Eric Wolfram's Writing, Review of Nights of Constantinople

Nights of Constantinople

Directed by Orlando Rojas

Film maker Orlando Rojas is well acquainted with controversy, and his Nights of Constantinople puts our eyes on the false morals and shame of traditional Cuban erotisms. More than "just another Cuban film about sexual repression" though, the Nights of Constantinople also shows us a Cuban upper class and their struggles.

And it's not because transvestites are in the movie -- all over the movie -- from beginning to end -- that I'm saying the film is about repression. Each character in the film goes through their own transition. And each transition is a journey down the path of truth, from repression to freedom.

Set in an upper class villa in Havana, the old matriarch of the home has nightmares that her heirs are cannibals eating her. Indeed, everyone in the house has their eyes on her valuable paintings and furniture, which she persistently guards.

But there are some notable visual images in the film, like the love letters that were kept in the safe, the sureal dream sequences, a cockroach on the computer, a witches brew, and the roster with a cut off head. And although we are treated to the wonderful colors of the faded Cuban paint, that lovely decay, and to the warmth of the Cuban people; Nights of Constantinople is a silly romp.

But it's worse than that. For all it's attempts at being "in your face" with the message of sexual freedom, the film falls short in more than one way.

One of the major problems with the film is with the story. It takes an hour to develop all the charactures who live in the house before it takes on a needless urge to develop a plot. From there it is a long slog while the story resolves itself and the many new sub plots.

Because there is a musical band featured as a major part of the ending, and because it is Cuba, and because the film is about repression and freedom; I wanted a little music at the end there to symbolize, well, freedom. The expectation is definitely set. But the music that is there is indeed little, and it is abandoned, chopped and abruptly ending before it starts -- all for the sake of continuing these silly plots. The score seriously lacks continuity.

And during the course of this show, not only is the love between the main character and Manon both unbelievable and fake, the screen writers manage to toss us some campy jokes from Some Like It Hot, almost as an after thought -- which feels more like plagiarizm than homage.

Country: Cuba
Year: 2001
Run Time: 115 minutes
Cast: Liberto Rabal, Verónica Lynn, Francisco Rabal, Maria Isabel Díaz Lago, Rosa Fornés, Zulema Clares
Producer: Camilo Vives, Felix Rodríguez
Editor: Lina Baniela
Cinematographer: Angel Alderete
Screenwriter: Manuel A. Rodríguez, Orlando Rojas

This Film Was Viewed at the 45th San Francisco International Film Festival

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