Man” is a good movie.  The actress Clara Lago has such big eyes that remind me of the French actress Audrey Tautou.  And she acts exceptionally well.  The story begins in a Spanish city Gerona back in 1989 when two teenagers became best friends after a rather mischievous incident.  The boy and the girl got into an unlocked car one day, messed around with the gearbox and handbrake, and crashed the car onto another car.  To cover up the incident, the boy crashed onto a short brick wall on his bike, made a mess out of his head with blood all over his face.  When the girl took him back to their parents who were at the car incident scene, the rest of the crowd immediately forgot about the cars and took care of the kids.

The story is then fast-forwarded to a later time when the two best friends were interlocked in more dark incidents, more cover-ups.  It is a time when the both fell in love and shared common secrets.  It is a time when the boy became more obsessed with the girl, willing to give his life up for the girl while the girl was growing out of this teenage love affair.  The story is dark, almost too heartbreaking to watch.  Some may wonder if the ending is at all logical.  I welcome a film that does not blur the moral boundary.  On that note, I endorse the ending however improbable it is.  It is a movie that I would like to add to my personal  film collection.

The Secret in Their Eyes – A Man Never Changes His Passion

This morning, it was typhoon signal number one.  Now, it is upped to number three.  I often visit my birth town in winter, seldom experience the rain.  In a way, the rain today brought back the sweet memory of my study life.

Cynthia and I were in IFC Mall when we stumbled upon a cinema.  Ritually, we scanned through the program just in case something interesting came up, with the right timing and not too crowded.  Interestingly, a Spanish movie fitted the bill.  Although we are not quite into the genre of crime, we were happy to take the opportunity to give our Spanish some exercise, especially when we have given our class a one week holiday break.

“The Secret in Their Eyes” or the Spanish title “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” is surprisingly a great movie (consider the fact that for us, it is a “walk-in” movie).  Little did we know that it has won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  Only when the script mentioned “Buenos Aires” did we realize that it is an Argentine film.  It is an intriguing story that weaved through a rape-murder case in a flashback style.  It has enough twists that keeps the 127 minutes movie engaging.  It has enough drama and character development that makes it more than a story of solving a crime.  In terms of timeline, the story spanned 25 years between 1974 to 1999.  In 1974, the main character Benjamín Espósito was a federal justice agent.  In 1999, he has retired and decided to write a novel on the rape-murder case he worked on.  A case he handled together with his assistance Pablo Sandoval and his department chef Irene Menéndez-Hastings.  Besides crime solving, much of the story is dedicated to Espósito’s friendship with his assistance and the romance with his chef.

“The Secret in Their Eyes” is a moving story, a tragedy.  It is artistically made supported by beautiful classical soundtrack.  From the Spanish learning point of view, we feel that the Argentines speak with a different accent.  It took us some time to adjust.  A good practice nonetheless.  As for the cinema, we love the sofa seat.  The staffs were courteous, well dressed.  They thanked the crowd for coming as we exited.  That is what service industry should be like.

Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos) – What A Way To Kick Start The EU Film Festival

At the end of our last week’s blogger event, we were invited to attend the official opening event of the EU Film Festival.  Later on, on the bulletin board of our Spanish language school, we found out that one could email the embassy to get oneself invited.  I am surprised that we did not meet any of our classmate this evening.  According to the speaker from (I presume) Singapore Film Society, this year’s attendance rate is the highest in the last 20 years.  80% of the tickets for the 20th EU Film Festival have already been sold to the public as of now.  To kick start the festival, the Spanish film “Broken Embrace” was shown at Vivocity starring Penélope Cruz directed by Pedro Almodóvar.

“Broken Embraces” is a story or rather fragments of stories going back and forth in time told by a few main characters.  A story of a blind writer, his agent, the agent’s son, a millionaire, the millionaire’s lover, and his son.  This movie may seem long (129 minutes) but the filmmakers manage to squeeze in a multitude of stories interlinked with one another.  The storytelling technique is brilliant.  Short and sweet.  Tragic yet humorous.  Perhaps with the benefit of narration, some of the missing links can be talked through.  The camera too, is telling a story, by the ways that the scenes are constructed and how they transit.  And like many of the art house movies, there are moments that worth the waiting for.  The casting is talented.  Not only Penélope Cruz, but also the rest of the crew.  As for Penélope Cruz, she has class with or without make-up on.  The most brilliant moment?  At the very end.

Within “Broken Embraces”, there is a movie within a movie, love stories intertwined with each other.  There are plenty of embraces too.  Some inevitably are broken.  Visually and figuratively.