When Andrea is informed that his brother, a self-proclaimed Italian industrialists living in Cuba, has died in a plane crash near Havana he decides that the proper thing to do is to arrange a decent burial as quickly as possible. Andrea packs his bags and takes the first flight from Italy to Cuba. Upon arrival he is greeted by a police chief that seems rather unwilling to discuss the circumstances surrounding his brother's death. The only person that Andrea can talk to is Alma (Linda Batista), a beautiful cabaret dancer, who has been living with Andrea's brother during the last couple of years. But even Alma is reluctant to talk claiming that there is no sense digging up the past of a man that is now resting in peace. Determined to discover what really happened and why it is that everyone in Havana is looking the opposite way when his brother's name is mentioned Andrea embarks on a journey with many unknowns.
Encantado is an interesting little film that was completed back in 2002 by Italian director Corrado Colombo better known for his involvement with low-budget European TV programming. Corrado Colombo has a relatively short resume of notable films and I am fairly certain that Encantado will not be his big break into the show business due to a number of reasons.
One of them has to do with the fact that the film never really outgrows the aura of a production designed for late night cable programming. There is a good amount of skin in it, some catchy tunes to soothe your weary body, and of course plenty of stunning cinematography revealing the sandy beaches of exotic Havana. With other words this very much feels like a film that one could see on your regular Cinemax schedule.
Second of all, the main actress, the beautiful Brazilian-born Linda Batista, is simply too good for the type of film she has been cast. Her stunning figure and piercing eyes are likely to wake up the macho beast in you but so are a number of late night-divas you can see on pay-per-view.
Third of all, the plot suffers from just about any major flaw you could come up with driving the detective element of this story out of synch…the "mystery" is so transparent I am sure you would figure out what this film is all about in less than twenty minutes. Now here's the strange part, considering all of the issues mentioned above I actually caught myself enjoying certain parts of the film quite a bit. As soon as I figured what the "mystery" was I grabbed a pillow, stretched my legs, and imagined that instead of breathing the smog in Chicago I was sipping gin & juice in Havana.
I don't think there is anything wrong with seeing a film like Encantado every once in awhile. It certainly makes you aware of the fact that mindless popcorn flicks with a little extra spice still have their place under the sun. It is rather annoying however to see that serious talent might have been thrown away without any justifying results. And I certainly feel that with a few extra tweaks here and there Encantado could have been quite a respectable film. As it is however you might as well bet on your local cable provider in delivering a more credible feature that won't shy away from showing what the DVD censors have deemed inappropriate for your eyes.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (for the record it appears that the Italian DVD is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1) and enhanced for widescreen TV's this DVD actually looks quite good. I liked the balanced colors, there is certainly a healthy dose of good contrast, and overall the print looks acceptable. The problem is that Encantado appears to be a PAL-sourced DVD that as you probably know rather well by now delivers the dreaded "ghosting". I don't think that you would be terribly disappointed if you saw Encantado on a regular tube but using a digital projector might create a problem or two.
With all of this said I have to admit that I am utterly surprised to see this film released in R3. I don't quite know where the print came from as it appears to be PAL sourced one but I guess it must be the Italian DVD which the R3 has copied. This is a R3-NTSC encoded DVD.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with an Italian 5.1 and DTS tracks Encantado actually sounds very well. The sound is mixed very well and music and dialog are separated without any particular flaws. I especially enjoyed the beach scenes where you could hear the rear channels working some miracles. With optional English and Chinese subtitles.
The only extras on this disc are the original theatrical trailer for Encantado and an interesting selection of "film clips" where we get plenty of the beautiful Linda Batista under the rhythms of exotic Cuban music.
There is absolutely no denying of the fact that Italian filmmakers are the kings of soft-core late night productions. While Encantado (which appears to be a joined Cuban-Italian production) does not quite fit the classic formula created by directors such as Mauro Bolognini (La Venexiana) it actually comes rather close to what it aspires to achieve with its luscious main actress, beautiful camera work, and catchy Cuban tunes. I suppose if one strips down all the quality criteria one might have as a serious film aficionado one might actually enjoy this film quite a bit. I know I did (well, no point hiding it I guess) but then again I have a soft spot for the genre Italian cinema from the 70s and 80s when Serena Grandi, Laura Antonelli, Monica Guerritore and Co. ravished European "late night salons". Either way, considering how inexpensive this DVD is give it a try you might be surprised how much you'll like it.
Recommended (only within the genre the film represents)!!