I Am Cuba: The Ultimate Edition (New Yorker/Milestone)

Video and DVD


1964, Not Rated

In the early 1960s, a team of Russian filmmakers led by visionary director Mikhail Kalatozov (The Cranes Are Flying) joined forces with Cuban comrades to create cinema at its most perfect — the sensual, musical, liberating and incendiary agitprop masterpiece, I Am Cuba. Filtered through Soviet-colored glasses, the film is a celebration of the Cuban people and their revolution told through a quartet of poetic vignettes dramatizing pre-Fidel Cuba's struggle to escape the corruption and decadence rampant under Batista. Like its much eviler cousin Triumph of the Will, the propaganda is very strong, but the artistry overpowers it. I Am Cuba is ridiculously beautiful to look at. The camera never stops moving as some of cinema's most incredible tracking shots play both lively and ghostly witness to elaborate but completely natural choreographed action. Alternately, innovative handheld camerawork plunges headfirst into the history, making viewers direct participants of re-enacted student riots and gunfights. The effect is stunning. Though already available on DVD, this Milestone re-release is the definitive version, packing the film in a three-DVD boxed set (shaped like a cigar box!) complete with fine complementary features, including two feature-length docs, I Am Cuba: The Siberia Mammoth, a fascinating look at the film's production with some very insightful cast and crew interviews, and A Film About Mikhail Kalatozov, a portraiture survey of the director's work and influence, filmed by his grandson; an in-depth, segment-by-segment analysis of the film by Martin Scorsese; and much more. (Phil Morehart) Grade: A

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