Andy Garcia _The Lost City_

algernonsidney's picture
Submitted by algernonsidney on Sun, 2006-05-21 13:40

This film is a labor of love for the Cuban-born Garcia.

"In a movie about the Cuban revolution, we almost never see any of
the working poor for whom the revolution was supposedly fought,"
sniffs Peter Reiner in The Christian Science Monitor. "'The Lost
City' misses historical complexity."

Actually, what's missing is Mr. Reiner's historical knowledge. Andy
Garcia and screenwriter Guillermo Cabrera Infante knew full well that
"the working poor" had no role in the stage of the Cuban revolution
shown in the movie. The anti-Batista rebellion was led and staffed
overwhelmingly by Cuba's middle and, especially, upper class. To wit:
In August of 1957 Castro's rebel movement called for a "national
strike" against the Batista dictatorship – and threatened to shoot
workers who reported to work. The "national strike" was completely

Another was called for April 9, 1958. And again Cuban workers blew a
loud and collective raspberry at their "liberators," reporting to
work en masse.

"Garcia's tale bemoans the loss of easy wealth for a precious few,"
harrumphs Michael Atkinson in The Village Voice. "Poor people are
absolutely absent; Garcia and Infante seem to have thought that
peasant revolutions happen for no particular reason – or at least no
reason the moneyed 1 percent should have to worry about."

What's "absolutely absent" is Mr. Atkinson's knowledge about the Cuba
Garcia depicts in his movie. His crack about that "moneyed 1 percent"
and especially his "peasant revolution" epitomize the cliched
idiocies still parroted by the chattering classes about Cuba.

"The impoverished masses of Cubans who embraced Castro as a liberator
appear only in grainy, black-and-white news clips," snorts Stephen
Holden in The New York Times. "Political dialogue in the film is
strictly of the junior high school variety."

It's Holden's education on the Cuban Revolution that's of the "junior
high school variety." Actually it's Harvard Graduate School variety.
Many more imbecilities about Cuba are heard in Ivy League classrooms
than in any rural junior high school.

"It fails to focus on the poverty-stricken workers whose plight lit
the fires of revolution," complains Rex Reed in the New York Observer.

You're better off attempting rational discourse with the Flat-Earth
Society, but nonetheless I'll try to dispel the fantasies of pre-
Castro Cuba still cherished by America's most prestigious academics
and its most learned film critics. I'll even stay away from those
"crackpots" and "hotheads" in Miami. In place of those insufferable
"revanchists" and "hard-liners" I'll use a source generally esteemed
by liberal highbrow types: the United Nations.

Here's a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization) report on Cuba circa 1957: "One feature of the Cuban
social structure is a large middle class," it starts. "Cuban workers
are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S.
workers. The average wage for an 8-hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher
than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor
receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the
figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of
Cubans are covered by social legislation, a higher percentage than in
the U.S."

In 1958 Cuba had a higher per-capita income than Austria and Japan.
Cuban industrial workers had the eighth-highest wages in the world.
In the 1950s Cuban stevedores earned more per hour than their
counterparts in New Orleans and San Francisco. Cuba had established
an eight-hour workday in 1933 – five years before FDR's New Dealers
got around to it. Add to this a one-month paid vacation. The much-
lauded (by liberals) social democracies of Western Europe didn't
manage this till 30 years later.

And get this, Maxine Waters, Barbara Walters, Andrea Mitchell, Diane
Sawyer and the rest of you feminist Castro groupies: Cuban women got
three months of paid maternity leave. I repeat, this was in the
1930s. Cuba, a country 71 percent white in 1957, was completely
desegregated 30 years before Rosa Parks was dragged off that
Birmingham bus and handcuffed. In 1958 Cuba had more female college
graduates per capita than the U.S.

( categories: )

Aye Ross Mi Amigo

Marnee's picture

Yes if I remember correctly Ross, you are right as usual.

I am also reminded of some interesting scenes dealing with the differences in the way of life of Spaniards before and after Franco (Fascist Spain) in the film Live Flesh, also starring, dun dun dun, Javier Bardem.

The big difference? Pre-Franco the streets are deserted on Christmas eve. Post-Franco they are filled with partiers, foreign and domestic -- the Spain I know and love Smiling!

Hmmm I see a pattern.

Trust Marnee to come in with

Ross Elliot's picture

Trust Marnee to come in with a stunning movie/reference post.

Girl, your eyes must be 16x9 Eye

I've always liked the Cuban-Mafia machinations and denouement in Godfather II. Evocative.

Y Hay Mas

Marnee's picture

Another movie that more accurately depicts the Cuban Revolution is Antes de Que Anochecera -- Before Night Falls.

One particularly good moment is when the protaganist, poet Reinaldo Arenas, is speaking to a friend with a large a glorious library, right as the revolution is beginning. Perhaps ironically, as he may have been speaking about the Batistas, not sure, his friend says to him:

"People who make art are dangerous to any dictatorship. They create beauty and beauty is the enemy. Artists are counterrevolutionaries."

It stars the ever so wonderful Javier Bardem who also starred in recent The Sea Inside. He also starred in The Dancer Upstairs, which was an intriguing and more accurate depiction of the communist guerrillas in Latin America.

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