Dir.: Laurent Cantet | Cast: Nestor Jiminez, Isabel Santos, Jorge Perugorria | France 2014, 95′ | Spanish with subtitles
As if we didn’t need a negative view of old age in our youth-centric society, Laurent Cantet’s contemplative character piece offers another one. RETURN TO ITHACA is a bittersweet good-bye to the ideas of youth; a meditation on approaching old age embued by feelings of utter despair all seen through the intimate revelations of a group of long-standing friends. Set in a roof-garden in Cuba one balmy summer night, the camera tries to offer emotional distance from the maudlin musings of its protagonists, with a script as stringent as it is depressing. Odysseus could have hardly felt more negative than Amadeo. Cantet (The Class) one again evokes a masterful merger of the personal and the political.
Amadeo (Jiminez), a writer, returns to Cuba after 16 years exile in Spain. Four of his best friends give him a welcome-back on the roof tops overlooking Havanna. But soon Amadeo outlives his welcome: his friends blame him indirectly for their life at home. Rafa, a painter, who can’t paint any more, is particularly angry. Tania (Santos), an ophthalmologist now living in Miami, can’t live on her earnings and needs the support of her children. And Eddy (Perugorria) is a minor functionary of the ruling party, an opportunist, who might be convicted soon for fraud; though he has supported his friends with money and jobs. Another friend has lost his job as an engineer, and works for the black market. Not that Amadeo had a great time in Spain in his first years – but for his friends he has lived in paradise. Soon the mood softens, and their common political past is discussed. All of them were idealistic followers of the Castro regime, but one by one they lost their enthusiasm, and opposed their masters – apart from Eddy, who lived the good life as a party member, whilst supporting his friends in the “inner opposition” materially.
This reflective arthouse piece will naturally have more appeal to the older generations than their younger counterparts. The Cuban adults here are the parents of children who have either left the country, or are planning to get out; the two generations have nothing in common: the parents, who have seen the pre-communist Cuba, exploited by the USA, hanker after their lost ideals; whilst the kids just want out. They all have a common resentment against the regime, not understanding why Amadeo wants to return. AS
NOW ON RELEASE FROM 25 AUGUST 2017 | REVIEW FROM VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2014