Review: ‘Fresa Y Chocolate’

This new comedy from Cuba is a gem. Filled with malicious swipes against the Castro regime, it's a provocative but very humane comedy about sexual opposites and, with proper handling, could attract the "Wedding Banquet" crowd in cinemas worldwide.

This new comedy from Cuba is a gem. Filled with malicious swipes against the Castro regime, it’s a provocative but very humane comedy about sexual opposites and, with proper handling, could attract the “Wedding Banquet” crowd in cinemas worldwide.

David (Vladimir Cruz) is a macho but naive and inexperienced youth who believes passionately in communism and the Cuban Revolution. He’s an idealist who has accepted the official line on everything, but his knowledge of the world , especially of art, music and literature, is scanty. Depressed because his girlfriend has married another man (in a clever, funny opening sequence), he’s at loose ends when he runs into Diego.

Diego (Jorge Perugorria) is an effeminate gay who revels in his gayness. He’s instantly attracted to the handsome David when they share a table at an outdoor cafe, and he manages to persuade David to come to his apartment on a pretext. The homophobic David is most uneasy during this first encounter, especially when Diego prattles on about the ills of Cuban society.

He decides it’s his duty to expose this most unrevolutionary Cuban, especially when Diego mentions he’s working on an art exhibition with the help of a foreign embassy. So he visits the apartment again, and again — and the inevitable happens. He finds his outlook on life being changed by the warm, crazy Diego, and the two become friends. Their final hug lends the film an immenselysatisfying windup.

Though the film’s a bit long, vet director Tomas Gutierrez Alea and his partner Juan Carlos Tabio (director of the hilarious “Plaff,” who was brought in when Alea was taken ill) have come up with a winner here, with much credit going to the two lead actors. Cruz is perfect as the uptight, tunnel-visioned David, while Perugorria is indeed a class act as the extravagantly funny Diego. Minor characters, who include Diego’s spacey next-door neighbor (Mirta Ibarra), are well limned.

“Strawberry and Chocolate” looms as the international breakthrough film for Cuban cinema, thanks to its great good humor and wit. Its cheerful debunking of many of the sacred tenets of communism should also be of interest.

Technical credits are OK, though the color processing in the print caught was rather muddy.

Fresa Y Chocolate

Production

An ICAIC (Havana)-IMCINE-Tabasco Films (Mexico City)-Telemadrid-SGAE (Madrid) co-production. (International sales: ICAIC.) Directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea, Juan Carlos Tabio. Screenplay, Senel Paz, Alea.

Crew

Camera (color), Mario Garcia Joya; editors, Miriam Talavera, Osvaldo Donatien; music, Jose Maria Vitier; production design, Fernando O'Reilly; sound, Germinal Hernandez; assistant director, Mayra Segura. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 12, 1994. Running time: 111 MIN.
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