Chico and Rita

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Chico and Rita
Chico Rita.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Fernando Trueba
Javier Mariscal
Tono Errando
Produced by Santi Errando
Cristina Huete
Michael Rose
Martin Pope
Written by Fernando Trueba
Ignacio Martínez de Pisón
Starring Lenny Mandel
Limara Meneses
Music by Bebo Valdés
Production
  company
Fernando Trueba PC
Estudio Mariscal
Magic Light Pictures
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
(Spain)
GKIDS (North America)
CinemaNX
Release date(s)
  • 19 November 2010 (2010-11-19) (United Kingdom)
  • 25 February 2011 (2011-02-25) (Spain)
Running time 94 minutes
Country Spain
United Kingdom
Language Spanish
English
Budget €10 million[1]

Chico and Rita (also Chico & Rita) is a Spanish animated feature-length film with Spanish and English languages directed by Tono Errando, Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal.[2] The story of Chico and Rita is set against backdrops of Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

A gifted songwriter and beautiful singer chase their dreams—and each other—from Havana to New York and Las Vegas. Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unite them, but their journey—in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero—brings heartache and torment.

The film was produced by Fernando Trueba Producciones, Estudio Mariscal, and Magic Light Pictures. It won the Goya Award for Best Animated Film at the 25th Goya Awards and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 84th Academy Awards (the first nomination for a Spanish full-length animated film).

Synopsis[edit]

The first scenes of the film take part in present-day Havana. Chico, a shoe-shiner, ends his workday and goes up to his room that overlooks the port. He tunes his radio to the Radio Progreso station, which is playing old Cuban hits on a program called Melodies from Yesterday. As he listens the station begins to play a romantic arrangement of A Taste of Me (Sabor a Mí) by Mexican composer Álvaro Carrillo (1921-1969). Chico and Rita won a radio contest 60 years ago performing the song.

The story jumps to 1948, where Chico and his friend Ramón are struggling dandies in a low-life bar where, on this night, they are paired with two American tourist women. The musicians at the bar play a ballad with their lead singer, Rita. Chico is immediately taken with her and wishes to talk to her—but she is already busy with her own American tourist who does not let her leave.

Chico and Ramón go to the Tropicana Club with their lady-friends, and sneak in through the performer’s entrance. While walking around, Chico stumbles upon Rita and her gentleman-friend—almost initiating a fight. The Maitre d', however, overhears that Chico is an accomplished pianist and persuades him to substitute for the main event's missing pianist. Chico fills in, playing at first sight a new piece—Ebony Concerto by Igor Stravinsky. Chico, initially nervous, ends up performing the piece with aplomb, to the delight of the band.

Rita finally agrees to ditch her date and flee with Chico on Ramón’s motorcycle and sidecar, along with the Americans. After a dangerous chase, the American man finally crashes into a car dealership, and the others escape. Rita and Chico leave the rest of the party and go to a bar where Chico introduces her to bebop music, which she takes up quickly. Afterwards they go to Chico’s place and spend the rest of the night together.

The next day Rita wakes up to find Chico playing a new composition on the piano, which he names Rita. As they play and kiss, Juana, Chico’s former girlfriend walks in and ends up in a fight with Rita, after which both women angrily leave.

Chico is taken with Rita and does not want to play in an upcoming contest if he cannot perform with Rita, so Ramón, who also is his agent, tracks Rita down and pays her to participate in the contest. After the performance, Rita leaves and Chico follows her in Ramón’s motorcycle. He sees that she enters a house where he believes that she lives with a man. However, it turns out that it is the house of a santera[disambiguation needed] that had predicted he would cause her much suffering. That night, the station announces the contest winners, and Rita and Chico win. The prize is a month’s engagement at the Hotel Nacional.

A few weeks later, Chico and Rita are having great success in their performances. Rita’s beauty mesmerizes more than one man, which ignites Chico’s jealousy. One of the admirers, Ron, asks Rita to his table to discuss business. He offers to take Rita to New York City to make her a star, where jazz and Latin music are a burgeoning scene. While Ron tries to convince Rita to go to New York, she insists that the offer must include Chico.

Meanwhile, Chico has been watching from a distance and is jealous, believing Rita wishes to leave him for Ron. Rita stands up to talk to Chico but he is already too drunk to understand and leaves in a rage. Even after this, Rita insists that the offer include both.

Rita leaves to look for Chico. She goes to his place and waits in the courtyard where she falls asleep. She's awakened by the sound of Chico, completely drunk and barely able to walk, assisted by a woman named Juana. She leaves for New York alone, with Ron as her agent and presumably lover.

Chico is depressed, but he and Ramón manage to get enough means to go to New York as well to find fortune. While there, he manages to see Rita, but she has become very successful and doesn't want to see him again.

Chico and Ramón give Chano Pozo a letter of recommendation they received from his sister in Cuba. Chano is receptive and excited to meet fellow Cubans. However, he is involved in drugs and has a short temper. After discovering he was sold oregano instead of marijuana, Chano attacks the dealer, who later finds him in a bar and kills him.

Chico finds work as a party musician, and Ramón as an usher at the Plaza Hotel. At one of his party gigs, Chico runs into Rita again, who is flustered by the fact that a white woman has expressed her doubts about having a film made that features a black Latino woman as a lead. Chico and Rita run away in a new car that Ron just gave her. The next day she leaves for California to film the movie.

In the meantime, Ron locates Ramón and proposes a deal to finance his artist-agency business, as long as he finds jobs to keep Chico away from Rita. Ramón complies with his end of the bargain and signs Chico with Dizzy Gillespie, who has a gig in Paris and then a European tour.

Rita becomes a big star, and her film is a huge success. Chico finds a new girlfriend in Paris. One morning, while playing Rita at the piano, the girlfriend's dog, "Lily," comes in and sits by Chico, who then changes the name of the song to Lily.

A few months pass on, and Rita is sad despite wealth and success, as she is still mistreated socially due to her skin color. While being driven to a set and going through her lines, the radio plays a new Jazz hit she instantly recognizes as Rita. She is moved to tears, but disappointed to learn that Chico has renamed the song, Lily.

Sometime later, Rita goes into a bar and sees Chico playing Lily. After the performance, Chico leaves for home. He comes across Rita outside the bar, and she asks him who "Lily" is. He teases her about the mystery female's identity, but finally reveals that he renamed the song after a dog. The two passionately kiss. A paparazzo captures the kiss in a photograph that appears in the newspapers.

Chico and Rita agree to marry that New Year’s Eve, after Rita’s debut in Las Vegas. Chico tells Ramón, who thinks the union would mean his ruin. Ramón slips a packet of drugs into Chico’s coat, which police discover during a search after a raid on his gig at the Palladium in New York. They arrest Chico, and won't let him make a phone call to Rita, who waits in vain in a Las Vegas motel. Chico is soon deported back to Cuba.

Rita starts drinking too much. Backstage at her New Year's Eve performance, Ron tells her that Chico has done this before and that she shouldn't be surprised. Ominously, he tells her not to "spoil it all now." She decides on the spot to sabotage her career. She makes her way to the stage, and, in her thick Cuban accent, wishes the audience a Happy New Year before denouncing racism and the hypocrisy of being a celebrated black artist.

Meanwhile, Chico enters Cuba right at the beginning of Castro's regime, and the new Cuban revolutionary authorities seize his passport. All venues are now forbidden to play jazz because it is "capitalist music." Disappointed with life, Chico gives up music altogether.

Sixty years pass. While Chico is shining shoes for a tourist, a young man rushes to him and tells him that some music big-shots are eagerly asking for him. He reluctantly agrees to meet them—a famous young singer and her entourage—at a recording studio. For the first time in years he plays Lily and the singer asks him to record the song with her. It becomes a big hit and takes him in a world tour.

After the tour, Chico is allowed again into the United States. He searches for Rita, starting at the places he remembers seeing her in New York. He eventually finds Ron in a nursing home and discovers that his friend Ramón has died and Rita is in Las Vegas. He goes there and knocks on her door. She has stayed for 47 years in the same motel room, working as the motel's housekeeper and waiting for him. The film ends with their reunion.

Collaborators[edit]

Director Fernando Trueba met designer and artist Javier Mariscal ten years ago when he asked him to create a poster for his Latin jazz documentary Calle 54.[3] So began a collaboration that saw Mariscal design all the artwork for Trueba's Calle 54 Records, make animated pop promos for the label, and together create a jazz-music restaurant in Madrid. Chico & Rita would be Javier Mariscal’s first ani­mated fea­ture film as designer.[4] The idea to make an animated feature film emerged from one of those pop promos, La Negra Tomasa by Cuban musician Compay Segundo.

Mariscal's younger brother Tono Errando, with a background in music, film and animation, leads the audio-visual side of the multi-disciplinary creative company, and was chosen to collaborate with Trueba and Mariscal. From the beginning, all three men were excited by the idea of making a film set against the Havana music scene in the late-40s and 50s. "That age is beautiful in design and architecture, so visually it belongs very much to Mariscal's world," says Errando.

"And in music it's a moment that's fantastic: it's the moment where Cuban musicians go to New York and join the Anglo Saxon jazz musicians. This fusion changed the music at that time."

Production[edit]

Before drawing the locations in Cuba, Mariscal completed an intense research trip. Although many of Havana’s pre-revolutionary buildings had decayed, either deliberately or from neglect, the filmmakers discovered that the Havana city government had assembled an archive of photographs to help with street repairs. Pictures of every street corner in Havana since 1949 were archived, conveying the look and mood of the era.

The team also found pictures taken inside the planes ferrying Americans to the party island. Mariscal explained that the planes arriving from New York, Washington, D.C. and Miami during that period were filled with Cuban musicians entertaining the passengers. They provided much historical information about the Cubans of that era: the clothes, the faces, the streets, billboards, cars, bars, the way they lived, and the sensational life of Havana.

Release[edit]

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distributed the film in 100 Spanish theaters on 25 February 2010.[1] GKIDS holds the distribution rights for the film in North America.[5] The film has also been shown at the following festivals and released in the UK and Spain. The English dub will include the voices of Wendell Pierce, Mary J. Blige, Rob Riggle, Chris Pine, and Viola Davis.

Reception[edit]

Chico & Rita was broadly praised by critics upon release, gaining a score of 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.[15] The BBC's Mark Kermode listed the film fifth in his top five films of 2010.[16] Philip French called the film "the year's best musical and one of the year's finest animated films" and an "utterly delightful, ... affecting, funny, historically accurate and at times pleasingly erotic story",[17] while Sounds and Colors called the film "a crowning achievement; a mixture of great animation, music and history with a narrative that reads like the simple story of heartbreak that bestows the greatest of love songs."[18]

In March 2011, The Miami Herald said "the film melds dazzling visuals and a wildly infectious score into a simple yet affecting love story" and while the "first 30 minutes of Chico & Rita achieve a giddy high the rest of the movie can never match", "Chico & Rita makes you fall hard for music, as hard as the protagonists fall for each other, and the movie is decent enough to give its lovebirds the tender finale they deserve."[13] Fotogramas, the oldest and most prestigious film magazine in Spain, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and praised how its characters were "more human and alive than many real actors",[19] unlike Variety, which negatively reviewed the film, calling it, "...a test, one that gauges whether your love of Cuban jazz can exceed your threshold for lousy animation...[in] an unflattering style, like a children's coloring book with its rudimentary line drawings and stiff, expressionless characters." The film was "...evocative enough of late-'40s Havana and the sweaty, sensual music of the time."[6]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards[20] 26 February 2012 Best Animated Feature Fernando Trueba
Javier Mariscal
Nominated
Annie Awards [21] 4 February 2012 Best Animated Feature Nominated
European Film Awards [22] 3 December 2011 Best Animated Feature Film Tono Errando
Fernando Trueba
Javier Mariscal
Won
Festival of European Animated Feature Films and TV Specials [23] 19 June 2011 Hungarian National Student Jury Award Fernando Trueba
Javier Mariscal
Tono Errando
Won
Goya Awards [24] 13 February 2011 Best Animated Film Fernando Trueba
Javier Mariscal
Won

Music[edit]

The film has an original soundtrack by Cuban pianist, bandleader and composer Bebo Valdés. It features music by Thelonious Monk, Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole.

According to Tono Errando, "it was the moment when new musicians came along like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie with a new kind of music, that is not for dancing, full of notes, played really fast, a music that now we call jazz. Then the Cuban musicians arrived. Dizzy Gillespie has said many times in interviews, there was a moment for him that was very important, it was the moment he first played with Chano Pozo. Pozo was the first percussionist that played in a jazz band."[25]

Cuban pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger of the film Bebo Valdés was living in obscurity in Stockholm, when Trueba reintroduced his playing to an international audience with his film Calle 54, and went on to produce the Grammy-winning Lagrimas Negras album, teaming Valdes with flamenco singer Diego 'el Cigala'.

Trueba was also able to persuade the real-life flamenco star Estrella Morente, who has been performing since the age of seven, to participate in the film.

Musicians featured in the film include Chucho Valdés, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Chano Pozo, Tito Puente, Ben Webster, and Thelonious Monk.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b De Pablos, Emiliano (1 December 2010). "Disney takes 'Chico and Rita' for Spain". Variety. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  2. ^ Chico & Rita at the Big Cartoon DataBase
  3. ^ Dossier Calle 54 Club. Issuu.com (17 February 2010). Retrieved on 2011-03-11.
  4. ^ Anderson, Paul (21 February 2012). ""Chico & Rita" wins Spain’s Goya for animated film". Big Cartoon News. Retrieved 21 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "GKids makes splash with two in toon pool". Variety. 
  6. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (10 September 2010). "Chico and Rita". Variety. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  7. ^ "2010 Films – Chico & Rita". Toronto International Film Festival. 21 July 2010. Retrieved 2011-03-11. 
  8. ^ http://www.londonspanishfilmfestival.com/2010_festival/2010_films/chico_y_rita.html[dead link]
  9. ^ The London Latin American Film Festival, the Best Annual Latin American Film Festival in London celebrates its 20th edition in November 2010. Latinamericanfilmfestival.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-11.
  10. ^ Winners from the Holland Animation Film Festival website,
  11. ^ The Holland Animation Film Festival 2010: Chico and Rita steal the show, a 10 November 2010 article from Phaidon Press
  12. ^ Filmfest 2011. Design Indaba. Retrieved on 2011-03-11.
  13. ^ a b "Falling in love in Havana — and all that jazz". The Miami Herald. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  14. ^ "Estudio Mariscal and Chico & Rita, an animated movie". TYPO Berlin 2011 SHIFT. 19 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  15. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/chico_and_rita/ Chico & Rita - Rotten Tomatoes. Accessed 2011-4-10
  16. ^ Kermode Uncut: My Top Five Films of the Year on YouTube. Accessed 2011-4-10
  17. ^ Philip French (21 November 2010). "Chico & Rita – Review". The Observer (London). Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  18. ^ Chico and Rita, a 19 November 2010 review from SoundsandColours.com
  19. ^ http://www.fotogramas.es/Peliculas/Chico-Rita/Critica
  20. ^ "Oscars 2012: Nominees in full". BBC News. Retrieved 2012-01-24. 
  21. ^ Vary, Adam B. (5 December 2011). "'Kung Fu Panda 2,' 'Puss in Boots,' 'Rango' lead Annie award nominations". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 5 December 2011. 
  22. ^ http://www.europeanfilmacademy.org/2011/12/03/the-24th-european-film-awards-winners/
  23. ^ 10. Kecskeméti Animációs Filmfesztivál 7. Európai Animációs Játékfilm Fesztivál. Kecskeméti Animáció Film Fesztivál. 2011.
  24. ^ http://premiosgoya.academiadecine.com/ganadores/
  25. ^ Fernando Trueba P.C.S.A, Estudio Mariscal S.A, Magic Light Pictures, IOM Limited (3 October 2010). "Chico & Rita – Pressbook". www.chicoyrita.com. Retrieved 2011-08-08. 

External links[edit]