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So many directions, it's easy to get lost in `City'

April 28, 2006|Mark Olsen | Special to The Times

Andy Garcia labored for nearly 20 years to bring his directorial debut, "The Lost City," to the screen. A sprawling saga set in Havana that chronicles the fall of the Batista regime and the rise of Fidel Castro, the film was written by noted Cuban novelist G. Cabrera Infante and stars Garcia as a nightclub owner who sees his family torn apart by the political upheavals of the era.

Production designer Waldemar Kalinowski and costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott do remarkable work in bringing the look of the period to life, aided by locations in the Dominican Republic, while Garcia feverishly stuffs his film with enough story strands for at least a half-dozen movies.

Garcia has obviously over the years built "The Lost City" into such a totalizing, say-everything project that his ambitions capsize the film under the strain of such oversized expectations. Line after line is delivered as an overwrought metaphor on the state of Cuba, a tactic that might read well on the page but that transforms actors into mere ciphers and stand-ins rather than flesh-and-blood people.

Garcia's passion and personal zeal for the material is plainly evident, but sometimes self-editing can be the most difficult aspect of creative work.

In an era when so many films are cynical, cash-grabbing mechanisms of global corporate culture, no more and no less, it is frustrating to come across a work such as this, in which the grasp-exceeding reach and reckless vision of its creators become the biggest drawbacks rather than the film's greatest assets.

In many ways, "The Lost City" would have been better off remaining an unrealized project, full of legendary promise and grand intentions.

As a finished film it is a haphazard jumble.


`The Lost City'

MPAA rating: R for violence

A Magnolia Pictures release. Director Andy Garcia. Screenplay G. Cabrera Infante. Producers Frank Mancuso Jr., Garcia. Director of photography Emmanuel Kadosh. Editor Christopher Cibelli. Running time: 2 hours, 28 minutes.

Exclusively at ArcLight, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. (at Ivar Avenue), (323) 464-4226; Westside Pavilion, 10800 Pico Blvd. at Overland Avenue, (310) 281-8223; Rialto, 1023 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena, (626) 388-2122; Town Center, 17200 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 981-9811; Edwards University Town Center 6, 4245 Campus Drive, Irvine, (949) 854-8818.

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