Chico & Rita by Mariscal & Trueba

Chico & Rita
by Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba
SelfMadeHero, 2011

This story of two starcrossed Cuban musicians from the late ’40s has been adapted from the Spanish animated film of the same title (directed by Mariscal and Trueba), using what appears to be high-quality stills from the feature, cropped, lettered and arranged as panels. This means the style and colourful production design of the film has been preserved, with its carefully-researched period architecture and atmosphere. It certainly doesn’t look like a spin-off, although 22 people are credited with the book’s production.

On the negative side, it’s missing the crucial jazz and bebop soundtrack, and like any graphic novel adapted from a film script, its structure is very conventional. The hero Chico is the James Bond of impoverished Cuban piano players, who unfortunately forms a singular attraction to nightclub singer Rita, and finds himself playing in Paris with Dizzy Gillespie and present at the death of Chano Pozo in New York. In another (rather more consequential) example of bad timing, he is set up by his friend and deported home just in time for the Cuban revolution.

It’s a vivid and romantic (though slightly silly) story with a brief fantasy number which appears to be influenced by An American in Paris. It probably sounds fantastic.

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