7 Days in Havana/La Días en la Habana


Directed by Benicio del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Médem, Elia Suleiman, Gaspar Noé, Juan Carlos Tabío, Laurent Cantet. Starring Daniel Brühl, Emir Kusturica, Elia Suleiman, Josh Hutcherson 15A cert, Cineworld/ IFI, Dublin, 129 min

THERE OUGHT to be a support group for this sort of thing, a place for scarred movie punters to gather and exchange tales of woe: “Hello everybody. My first portmanteau picture was New York Stories. I read the names Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen on the poster and, well, I was very young at the time. I didn’t know! I didn’t know!” Cue uncontrollable sobbing.

7 Days in Havana featured in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year, a dubious honour given that many festival veterans wondered aloud if their own holiday movies might have made the grade. In the end, the top gong went to Michel Franco’s wildly unpopular After Lucia. 7 Days won even fewer fans. It’s not that it’s awful. It’s just that, in common with most anthology films, its woefully inconsistent.

Actor-turned-director Benicio Del Toro provides a neat opening chapter in which Josh Hutcherson plays an American kid whose Havana tour quickly turns into the stuff of urban mythology. Daniel Aranyó, the cinematographer behind the High School Musical films, adds the lush sepias and yellows.

Palestinian actor-director Elia Sileiman’s segment lacks the same kind of narrative cohesion, though it does boast physical comedy worthy of Harold Lloyd and the kind of tableaux that made The Time That Remains so special.

Emir Kusturica, playing a troubled director, enlivens a slight episode from Lion’s Den film-maker Pablo Trapero. But even the charismatic Daniel Brühl can’t save Julio Médem’s predictable three- way relationship drama, a vignette that, 10 seconds in, seems to be meandering toward a Dumb Woman: Dumb Choices conclusion.

Laurent Cantet’s contribution is no better and falls down heavily on the condescending side of cultural tourism. Gaspar Noé and Juan Carlos Tabío ultimately provide the strongest chapters.

Cuba is a problematic hotspot in the movieverse. Like the locals, film punters seem to have been staring at the same colourful Chevrolets and writhing dancing girls since Hyman Roth moved on the place in The Godfather Part II. Local director Tabío supplies a cunning counterpoint with a portrait of everyday life and a killer punchline. Noé, meanwhile, steals the show with a depiction of a creepy voodoo ritual intended to “cure” lesbianism.

It’s enough to justify the admission price, but only just. 7 Days? Is there a weekend package we might avail of?