I just watched the remastered edition of the 1964 film I Am Cuba.
Sure, it’s propaganda, but a poet co-wrote the script, and the cinematography alone qualifies the film as a masterpiece.
One Amazon critic called the film “a fever dream, a plunging rollercoaster ride, a cinematographer’s hallucination, a love song to the power of cinema.”
It’s all that and more.
When Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba — a long-lost, phantasmagoric Cuban-Soviet propaganda film from 1964-was rediscovered and reissued in late 1995 by Milestone (with the prominent support of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola), critic Terrence Rafferty wrote the following in his New Yorker review: “They’re going to be carrying ravished film students out of the theaters on stretchers.”
That’s about right. Personally speaking, I certainly needed medical assistance to reattach my jaw, which had dropped permanently to the floor during one of the film’s famed tracking shots.
From a review on Amazon:
Director Mikhail Kalatozov and cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky’s hybrid offspring of Soviet orthodoxy and Cuban tropicalismo is a film of dazzling contrasts. In four intertwining stories of the revolution, Urusevsky’s acrobatic camera takes the viewer on a dizzying ride through smoky nightclubs and rooftop pool parties, rickety shantytowns and rustling sugarcane fields, student protest rallies and remote guerilla outposts. I Am Cuba culminates in the most gorgeously filmed funeral procession of all time, as the camera floats through a cigar factory and hovers high above the narrow streets of Havana.
I think the disc at Netflix is the 2000 edition, not the new, hi-def transfer from the original Russian master. That’s why I shelled out for the three-disc “ultimate edition” released in 2007.
Some reviewers on Amazon complained that poor package design caused scratches on one disc. And indeed one of the three discs was loose when my package arrived. Despite the light scratches, my disc played fine.
I’ll end with another Amazon review excerpt:
This beautiful film reveals the poetic possibilities of cinema…The Soviet government commissioned Kalatozov to create a film promoting international socialism; what it got instead was “an avant-garde freakout that continues to cast a spell over filmmakers” (New York Times, 11/20/2007)
A must-see, in my opinion.