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‘Chico & Rita’ a Tribute to Cuba and Jazz

2 Oct, 2012 By: Angelique Flores

For me, rarely does a movie live up to the buzz it might get before its release. Chico & Rita was one of those rare exceptions.

The animated film is out now on Blu-ray Disc from Cinedigm Entertainment Group. (This release is one of the first new titles to come out on ancillary platforms since Cinedigm acquired New Video in June.)

The Limited Edition Collector’s Set includes the Blu-ray, DVD and the CD soundtrack.

The animated film is set in 1948 Cuba. It tells the tragic and moving love story between the talented piano player Chico and the beautiful singer Rita.

It’s like a jazz version of Mambo Kings crashing into Calle 54 and brought to life in a graphic novel. And yet, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

The film takes you through Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the detail and accuracy of these cities put you right there in those places at those times. Spanish director Fernando Trueba (La Niña de Tus Ojos, Belle Epoque, Calle 54) and Spanish artist and designer Javier Mariscal went so far as to even make sure the dancing was from the correct period. Their passion for music and Cuba, along with years of effort and creativity, were rewarded. It won the Goya for Best Animated Film and garnered a nomination for Best Animated Feature of the Year at this year’s Academy Awards — the first time a Spanish full-length animated film was nominated.

While the love story is a beautiful tale, it’s the jazz and bolero music here that really shine. The film features original music from legendary Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés. The Grammy-winning soundtrack features Valdés’ original music as well as music by Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole. With names like that, need I say more?

And don’t let me forget to point out the animation. Think graphic novel here, not Pixar. This style used has kind of a colorful yet moody old-school feel that really works for the places and the time period as well as the jazz music. 

Now a limited-edition collector’s set wouldn’t be able to earn that name without some notable extras. This set comes with a 16-page excerpt from the best-selling graphic novel, a commentary with Trueba and Mariscal, and a making-of featurette. Both the making-of featurette and the commentary were done how they should be: chockfull of interesting details behind the film that help you appreciate the film on a whole new level. In some ways, the making of the movie is a story in itself. So listening to the directors, seeing the sketches and hearing all the behind-the-scenes insights on the making of the film was nearly as enjoyable as the movie.


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