Three classic Cuban films by two of the country’s most important directors have just been released on DVD for the first time.
The Twelve Chairs was made in 1962 – one of the first films produced in post revolutionary Cuba. Alea, the director, was a committed revolutionary but had an uneasy relationship with the Castro regime.
It was his first comedy, based on the Russian novel by Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov, which was set in revolutionary Russia.
The formerly wealthy Hipolito has had his possessions nationalised by the revolution. He learns that his mother-in-law has hidden jewels in one of 12 English chairs she had imported, and joins forces with a sharp-witted man who used to be his servant and the two of them set out to find the chairs.
The film is fast paced and beautifully shot. It is very funny but also raises questions about the nature of socialism, private property and relationships.
Two films from the early 1980s directed by Humberto Solas look at pre-revolutionary Cuba through the eyes of family conflicts.
In A Successful Man two sons born into one of Cuba’s wealthiest families make very different decisions in the years before the revolution. The conflict between them is a metaphor for the divisions in pre-revolutionary Cuba.
Beloved centres on a decaying aristocratic family in the Cuban capital of Havana in 1914. Amada’s father has died and she is trapped in a loveless marriage and a crumbling villa.
Into Amada’s stifling world comes a young revolutionary journalist who causes her to question her position and her expectations. Meanwhile political forces are stirring and are set to shake the family’s privileged isolation.
Solas has said that he uses women as central characters to explore class and conflict: “The sad masquerade of limited, archetyped, and suffocating human relations in defence of private property is most transparent in the case of the women – half of humanity.”
The Twelve Chairs directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea
A Successful Man and Beloved directed by Humberto Solas
Released by Network, out now