In “The Lost City” Andy Garcia uses the colorful beauty of his native Cuba to tell the heartfelt story of a man and his love for a woman and a city tormented by political injustice.
Garcia, who directed, co-produced and stars in the movie, has waited 16 years to put this movie on the big screen and we should all thank him for his dedication to the project. The movie was written by Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante and brought to life by the vision of Garcia in his feature film directorial debut.
“The Lost City” takes place in 1958 Havana when dictator Fulgencio Batista’s time on the Caribbean island is running out. Revolution is on the way, lead by Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
In the midst of all the tension, Fico Fellove tries to keep his family together and run his successful cabaret nightclub, El Tropico. Fico, played by Garcia, and most of his family want political change to come through democracy, but his two brothers cry for revolution.
When one of the brothers dies in a failed assassination attempt on Batista, Fico is left taking care of his widowed sister-in-law Aurora, a promise he made to his brother before he died. Aurora, played by Spanish beauty In?s Sastre, becomes another struggle for Fico. As their platonic feelings grow into love they are again reminded of the turmoil their country is in. As the widow of a revolutionary hero, Aurora feels a responsibility to support Castro and his followers while Fico does not want anything to do with them.
Suddenly Fico finds himself loosing both the city and the woman he loves.
Besides Garcia, the cast boasts Hollywood heavyweights Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray. Hoffman plays American mobster Meyer Lansky, who wants to start up a casino at El Tropico, but Fico insists his club is only for music and dancing.
Murray plays a role that seems tailor-made for him. Simply known as “the writer,” Murray plays the American gag writer who makes everybody laugh in the toughest of times with ironic comments. From the time Murray enters the movie in suit coat and shorts in matching fabric and a hat, he balances out the despair that otherwise would have been too much to bear. He provides comic relief throughout the serious events of the film.
A prime example occurs at El Tropico with Fico, showman Rodney and the club’s creative director. Discussing the events in Havana, Murray stood behind the bar and asked if anyone wanted a Cuba Libre.
The movie is elegantly wrapped in an amazing array of Cuban music and dance. The mambo, cha cha cha, congas, trumpets and trombones all play a vital role. They can be seen as the symbols of hope Fico has for his country and the woman he loves. When the revolutionaries take them away from him by closing his club, he does not have much hope left.
The soundtrack is most likely going to be heavenly for people who love to dance to Latin rhythms.
“The Lost City” was filmed in the Dominican Republic during the summer and features a gorgeous natural setting of white sand beaches and swaying palm trees.
The costume designer did a wonderful job making the actors look elegant in their 1950s clothes. The men often had on white linen suits and the women wore classy, but still very sexy, dresses courtsey of Academy Award-winning costume designer Deborah L. Scott.
Garcia could have made enough money to fund the whole movie by using a cigarette company in the product placement. In more scenes than not, the characters are smoking either cigarettes or cigars. They almost become an extension of Fico’s arm. Granted, the Felloves own a big tobacco plantation, but come on.
“The Lost City” is a beautiful story that will capture the audience and take them on a journey through Havana, seen through the eyes of a man who saw his country slip away right in front of him. “The Lost City” rediscovers a city that was once lost.
Johan Mengehsa can be reached at email@example.com.