A CUBAN HERSHEY’S
My candidate as the most spectacular splash by a new artist since Orson Welles bowled us over with Citizen Kane is Humberto Solas’s 1968 Cuban Lucia. Not nearly as smooth in stylistic craftsmanship as Welles, it is all over the place viscerally, with dizzy highs the likes of which leave you reeling from various kinds of swirling reactions only an impassioned epic can pull off. More amazing, it’s also the most moving of the few political bombasts to defy by accident the required proselytizing. Like those long-ago trips to see the bible spectacles intended to religiously purify but instead infected us with an unending love of movies, Lucia, intended as lesson on the bliss and rewards of Communism, becomes a call for equality, exposing political propaganda by bringing to the surface emotional and sexual freedom reversing the very intentions aimed for. At the time he made the movie, Solas, a Cuban Film Institute prodigy looking like Carl Bernstein crossed with Mario Vargas Llosa, was a true blue believer in the Revolution, passionate on Maxist dialectics. In Lucia, he tries to arrive at his Marxist truth by unmasking contradictions of the petit bourgeois positions and overcome them by unconsciously declaring new contradictions. It’s what does him in: the objective of everything equal through the State is not only in contradiction with the movie’s three conclusions—dissolution in “1895,” impatience in “1933,” submission to macho demagoguery in “196-”—the objective is also in strong defiance against the volatile Latin spirit. Seeming to understand more than the politicians his country’s raw frenzied emotions and temperaments with some great pre-telenovella dramaturgy, Solas, nor the usually attentive Cuban movie censors, saw how the movie embarrasses the explicit political themes. Lucia is “not a film about women,” Solas said, “it’s a film about society. But within that society, I chose the most vulnerable character. Because women are traditionally assigned to submissive roles, they have suffered more from society’s contradictions and are thus more sensitive to them and more hungry for change. From this perspective, I feel that the female characters have a great deal of dramatic potential through which I can express the entire social phenomenon.” Solas reveals a distinctly Latin dichotomy: how demands for equality and respect are not only dramatically acted out by his women but are also used to attempt to build a foundation of reform in the subversive macho patriarchate. So habituated was Solas that he may have died never realizing he made what remains the most fulminating movie about the dangers of being a woman in the insistently re-emerging Stepford Wives sexual politic. Lucia is like pigging out on a giant Hershey’s—a delicious overdose.
Text COPYRIGHT © 1999 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.