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Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

Edgar Ramirez

“WASP NETWORK” My rating: C+ (Now available on Netflix)

127 minutes | Rated: TV-MA

There’s some interesting history on display in “Wasp Network,” the latest from veteran French auteur Oliver Assayas. But as drama this one’s a head scratcher.

The film begins in the late 1980s in Cuba, with Rene Gonzalez (Edgar Ramirez) bidding farewell to his wife Olga (Penelope Cruz) and their young daughter and heading out for another day of piloting planes for the Castro regime.

Except that Gonzalez steals an aircraft and heads to Florida, where he claims political asylum. Before long he’s been hooked up with anti-Castro insurgents, flying dangerous missions to Cuba and elsewhere.  Some of those assignments involve carrying loads of narcotics which are financing plans to destabilize or even overthrow the island’s Communist government.

Meanwhile back in Cuba Olga must live with  the fallout of being the wife of a traitor.

Wagner Moura

Enter a new Cuban character, Juan Pablo Roque (Wagner Moura), who risks sharks and rip tides to swim into Guantanamo Bay where he defects to authorities at the U.S. base there. Soon Juan Pablo, who has a taste for the high life, is rubbing elbows with expatriate bigwigs in Miami, wooing the gorgeous daughter (Ana de Armas) of Cuban exiles, and flashing a Rolex.

Yet a third plot emerges with the appearance of Gerardo Hernandez (Gael Garcia Bernal), a Cuban operative who informs poor Olga that her husband, far from being a traitor, has been sent to spy on anti-Castro groups in Miami.

At one point there’s a digression to follow a Venezuelan “tourist” (Nola Guerra) who plants bombs in Havana hotels in an effort to destroy Cuba’s fledgling tourism industry.

Assaya’s screenplay plays it coy for the first hour. It’s not until the Hernandez character appears that we realize Gonzalez and Roque are not defectors but undercover agents.  This delayed reveal is meant to build suspense but mostly it leaves us mystified.  Why are we supposed to care about these two? What are their motivations?

Adapted from Fernando Morais’ nonfiction book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War, “Wasp Network” reeks of authenticity.  It was shot largely in Cuba featuring a slew of familiar Latin American actors. 

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Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks

Giovanni Ribisi, Adrian Sparks

“PAPA HEMINGWAY IN CUBA”  My rating: C+

134 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Papa Hemingway in Cuba” has a terrific back story.

In fact, how the film got made is considerably more interesting than the movie itself.

Director Bob Yari (up to now he’s had mostly producing credits), working from a semi-autobiographical screenplay from the late journalist Denne Bart Petitclerc, filmed his feature in Cuba despite the economic embargo imposed by the United States more than a half-century ago.  “Papa”  is the first American film shot in that island nation since Castro’s communist revolution in 1959.

Moreover, Petitclerc had an intimate relationship with the volatile author and his wife, Mary Hemingway, and his yarn drops a couple of bombshell revelations which feel like dramatic license but which Petitclerc’s widow claims are based on real events.

The picture begins with Petitclerc’s fictional alter ego, Ed Myers (Giovanni Ribisi), writing an unabashed fan letter to Hemingway. The Miami newspaperman is at first skeptical when he gets a telephone call from a man claiming to be Ernest Hemingway. But it’s the real deal, and “Papa” invites the young man to visit him in his Havana retreat.

The invitation leads to repeated visits to Cuba and a deepening relationship between Ed, Papa (Adrian Sparks) and Mary Hemingway (Joely Richardson). Ed is initially cowed by the couple’s bohemian lifestyle (skinny-dipping in the pool, all-night drinking sessions) but slowly fits in  with the Hemingways’ literary/political crowd.

As an insider Ed is privy to both the inspiring and the appalling sides of the Hemingway legend. Papa is a great literary mentor; he’s also an egoist, a  macho-infused drunk, and though only  in his late 50s, sexually impotent.

All this simmering upheaval takes place against a background of even greater unrest. Castro’s revolutionaries are a growing threat to the Batista regime, which responds with ever more repressive policies.

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