Well, up until 1959, Cuba was a fun-time spot for rich Americans (and indeed, rich Cubans); but then Castro came along, booted out the plutocrats, nationalized the industry, and settled back to enjoy 50 years of feudal socialism. Evidently, every revolution needs its story told and retold, and though unheralded in the U.S. (for obvious reasons), this collection of five films by three directors offers a sampling of those stories as they were told on film.
The first two films (chronologically) in this box set are by far the most interesting. Tomás Gutièrrez Alea’s Twelve Chairs (1962) is, putatively, a comedic farce, and while its humor is leaden and dated, it remains fascinating as a glimpse into the very early moments after a revolution, when society is in the midst of figuring out what the hell just happened. Made only three years after the Revolution, perhaps the funniest thing about this “perils of greed” caper film, is the recurrence of Castro-type revolutionaries, each of whom sports a look-alike beard — a sly dig that, even five years later, would no doubt become an impossible risk to take. The second, and best, of the five, is Julio Garcia Espinosa’s The Adventures ofJuan Quin Quin (1967), a perplexing, compelling picaresque à la Manuscript Found at Zaragosa, in which the titular hero gets in all sorts of wacky scrapes, both pre- and mid-Revolution. The final three films, by director Humberto Solas, are realistic romance-dramas set at various historically important moments in Cuban history. Cecilia (1981), Amada (1982), and A Successful Man (1986) are essentially one notch up from the sugarcane-sweet melodrama of your average telenovela.
A few short films and making-of docs; half of which are worth checking out.
The only film worth trying to find on its own would be The Adventures of Juan Quin Quin… Good luck.