Tuesday 24 October 2017

The many and varied faces of Cuba's capital

Paul Whitington

7 days in havana

(15A, limited release, 129 minutes)

Director: Gaspar Noé, Benicio Del Toro, Pablo Trapero Stars: Daniel Bruhl, Emir Kusturcia, Elia Suleiman, Vladimir Cruz

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Back in the 1960s, the 'portmanteau' film, in which various directors provided separate vignettes, was briefly all the rage.

The results of nearly all such ensemble productions have been problematic, and so it proves in this sometimes interesting but uneven film set in the Cuban capital.

Gaspar Noé, Julio Médern, Laurent Cantet, Elia Suleiman, Pablo Trapero, Juan Carlos Tabio and Benicio Del Toro all direct occasionally interconnecting segments of varying length and quality, and the film kicks off with Del Toro's El Yuma, which follows the dubious exploits of a young American called Teddy (Josh Hutcherson).

Teddy arrives in Havana for a whistle-stop vacation and is clearly in the mood to let off some steam. In a crazy night that involves beer, rum and hookers, he ends up inviting a transvestite back to his room.

More worthy but rather heavy-handed is Medem's Cecilia's Temptation, which cheesily examines a beautiful nightclub singer's dilemma. Segments from Tabio and French director Cantet are more solid.

Tabio's Bittersweet stars Cuban actress Mirta Ibarra as a double-jobbing mother who endures a disastrous day; Cantet's The Fountain follows a community's attempt to build an altar for the Blessed Virgin.

Perhaps predictably, Noé's Ritual takes most risks. A teenage girl who's been caught in bed with a girlfriend is subjected to a humiliating voodoo 'cleansing' ritual.

Trapero's Jam Session features a lovely performance from Serbian Kusturica as a drunken version of himself who misbehaves at the Havana Film Festival.

7 Days in Havana, then, is not without its interesting moments, but the overall effect is of a daring National Geographic travelogue with unusually high production values.

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