(Note: This review was originally written in May 1998)
A Film Review by Dragan Antulov
Copyright 1998 Dragan Antulov
Once upon a time, the author of this review used to live in a country now known as former Yugoslavia. It was a country based on compromise between East and West, and in good old days of the Cold War it presented some kind of interesting mixing of opposing ideologies, allowing its government andpeople to thrive. However, for the rulers of that country, being left alone wasn't enough - they wanted to belong to something bigger. So, former Yugoslavia was the one of the founding members of Non Aligned movement and their diplomacy spent enormous energy in order to please numerous Third World countries, their leaders and ideologies.
CUBA, Richard Lester's movie dealing with Cuban Revolution, was on the programme of Belgrade Film Festival in the early 1980s. Later, the movie was in regular cinema distribution. However, in mid-1980s, when the movie had to be aired on national television, something interesting happened. The Cuban Embassy in Belgrade intervened and issued diplomatic protest, claiming that the movie "offends the Cuban revolution and people". The same movie was, however, banned by some Latin American governments for being pro-Castro, but that didn't matter. Pressured by government, chiefs of Belgrade television, despite having the movie listed in daily newspaper, decided to air something else. The replacement movie was CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA (1943) with Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh. This time the Egyptian Embassy was enraged and issued its own diplomatic protest, claiming that the film presented Egyptians as people "who bend to foreign invaders".
The moral of this story is clear: although followers of "political correctness" preach otherwise, it is simply impossible for any artist to make the work that couldn't offend certain group of people. Why do I mention this anecdote in this review? Because the makers of CUBA made exactly the same mistake.
There are too many examples of Lester trying to be nice to too much people. His main hero, Major Dapes (Connery) is a professional soldier who very unprofessionally turns against its employers, but he is basically a nice guy. Alejandra Pullido (Adams), factory owner, is a bitch towards the workers, but she is basically a nice girl. Her husband Juan (Sarandon) is worthless playboy, but he is bacically a nice guy. General Bello (Balsam) iscorrupt scum, but he is basically a nice guy. Americans support dictatorial and rotten regime, but they are basically nice guys. Fidelistas sometimes machinegun down dozens of innocent people, but they are basically nice guys
In order to make all those people nice, Lester tries to portray them as interesting human beings, thus slowing the pace of the movie. As a result, nothing happens, at least not the things you could expect in a country on a brink of revolution. Finally, when the inevitable takeover finally occurs, Lester illustrates it with a totally gratitutios and highly implausible scene of a tank battle. In order to make things worse, the end scene is one of thousands of CASABLANCA rip-offs.
Acting is, however, nice. Sean Connery, although doing his usual action routine in the end, happens to be very convincing romantic hero. Jack Weston, on the other hand, is wasted as comic relief. Brooke Adams is totally unconvincing as Latin beauty, but Chris Sarandon saves the day. Other actors, playing NASHVILLE-like episodes, contribute a lot, making this bore of a movie at least watchable.
CUBA is, basically, movie made a decade too late - it was more suitable for 1968 when the world's sympathies were definitely more on the left side. However, it still can be a lot of fun.