Sunday, February 19, 2012
Underrated Showcase Sundays - Chico & Rita
Underrated Showcase Sundays is a pretty straight-forward: every Sunday I'll shed some light on a film which I think doesn't get enough love. The showcase will be largely unstructured (well, compared to my other reviews) and will often just be random thoughts. It doesn't matter if I've seen it before or not. Tonight's instalment, though, is one that I hadn't seen before, and decided to post now as we near the home stretch for the Oscars.
In amongst the chameleon antics of Rango and the big franchise players Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots is the Spanish film Chico & Rita, which was lucky enough to get a place in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars. It may not be in 3D, nor does it employ the almost 'realistic' looking animation that Rango did, but there is no denying that Chico & Rita is a beautiful, moving tale that could actually serve as a great companion piece to The Artist (I'm guessing). It is a simple tale of two people in love: Chico, a young piano player and Rita, a beautiful singer. Just as soon as they've fallen in love they are torn apart by the allure of fame. Rita is discovered by an impresario named Ron, and takes her to New York where she has a lot of success, and while Chico follows her there, he doesn't take as much as she does. As her star rises, his talent goes ignored, and there's no way that the two could remain together.
Chico & Rita doesn't exactly have the most original storyline, but it does approach it in a different sort of way. I'm not an expert on 'animation for adults', as this is the first of it's kind that I have seen. While I felt like it may have been more suited to being a live action film, looking back on it, it definitely made a statement by being animated. The animation, though simple and also the endangered 2D drawing technique, is absolutely stunning. The colours are in blocks, which might create a flat atmosphere, but it manages to be lively and vibrant. Each frame looks like a beautiful painting. Last time I checked, that was what animation was made for. It was made to look like a moving painting or drawing. With the advent of CGI that makes all of the scales on Rango's skin pop or the whiskers on Puss look as if he were a real cat, Chico & Rita reminds us of a time gone by when animation was animation and wasn't trying to look realistic. It also harks back to the days of the 1940's in Cuba, where jazz music ruled (and that music was fantastic). 2011 was definitely the year of nostalgia, with The Artist and Hugo and whatnot, and Chico & Rita just adds fuel to that fire. Which I don't have a problem with at all.
Chico & Rita does have its fair share of flaws, though. They are mainly to do with the clichéd story and the screenplay not really doing a lot to help that. All in all, that doesn't really matter though. There is such beauty to this story, even if it does use the old-fashioned old man living in regret/pining after the good old days inter-cutting the happier times. The end is bound to get a few tears going, just because of the sheer simplicity. You've got to wonder though, how this film would have turned out if it were made differently. Perhaps if it was an American live action film starring two blockbuster leads, it would be the kind you'd find in the Oscar race in the place of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. If it were just a normal live action movie, it probably wouldn't have gone very far. But since it is a Spanish animated film pushing the boundaries of story-telling in that format, it is something special and something to treasure. Seek it out if you can, it is well worth a look.
What I got: