Days before Castro's rebels enter Havana a wealthy Cuban family must decide its future. Fico Fellove (Andy Garcia), owner of the notorious cabaret El Tropico, begins to realize that the country he has loved his entire life does not need him anymore. New winds are now blowing through the sandy beaches of Cuba.
Poignant, bitter, yet sensual tale about one man's journey to freedom The Lost City (2005) is a film that has been in the making for a number of years. An extremely personal for Andy Garcia project this is also a film that has forced the nostalgic Cuban-American community to relive memories better left forgotten. Unfortunately, neither the beautiful yet bitter story of the Fellove family nor the enormously big heart of a director who has poured his soul into this project can change the fact that The Lost City is a film with many technical problems.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment here stems from the fact that the editing is so horrendously done it practically negates everything good the film manages to accomplish. There are characters in the Lost City (Bill Murray's The Writer quickly comes to mind) that simply don't fit the aura of the story. For example the punch lines The Writer provides are neither original nor refreshing. They are conflicting! So is The Writer's presence! Furthermore, as the film progresses instead of fading away The Writer becomes a counterbalancing force which placed next to Andy Garcia is flat-out laughable.
The love affair between Fico and Aurora Fellove (stunningly beautiful Ines Sastre) also fails to impress. Once again it is Andy Garcia who remains isolated in a manner that made me feel quite uncomfortable. The poorly scripted dialogs between the two lovers visibly disrupted the rhythm of the story-instead of being devastated by their separation one feels practically relieved that they no longer have to confront each other.
The numerous historical references to Batista, Castro and Che are also hard to swallow! While the facts behind their involvement with the Fellove family are accurate the scenes where they appear are anything but convincing. Batista, Castro, and Che look more as caricatures than believable historic figures. Finally the sporadic entries Mayer Lansky (Dustin Hoffman) is graced with are so off-key I am not sure why his scenes had to be so elaborated.
Strangely enough The Lost City offers a beautiful soundtrack (a brilliant score by Garcia) which compliments the film's mostly successful cinematography adequately. The lush scenes from El Tropico, before and after the communists arrive in Havana, are executed to perfection. The streets and beautiful beaches of Havana are recreated very convincingly thus providing The Lost City with a sense of nostalgia I am certain must have struck a chord in many Cuban-American hearts.
Yet, clocking in at 143 minutes The Lost City remains a film with a disturbingly poor script. G. Cabrera Infante has provided Andy Garcia with what I can only describe as a terrible and cluttered story full of questionable characters. What a shame! This could have been a spectacular picture helmed by a man who has time and time again proven that his talent knows no boundaries.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (original aspect ratio is 1.85:1) and enhanced for widescreen TV's the film looks very good. Colors are vivid and strong, contrast is very good, and edge-enhancement is rather minimal. The print does not reveal any specs/marks/extensive damage-it is solid all around. Blown through a digital projector the quality of the print is good though during some selected scenes (the tobacco plantation scene) there is some mild softness noticeable. All in all a good and convincing image quality by the producers at Magnolia.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Presented with a DD 5.1 English track (2.0 English track available as well) I am mostly satisfied with the manner in which the audio is mixed. The lush music score comes off the speakers quite well although the 5.1 track I believe could have been mixed slightly better-there are occasional scenes where the dialog is a bit difficult to comprehend. This being said, I am unsure why there are no English subtitles provided for this release (partial English subs appear only for the Spanish songs performed in the film). There are however optional Spanish subtitles.
There are a number of extras on this DVD release: First there is a short Making Of which follows the filming process and selected locations (the Dominican Republic has been used as a substitute for the Cuban landscape). Here you will also find a long interview with Andy Garcia in which he talks about the film and its history. Next, there is a small section of deleted scenes, ten to be precise, which could be seen either with or without an audio commentary. In my humble opinion I do not think that the footage that has been omitted provides the story of the film with any additional clarity, on the contrary I think that the film could have been trimmed substantially considering its whopping running time. Next, there is a Behind the Scenes photo gallery with generic pictures from the different shooting locations. Next, there is a small section titled Notes from Cast and Crew where the cast was given the opportunity to provide small notes describing their experience(s) with the film. You will also find a small "concept poster art" which has been drawn by Andy Garcia's daughter. In addition there is an informative description of the Fuente Family cigar plantation and its history. Last but not least there is a revealing audio commentary with Andy Garcia, production designer Waldermar Kalinowski, and actor Nestor Carbonell which in my opinion is well worth the time as it sheds a fare share of light on a project that took many years to accomplish.
I do not know how else to describe The Lost City other than being a missed opportunity. All the right ingredients a powerful picture requires are here, including a director whose passion for his native country is unmatched, yet those who had to support Andy Garcia along the way appear to have miserably failed. While beautiful to watch and listen to The Lost City is quite painful to endure.