Chico & Rita

I am fond of animation. It is a genre that has captivated me since I was a little girl. Today, as an adult, I feel totally fascinated by it.

“Chico & Rita” has made me dream in Havana, New York and Paris of the 40´s and 50´s and recall the music world, fabulous songs and rhythms of those days. With delicacy and humor, the movie tells the story of a pianist and a singer, meant to be together, who go through adventures and misfortunes, such as life is.

Perhaps, what I have liked the most is that these two people have a dream to realize -music-. And, above all, that true love does exist and will not die, but prevail in the heart forever like an energy of pureness and beauty that pushes us for the extraordinary.

I have really enjoyed “boleros”. I would listen to them in my childhood when I was in the car and my parents drove to the seaside in the weekends and played bolero tapes.


Feel free to appreciate boleros in the links above:


Spain’s “Chico & Rita” scored one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 Oscars by winning a nomination for best animated feature. That meant this indie production placed ahead of such big-time entries as Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin.” The reason for that is the story and the music, I suspect, not the animation.

The film depicts a nearly operatic romantic tragedy, involving a lifelong affair of the heart between two Havana musicians: Chico, a piano player, and Rita, a vocalist. Their mutual problem is that Chico is unfaithful by nature, and although Rita is the woman he loves, when he’s not with the one he loves, he loves the one he’s with. Rita is two-timed once too often and sets off on her own — a mistake, because when they’re together, they have a taste of stardom, and when apart, a tendency to self-destruct.

The film opens in Havana of 1948, a hotbed of jazz and Afro-Cuban music, where luxurious clubs, casinos and hotels have created a Caribbean entertainment mecca, mostly controlled by American gangsters and corporations. It’s a fluid, exciting scene, where in one night Chico can discover Rita singing in an open-air club and sweep her along when he’s discovered by Woody Herman in a beachfront hotel show.

Herman’s piano man is sick. Chico and Rita walk in, Chico is recruited to fill the empty piano stool, it’s clear how talented he is, and in no time at all, he and Rita team up to win a talent contest on a radio station and a lucrative contract. They even have a hit record, masterminded by a breezy con man named Ramon, who dedicates himself to managing them.

Life takes them to New York and a hit record, but the faithless Chico loses Rita to the company of a slickster Yankee named Ron, who gets her a few good bookings before she blows a Vegas gig by being drunk onstage. The story is told in flashback from Chico’s current lonely life, and Rita’s equally cheerless existence. The problem we have with their romance is that most of the time it isn’t working. We don’t sense the urgency of their passion so much as the finality of their problems. Apparently they’re doomed to exist in a permanent state of break-up.

The animation by co-directors Fernando TruebaJavier Mariscal and Tono Errando is filled with motion and color, yes, but could have benefitted from characters who seemed more like quirky individuals and less like types. Oddly, the backgrounds were the parts of “Chico & Rita” I liked the most: Havana in its pre-Fidel days of big spenders, New York in the heyday of jazz, Paris when foreign musicians were hot, Vegas in its early golden years. Architecture, neon signs and big classic American cars are all done with brio and abandon. It’s entertaining to watch, and I enjoyed the way they slipped in such real-life figures as Dizzy Gillespie beside the fictional leads.

The music is terrific. Idania Valdes dubs Rita’s sensuous, smoky singing voice, and the film is essentially constructed as a musical. There came a point when the sweep of the romantic story caught me up as much as a narrative film might have, and I wasn’t distanced by the animation. After seeing the film, I went online to see if Chico and Rita were inspired by real-life musicians. None in particular, I learned. But probably a great many in general.


Trinity of Modern Painting, by Marilyn Kushner

On October 2, 1912, Walt Kuhn wrote Vera, his wife, from the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne, Germany that “Van G. and Gauguin are perfectly clear to me. Cézanne only in part, although they say that his exhibit is not evenly good . . . his landscapes are still greek to me, but wait, I’ll understand before I get home.”

Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne were seen as the three forefathers of early twentieth-century avant-garde art. In fact, art critic Christian Brinton observed in 1913 that the “trinity of modern painting is comprised of Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.” [2] And, when key Armory Show organizer Arthur B. Davies designed a chart showing the development of modern art to the present day, [3] all three artists were listed as precedents to the avant-garde period.

For many, these artists represented a sharp break from tradition. Van Gogh’s violent brush strokes and expressive colors shocked viewers, as did Gauguin’s savage use of color. Some found it difficult to understand Cézanne’s abandonment of realistic representation in favor of an image based on forms found in nature. In short, all three embodied a completely new spirit in artistic expression.

And, the organizers of the Armory Show felt strongly enough about these artists to include eighteen works by van Gogh, twenty-four works by Gauguin, and sixteen by Cézanne in the exhibition. Cézanne’s oil painting, Colline des pauvres, fetched the highest price at the Armory Show, selling for $6,700 to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where it became the first Cézanne to enter the collection of an American institution.

[1] Frederick James Gregg, “A Remarkable Art Show,” Harper’s Weekly 57, no. 2930 (February 15, 1913): 13.

[2] Christian Brinton, “Fashions in Art,” The International Studio 49, No. 193 (March 1913): ix.

[3] Arthur B. Davies, “Chronological Chart Made by Arthur B. Davies Showing the Growth of Modern Art,” Arts & Decoration 3 (March 1913): 150.

The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution is on view October 11, 2013 through February 23, 2014 at the New-York Historical Society.


Apple Cider Vinegar Benefits

1. Detox + Digest

Now that we’ve all hopped on the morning lemon water trend, let’s get a little more extreme. Adding apple cider vinegar to your morning brew is an incredible way to jump start your metabolism, detox, and digest. The unique acids in ACV bind themselves to toxins, and help the body eliminate more efficiently.  It helps to break up the mucus built up inside your body, leading to better lymph circulation and an improved immune system. Add 1-3 teaspoons to a glass of water to reap the benefits.  


2. Clears Skin

Forget about those expensive toners, when applied topically apple cider vinegar can help alleviate acne prone skin and age spots, replacing your traditional facial astringent (oral consumption has also been shown to help with this). Soaking in a bath mixed with ACV and epsom salts may help soothe skin conditions like eczema by drawing out toxins and cleansing your body. 


3. Tackles Tummy Troubles

The antibiotic properties of ACV have been shown to alleviate stomach problems if the issue is bacterial. The pectin in apple cider vinegar helps to treat diarrhea by forming bulk, fibrous material. It also forms a protective liner on your colon to ease discomfort and intestinal spasms. 


4. Prevent Illness

Devoted apple cider vinegar users swear by this magical elixir. Starting each and every day with this potent tonic may help to fight off future sickness, ease sore throats, clear a stuffy nose, and keep you in tip top shape. Due to the unique blend of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, swallowing a few teaspoons either straight or mixed with water can help to rid your insides of impurities. 


5. Help for Hiccups

A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar will restore the acid balance in your stomach, easing irritating diaphragm spasms, and halting hiccups in their tracks.  


6. Hair Rinse

Wash away build up from styling products and conditioners with an apple cider vinegar rinse. The acetic acid in ACV will clean and strengthen your hair, leaving you with soft and shiny strands. It balances hairs pH levels, kills bacteria, cures dandruff, and promotes hair growth. Dilute 1/3 cup of vinegar in 4 cups of water and pour over your hair after shampooing. After a few seconds, rinse your head with cold water to seal in shine. Not recommended daily. 


7. Wart Removal

Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and apply directly to the wart with a band-aid. Leave on overnight. Continue nightly applications until the wart disappears. Fight through any discomfort – it will eventually fall off. 


8. Foot Soak

Suffering from swollen feet or fungus? ACV can help with both. Mix 1 cup of vinegar into water and give your feet some relief (perfect during pregnancy). Can also be applied directly to a nail or skin fungus. Be sure to dilute for children or those with sensitive skin. 


9. Controls Blood Sugars + Lowers Blood Cholesterol 

The anti-glycemic effects of apple cider vinegar help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is essential in maintaining blood sugar levels. To steady your stomachs rate of digestion, mix 1 teaspoon of ACV into a glass of water, and take 3 times daily. Of course, always check with your doctor first. Those suffering from high cholesterol are also in for some good news. Research has indicated that ACV improves the lipid profile of blood by decreasing the levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) and increasing the levels of high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol). 


10. Whiten Teeth

Gargle with apple cider vinegar and water in the morning, and help to remove stains, whiten teeth, kill bacteria and plaque, and freshen your breath. 


11. Ease Arthritis Pain + Leg Cramps

The potassium in apple cider vinegar may be beneficial in preventing calcium build-up in joints and dissolving acid crystals in the blood. 


12. Extinguish Exhaustion

The build-up of lactic acid in the body, often from exercise and stress, can cause feelings of fatigue and exhaustion. By adding a tablespoon or two of ACV to a glass of water, you’re allowing the potassium and enzymes to help relieve that tired feeling. 


13. Natural Deodorant 

Blocking your ability to sweat, which most antiperspirants do, can also block your ability to detoxify. Instead of using traditional deodorant, rub a little apple cider vinegar under your arms to absorb and neutralize odors. The vinegar smell will go away as it dries. 


14. Sunburn Relief 

Relieve the pain of a sunburn and minimize peeling by applying a wash cloth soaked in apple cider vinegar to the area. 


15. Fight Yeast Infections

One of nature’s strongest antibiotics, apple cider vinegar can kill just about any bacteria, virus, or protozoa it comes in contact with. Even better, once the vinegar fights off the candida build-up it helps to recolonize your body with friendly bacteria. 


Death Becomes Her: The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. Robert Wilson digs into Marina Abramovic’s psyche, by Tom Sellar

Three coffins, each with a body lying in state, sit on the stage of the vast Park Avenue Armory as the audience enters. All contain a version of Marina Abramovic: Two are masked and one is the real artist portraying her own demise. This provocative tableau — boosted by newspaper obituaries left on each seat — alludes to the artist’s penchant for self-mythology, a trait taken to soaring new heights in Robert Wilson‘s The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic. But these multiple Marinas also remind us, the reflexively cynical public, that the versions we see of this controversial figure may not be real; there is an authentic being among them, too.

The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic isn’t the first biography the artist has made; in her program note, she says she’s done six. But this theatrical collaboration should rightfully transform the conversation about her oeuvre beyond the art world’s obsession with her material success following her 2010 MOMA retrospective. (Yes, the lobby has a gift shop with merchandise and information about her institute, “the legacy she leaves to the public.”) But this stunningly beautiful theater production largely steps away from those dimensions of the now-successful artist’s life, staging a biography of her psyche instead — a far more daring strategy that brings splendid rewards.

Willem Dafoe, white-faced with a shock of wavy red hair, serves as the evening’s hot-wired narrator, excavating evidence of her life from archive boxes. But although he calls out significant dates and facts (“2010: MOMA! 2013: Kissed like never before!”), such information is just a way for him (and the production) to jump into a more speculative headspace.

Wilson’s gorgeous stage compositions immerse us in Abramovic’s psychological milestones: Dafoe maniacally rattles ice in a cocktail glass, and we hear about Marina’s mother holding her as a shield against her father’s violent urges — a body on the line. Later, Abramovic, who has also been playing her formidable mother, removes her mother’s mask from her face and becomes herself — an astonishing gesture that shows how she incarnates maternal shadows.

A more textured episode conjures the young Marina’s coming of age as an artist in the context of her native Communist Yugoslavia. A martial tableau assembles, with sirens and soldiers calling out creative restrictions through bullhorns. (“An artist should not repeat himself!” “An artist should not overproduce!” “An artist must not steal ideas from another artist!”) At various other points, Wilson summons exquisite images to evoke her state of mind: dark angels, oceans of clouds, and lovers disappearing into silhouette. The finale is visually sublime: Abramovic hangs high in the air, suspended alongside her other selves, a long-tormented body dangling between living and dying, between transcendence through art and surrender to pain.

The original musical score, however, gives this collaborative creation its most haunting powers. Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons) performs soulful, searching songs written for the production. (“When will I turn, and cut the world?” he laments in one chilling elegy.) Traditional Serbian music recurs throughout, offering a wailing undercurrent and adding hypnotic, otherworldly dimensions to Wilson’s colorful abstractions. (William Basinski and Svetlana Spajic are co-composers.)

Despite its bold title and playful frame, the production amounts to far more than a hagiography of an art star or a funeral stunt. It is an expressive metaphysical pageant, reflecting on how an extraordinary life can defy death through art.


Isaac Julien’s “PLAYTIME

Metro Pictures presents a special presentation of Isaac Julien’s “PLAYTIME,” an exhibition that explores current debates on the relationships between capital, the art world and the individual. The exhibition comprises the large film installation, PLAYTIME, a two-monitor flat-screen installation, KAPITAL; a single-monitor film, PLAYTIME (Auctioneer); and six photographic works.

Consisting of three chapters, PLAYTIME is set across three cities defined by their relationship to capital: London, a city transformed by the deregulation of banks; Reykjavik, where the 2008 crisis began; and Dubai, one of the Middle East’s burgeoning financial markets. Following the five main characters identified only as The Collector, The Houseworker, The Artist, The Auctioneer and The Reporter, PLAYTIME asks how these diverse characters are entangled in capital and how they are implicated in the global financial crisis. All the characters inPLAYTIME are based on real individuals whom Julien interviewed and researched extensively. The work blurs the line between documentary and fiction by mixing dialogue performed by actors with excerpts from the interviewees themselves.

KAPITAL presents Julien and David Harvey, author of the book “The Enigma of Capital,” in conversation with theorists, critics and curators at the Hayward Gallery in London. The film opens by asking how we can visualize modern capital. As the conversation progresses it becomes clear that the problem of visualizing such an abstract notion is itself linked to other questions such as: what commonalities and differences are there between the capital of today and that described by Marx? How does capital relate to the art market and what effect does it have on art’s attempts to depict capital and its effects? Julien’s technique of parallel montage is developed in KAPITAL as he uses two screens to equalize the process of theoretical enquiry, bringing artist, theorist, audience, academic and student onto a horizontal but constantly shifting plane.

Julien’s acclaimed film Ten Thousand Waves is on view at the Museum of Modern Art November 25 – February 17, 2014. Projected onto nine double-sided screens, the installation is conceived especially for the Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium at the museum.

A three-minute version of Julien’s PLAYTIME will play on 17 electronic billboards in Times Square, December 1 – 30, 2013, every night from 11:57 PM – midnight, presented by Times Square Arts and the Times Square Advertising Coalition.

Isaac Julien has had one-person exhibitions at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; Milwaukee Art Museum; Bass Museum of Art, Miami; St. Louis Art Museum; Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover; SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo; and Aspen Art Museum. Julien participated in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, 8th Shanghai Biennale; and 2012’s La Triennale at Palais de Tokyo, Paris. His films have been included in film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival, Berlin Biennale and Venice Film Festival.