×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Smoking Cuban Style

(German and English dialogue)

(German and English dialogue)

Interested in the same sort of complex human interplay as auteurs Eric Rohmer and Rudolf Thome, shorts vet Stephan Wagner makes an impressive feature debut with “Smoking Cuban Style.” Story centers on two friends who open a Vienna antique store and discover more than they ever wanted to know about each other, themselves and the cruel world. Moody item, shot through with flashes of dry wit , might be too downbeat for general consumption, but depth of story and resolutely non-stylish style will ensure pic’s popularity at fests and, with nurturing and patience, in special situations and ancillary markets.

Tired of strong-arming with excitable partner Erwin (Wolfgang S. Zechmayer) for local boss Dragan (Seymour Cassel), Bernd (Thomas Morris) decides to go into business with his pal Paul (Simon Licht), who has a line on an antique store being sold by the elderly Waranovsky (Leon Askin).

Pooling money borrowed from Dragan with funds cadged from the family of Paul’s g.f., Eva (Eva-Marie Straka), the two set up shop and seem content for a while. Yet the timing of Paul’s increasingly passionate affair with Lisa (Tatjana Alexander) threatens his relationship with Eva — and, by extension, his loan.

At the same time, Bernd’s drug trafficking via antique shipments serves not only to attract the unwanted attention of the vicious Erwin, but puts Paul in a comic spot when an auto accident reveals to some dimwitted rural cops a stash of coke in the shape of a statue.

Things come to a head when Dragan asks Bernd to kill Erwin and when Paul’s decision about his two lovers, as well as his future, is decided for him.

Wagner relishes the little things that contribute to mood and character, such as the poster for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s “Katzelmacher,” in front of which Paul and Lisa kiss; the odd rapport shared by Bernd and Dragan (who speak to each other in German and English, respectively, although each seems to fully understand the other) and the unexpected eloquence of the small-town constabulary.

Paul’s story gets more screen time than Bernd’s, yet both Licht and Morris, who’ve worked with Wagner in his previous short dramas, make an initially unlikely friendship seem both logical and comfortable.

Tech credits are fine, although B&W lensing is inexplicably muddy. Title refers to tricky method of keeping cigarette ash on the filter (done in “solidarity with Cuba,” says Paul), a rich, apt metaphor for the balancing acts of these average yet complicated lives.

Smoking Cuban Style

(DRAMA -- AUSTRIAN-GERMAN)

Production: A Blow-up Film/Kuba Film production. (International sales: Kuba Film, Berlin.) Produced, directed, written by Stephan Wagner.

Crew: Camera (B&W), Thomas Benesch; editor, Gunnar Wanne-Eickel; music, Peter Ponger, Alexander Zlamal; production designer, Thomas Olah; sound (Dolby SR), Torsten Heinemann. Reviewed at Denver Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Oct. 14, 1999. (Also in Ft. Lauderdale Film Festival.) Original title: Kubanisch rauchen. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Simon Licht, Thomas Morris, Seymour Cassel, Tatjana Alexander, Eva-Maria Straka, Wolfgang S. Zechmayer, Alfons Haider, Leon Askin, Hilde Sochor , Katharina Stemberger, Martin Brambach.

More Film

  • Aquaman

    China Box Office: ‘Aquaman’ Sinks All Challengers With $94 Million Opening

    The decision to release “Aquaman” in China two weeks prior to its North American outing paid off handsomely. The DC Comics adaptation achieved a massive $94.1 million opening in three days, according to data from Asian entertainment consultancy Artisan Gateway. The early release meant that the film played against weak opposition – tired Hollywood and [...]

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content