Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Dark Glasses (orig. Espejuelos Oscuros) [2015]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing
AdoroCinema listing*
PeliCuba listing*

Diario de las Americas (L. Lionel León)  article*
Miami Herald (R. Rodriguez) article

Cocalecas.net (R. Piralta Riguad) interview w. director*
CubaCine.cu (A. Martín Pastrana) interview w. director*
NewTimes-Miami (N. Martinez) interview w. director
OnCuba.com interview w. director

ACN.cu (M. Hernández Martínez) review*
NewTimes- Miami (A. Martinez) review

Dark Glasses (orig. Espejuelos Oscuros) [2015] [AC]* (written and directed by Jessica Rodríguez [IMDb] [AC]*) is ANOTHER TRULY REMARKABLE FILM -- here a CUBAN (and SPANISH) "small indie" film (a characterization which when talking about a place like CUBA immediately takes on a VERY INTERESTING SIGNIFICANCE) -- that played recently at the 32nd (2016) Chicago Latino Film Festival after making stirs at both the Havana International Festival for New Latin American Cinema in Dec. 2015 where it played for three round-the-block sellout audiences (despite it being generally considered doubtful that it'll receive a license for general theatrical release in Cuba anytime soon...) and then at the Miami International Film Festival in March 2016.

Indeed, the film crosses all kinds of boundaries:  The Cuban-born but now Spain-residing writer-director  Jessica Rodríguez [IMDb] [AC]* who got her initial degree in film-making in Cuba but has since studied in Spain and even in the United States, using Spanish crowd-sourced money, nonetheless filmed this movie in Cuba utilizing the services of two very well known Cuban actors -- Laura de la Uz [IMDb] [FAes]* and José Alberto García [IMDb] [FAes]*.  Further, her script, which she penned while still a student in Cuba, leans on both the story of Scheherazade [wikip] of a 1001 Nights [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] and the classic Cuban Communist Era film Lucia [1968] the latter which she arguably subverts.   Again, this is one heck of a film ;-).

So then, to the movie itself:

It tells the story of Esperanza (played by Laura de la Uz [IMDb] [FAes]*) who finds herself in a terrible situation.  An escaped criminal named Mario (played by José Alberto García [IMDb] [FAes]*) had broken into her home in the Cuban hinterlands to hide from police and has made it clear that he plans to rape her before making his next move.

Playing for time, Esperanza asks Mario to read to her ... three stories (from different periods in Cuban history) all interestingly involving both rather steamy situations (which interest Mario) and female empowerment or at least putting powerful men in their place (which is why Esperanza had collected them).

Now why would Esperanza get Mario to do this?  Well ... Mario quickly comes to feel sorry for Esperanza because she appears to be almost blind.  He may be a desperate man, but he's not completely Evil, even though, of course, he really wants to rape her, but then not necessarily "beat her over the head and take her" (he'd like her to at least partly want him).  Anyway, she tells him that she loves hearing these stories (and since she's blind, she can't read them herself).  AND she promises him that they're steamy enough that HE'D enjoy them too.

So ... Mario decides to "read her a story or two ..." ultimately three, and, well, they're compelling stories:

One's set in the 1970s (during the height of the Communist Era) involving a hot "hooker" / "seemingly Communist informer" Marlene who eventually gets her revenge (quite amusingly) on her lecherous Communist Party-member boss.  (This is why I personally don't think that this film will play anytime soon in regular Cuban theaters ... or if it does, then honestly Cuba will have changed quite a bit ...).

The second is set during late 1950s just before the fall of the Battista regime in which a Battista police officer tortures young Cuban (left-wing) student who's in love with the same woman as he.  However, by the time the police officer is done with the student, he's probably revealed more about himself than he'd like ...

Finally, the last story is set during the 1890 Cuban War for Independence and again a Cuban revolutionary (or perhaps loyalist it's not necessarily clear) is outsmarted by a Cuban woman (who incidently, like Esperanza, lives alone out in the Cuban countryside) who turns out to be able to keep her loyalties closer to the vest than he.

And by the end of the third story Esperanza, in fact, is able to find a way to outwit Mario as well.  (I'm not going to say how ...)

Readers here who know something of Scheherazade [wikip] of a 1001 Nights [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] and then the signature Communist Era film Lucia [1968] will see the obvious similarities / references to both.

Anyway, it makes for one heck of a film and it'll be very interesting to see if the film does find its way to play not merely at a rarified Havana Film Festival but out in the Provinces to general Cuban audiences as well.

Great job!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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  1. Where can you watch the movie?

    1. The director's site on vimeo is at https://vimeo.com/user12407009 . It'd probably be best to ask her.