In “honor” of the Havana Film Festival of New York City this week, I screened one of the films they ran last year, La Edad de La Peseta, or The Silly Age. After all, they did the same thing when they reprised El Benny, last year’s film about Benny Moré, this evening. By the way, that still doesn’t seem to be available.
Cuba’s “official entry” to the academy awards, the film, despite the actual footage of the glorious revolution that serves as the occasional backdrop for the events in the lives of Samuel, is remarkably apolitical. Sure there are subtle nods to some stereotypes- the corrugated steel hovels, the Spaniard overlords, the small-minded morality- but overall, like so much of artistic expression from the island, it is a movie filmed in code
The story begins with the intrusion of Samuel and his mother into the life of his irascible grandmother, Violeta. For a movie supposedly about those “boys will be boys'” things like stabbing a classmate with a pencil, mooning over a beauteous young woman, resenting his mother’s new suitor, it has remarkably little humor. It is almost bleak. The familial currents seem to overpower those everyday hijinks. Violeta’s disapproval of her daughter’s choices in life permeates the movie, as does the daughter’s resentment. Amidst the tensions between the two women, the young man is adrift, uprooted, fatherless, and unknowing. Even the Carribbean and Fifties colors in the backdrops are muted, as if glazed with soot.
It’s an interesting and well-made film which has won a number of awards. But if it’s a humorous look at la edad de la peseta you’re looking for, try Fellini’s Amarcord or, more in keeping with the Cuban theme, one of my favorites: Cuban Blood. Just ignore Harvey Keitel’s Cuban accent.