7 Days in Havana Review (published 2 July 2012 on http://www.leedsuncut.co.uk)
7 Days in Havana is a mish-mash of short stories and characters, which at times is an enjoyable snapshot of the Cuban city but for the most part makes for dull viewing.
The film is broken down into separate chapters, spanning Monday through Sunday, with 7 different filmmakers directing each section. In many ways the film suffers because of this. There is no one direct narrative, and in place of plot development and characterisation there is a jumbled scrapbook of ideas and visions. Ultimately this deprives the audience of any real connection or investment into the stories unfolding before them.
Hunger Games star, Josh Hutcherson plays Teddy, an American tourist in the opening short El Yuma. Whilst being shown the ropes by a Cuban taxi driver he encounters a variety of cliches, laced with liquor, scantily-clad girls and transvestite anecdotes which resemble the remnants of the American Pie joke back catalogue blended together with a late night MTV music video.
Arguably the worst offender comes courtesy of Gasper Noe with his repetitive, self-indulgent insight into the spirituality of Cuban culture. Ritual manages to strike a perfect balance between intensity and mundanity, where high volume drums and the odd glimpse of flesh desperately tries to throw together a false impression of artistic integrity.
Despite a talented cast rosta and visually pleasing cinematography, 7 Days in Havana leaves the audience with a cold, bland aftertaste. There is the rare hook of raw emotion, notably at the climax of Jam Session, which follows hedonistic film director Emir Kusturica’s developing friendship with his struggling Cuban taxi driver. As the two characters endulge in music, the driver takes solice in his trumpet playing in an attempt to escape the poverty around him. Following the high energy scenes of jamming and dancing, his flashes of fatalism takes the audience off guard with their sheer vulnerability.
However, it doesn’t take long to dash the subtle atmosphere as Wednesday brings The Temptation of Cecilia. Following an attractive, love-torn singer as she makes the decision whether to follow her heart and career to Spain or to say in Havana with her boyfriend, Julio Medem’s story crams romantic stereotypes with an overly sentimental soundtrack. Cecilia is never successfully developed further than a few close-up frowns and there is a lingering emptiness to her character.
Overall, 7 Days in Havana has highlights of humour and vivid insights into an intriguing culture, but these are buried deep in a two hour parade of melodrama and pretentiousness that feels more at home as a half-hearted Havana promotional video than on the silver screen.
The film is set for general cinema release on Friday 6th July. To find out more about it click here.
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