Juan Antonio García Borrero

Critic and professor: cinecubanolapupilainsomne.wordpress.com

Cuba

Voted in the critics’ poll

Voted for

dolce vita, La

1960

Federico Fellini

Godfather: Part I, The

1972

Francis Ford Coppola

Gold Rush, The

1925

Charles Chaplin

It Happened One Night

1934

Frank Capra

Ivan's Childhood

1962

Andrei Tarkovsky

Memories of Underdevelopment

1968

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea

olvidados, Los

1950

Luis Buñuel

Rashomon

1950

Akira Kurosawa

Rocco and his Brothers

1960

Luchino Visconti

Virgin Spring, The

1960

Ingmar Bergman

Comments

Behind the amusing anecdote of the fortune seeker, behind the ingenious gags that are scattered throughout the film, The Gold Rush is one of the most profound cinematic representations of the tragic sense that pervades life. Chaplin is not a comedian; he is a genius who knows to expose the essence of human existence. On the other hand, up till this point there’s never been in all the history of cinema a character as universal as Charlot, who is capable of describing human beings with shivering exactitude, regardless of race, sex or standing in society. That is to say, capable of describing us as what we are deep inside: tramps in search of that golden chimera called happiness. Rashomon is a very fine study of the genuine possibilities that humans have to access truth. Kurosawa does not exactly declare himself to be in favour of relativism. Rather, he encourages us to be wary of any rush to understanding, or treating as definitive the first versions of truth that we build. And everything is done with an enviable sense of the cinematographic, in a story where the actors’ performances acquire great relevance. Violent yet profoundly human, The Godfather Part I works as a masterful portrait of modern societies. Coppola does not analyse his characters, nor seeks to moralise, but instead constructs these characters with all those ingredients that constitute the human condition. The visual and narrative elements are simply fascinating. The superbly thorough study that Fellini makes of a world characterised by the loss of moral values remains intact. But La Dolce Vita is not only about moral denunciation; it’s a film that has managed to leave for posterity sequences that work in the collective imaginary in an autonomous way. Los Olvidados is a Buñuel film capable of higher strike rates than those by Italian Neorealism, and with the latter’s own ingredients. His look on the world of the poor is bereft of any kind of idealisation. The poor, by virtue of being ‘poor’, are not granted any assistance by history or reason. Buñuel gives voice to the excluded, but goes even further than fake compassion and shows the spiritual misery that hides behind all material poverty. In Ivan’s Childhood, his first feature, Tarkovsky seems to be complying with the demands of a cinema that praises the virtues of the ‘socialist man’, as was required at the time. However, his creative genius means he can insert sequences that go beyond any desire for a ‘socialist realism’, to show us a protagonist who is not only vulnerable because of his age and physique, but also because of his own nature. The childhood the title is referring to could also be interpreted as that fleeting, violent and innocent passage that is human life. In The Virgin Spring Bergman captures the innocence of an 18th-century Swedish legend in a film where the debate around Good and Evil reaches philosophic heights. But the profundity of the discussion is guaranteed by his masterful use of filmic language. With a perfect dramaturgic structure, the film manages to shift, with chilling effectiveness, from candour to anguish, leaving in the viewer that deep sense of unease that tragedy inspires. Visconti’s extraordinary sensitivity manages to deliver a vigorous social portrait in the form of melodrama. The incredibly finely textured sociological study of the protagonist’s family members reveals a shocking emotional universe, and all the performances (all of them great) enable Rocco and his Brothers to acquire a great tragic density. It Happened One Night is an unforgettable film. Capra unfurls his great gifts as a narrator, turning this simple (if only in appearance) romantic comedy into a memorable cinematographic exercise. The way in which he distributes the various tensions (sexual, economical, social) guarantees that the rhythm of the film is vertiginous at all times. Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment continues to be a surprising film which does not age, owing to the fact that, more than telling a story about a bourgeois man whose been surpassed by History, it examines the destiny of an individual who in reality feels like a foreigner in Existence. The fact that the plot is developed in the context of an underdeveloped country where a revolution is taking place can raise the suspicion that it is part of ‘the school of resentment’, but a closer look from our present perspective proves that its focus is not exactly sociological. Even people who live in first world countries can identify with this character’s scepticism, nonconformity and doubt in the face of that programmed optimism that elites seem to be dictating to us, dazzled as they are by the idea of the Progress of illuminism.

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