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Sunday, 19 June 2016

'Chico and Rita' by Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba

Chico and Rita is a love story about two musicians from Havana, who move to New York to try to make it big, recounting their experiences there and beyond, in Hollywood and Paris. Yet the real romance is the lovingly portrayed Jazz era, with its Art Deco setting, 1950s cars and famous musicians.

The piano playing Chico and singer Rita, meet in Havana, and while they admire each others music, there is an immediate passionate connection between them. Their on and off romance is as tragic as it is stormy, and the musical love story plays out against the decaying colonial grandeur of Havana and the bustling streets of New York.

Evocative atmospheres are conjured up, with the hot sun in Cuba, the morning rays of a wintery New York, dark, smokey night clubs and sultry summer nights, or the warm glow of a match on Chico's face as he lights a cigarette, and the old cars, trams and motorbikes, as full of character as the characters themselves.

The story is moving and captivating, and seems to come from a real love and passion for this time and music. Originally an animated film, this story has gone the opposite way to many comic books that are made into films. The film trumps the book in one major way - the musical soundtrack, which is so integral to the story, is missing. Yet the 2D nature of the drawing style means visually it translates well onto the pages of a comic book, and the energetic line looks like Herge after several Tequilas.

My main criticism is that the final application is slightly crude - the line and colour looks very digital, as if it has been done with a basic photoshop brush, rather than the subtlety that Belleville Rendevouzemploys and it would have been better to disguise it with filters and effects. That said, the actual colouring is beautiful, and manages to be both bright and delicate at the same time.

Chico and Rita works well as a book and its adaptation from film seems natural and effortless.

Javier Mariscal is a celebrated Spanish designer, animator and illustrator, characterised by his strong colours and energetic lines, and who turns his hand to logos, books, advertising and films. Fernando Trueba started out as a film critic and book editor, and is now a screen writer, director and producer.

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