Wednesday, August 25, 2010

El titiritero de La Habana (The Puppeteer of Havana)

In present-day Havana Roberto, a puppeteer, finds himself out of work and old-fashioned, desperately waiting for an offer to perform his show abroad, as promised by the mysterious Norwegian. Meanwhile, his common-law wife inexplicably picks up a German tourist and Roberto is forced to sell his puppets, but he has another, secoret set, made with the blood and hair of his dead first wife.. When the offer finally comes, a rival manoeuvers him out and Roberto's deranged reaction permanently unseals the deal. Much implication is made of the poor as puppets of greater forces (high camera angles and so forth) but the analogy lacks backbone and wider context, and Roberto's inability to get back on his feet is as much to do with depressed inertia as anything else. Moments of excitement - a puppet-burning confrontation with his son; a kitchen knife-fight - are undercut by a drab, rumbling score; picturesque Havana gets disappointingly little screen-time, in favour of dull, green-tinged interiors; the narrative meanders inconsequentially through familial relationships and resentments; and the low-grade digital image imparts an unwelcome harshness to the light and a sickly floridity to the flesh tones throughout. A few striking exterior compositions aside, reality is not the film's strong suit: unsurprisingly, the best parts are the infrequent stand-alone puppet interludes (even if the Faustian analogies to the film's story do not convincingly cohere) and the delightfully bizarre epilogue, complete with unexpected zombie revenant.

d/sc/ph/ed Wolf Hermson p Wolf Hermson, Gisela Moes m Wolfgang Eckert cast Ramiro Ruíz Hernandez, Olga Lidia Alfonso, Luis Crespo, Hubert Delgado, Yusimí Hechavarria Serrano, Osvaldo Lledes Perez
(2009, Cub/Ger, 113m)
posted by tom newth at

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