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Critic's Pick

'Guantanamera!'

October 11, 1998|Kevin Thomas

A funny and poignant comedy unfolding on a trouble-plagued journey from Guantanamo to Havana, this 1996 release is a heartfelt expression of a love of life and a brave acceptance not only of the inevitability but also necessity of death. With his health failing, Cuba's leading director, the late Tomas Gutierrez Alea, collaborated with Juan Carlos Tabio, an esteemed writer and director in his own right. They show us a Cuba beset by poverty and hardship and an economic system breaking down before our eyes. Yet at the same time, they celebrate the Cuban people in their warmth, humor and resilience and their love of Cuba. "Guantanamera!," accompanied by the famous song on the soundtrack, involves a journey, one of the most ancient metaphors for the passage of life and stars Carlos Cruz as a government bureaucrat who sees a chance to regain his lost standing with a cumbersome gas-saving, cost-cutting scheme that would require that a hearse be stopped at every town along the way to a burial destination to have its casket transferred into a local hearse (thus no given city would use more than its gas ration). When someone close to Cruz dies, he finds himself at the mercy of the time-consuming system he has devised. With Mirta Ibarra (pictured) (Cinemax, Wednesday at 11:30 p.m.).

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