"Chico & Rita: Collector's Edition" (2010), Blu-ray. A Cinedigm / New Video Group release from 2012.
Video on this one is 1080p/24, in Color, with 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio (which means there will be very thin Letter Box Bars top and bottom). Audio is DTS-HD MA 5.1 48kHz Spanish (with some English). English Subtitles available.
Extras include a Directors' Commentary track -- in English. Also a 28 minute "making of" piece, and the Theatrical Trailer.
This film received an Oscar Nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.
REFERENCE QUALITY PQ AND AQ!
"Chico & Rita", made in Spain, and with mostly Spanish dialog, achieved the nearly unimaginable by garnering a Nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 2012 Oscars. Unfortunately, it had the bad luck to be up against "Rango"!
Viewing the film, there's no doubt whatsoever it deserved this Nomination. There's enough artistic brilliance in this feature to make, oh, 3 or 4 first rate movies. And the transfer on this Blu-ray disc is staggeringly wonderful!
This is the story of 2 young Cubans who meet in 1948. Chico is a talented piano player who has become enamored of Jazz trends in Latin music. Rita is an equally talented vocalist. The film follows them through the 50's and early 60's -- with brief, bookend segments set in the 2000's, rounding either end of the story. At its simplest this is the story of a love affair between two volatile talents. Can their passion for each other survive their career ambitions and certain self-destructive tendencies in their personalities?
But much MORE than that, this film is steeped through and through with Latin Jazz. And that brings us to one of those levels of invention which sounds simple but must have been the very devil to pull off.
For this is a period chockablock with Jazz and Latin Jazz legends! And rather than trying to repurpose vintage recordings, or create composite characters LIKE these larger than life Jazz greats, the filmmakers convinced Jazz greats of TODAY to become "musical actors", and recreate the idiosyncratic style of play of each of these unique legends.
So you have, for example, Charlie Parker performing in an after hours club with Chano Pozo. An event which quite likely happened at some point in real life, but was never ever captured in a recording. At the end of that same scene, the main characters are taken with the piano playing of, "The guy in the hat." None of them recognize Thelonious Monk.
From big bands in famous venues, to intimate club scenes, to a Hollywood sound stage, ALL of this Jazz recreation seems perfectly natural, and has an air of complete authenticity -- because the talented musicians doing these recreations are trying to do right by their heroes!
And it is all presented in glorious DTS-HD MA 5.1! The musical scoring is so good on this disc, it is easy to overlook the richly detailed Sound Design, and the high quality of the dialog recording. Simply put, all of it -- ALL of it -- is just perfect!
Then there's the Art Design, featuring the brilliance of co-Director Javier Mariscal. His imagery of pre-revolutionary Havana, New York, Las Vegas, Paris and a few other cameo locations, is stylized, detailed, fascinating, and flat out gorgeous! It's a wonderfully evocative style, ranging from realistic, to romantic, to surreal (in a Jazz inspired dream sequence). Some of the sets have been rendered in 3D CGI, and the blocking and camera motions take full advantage of all of this inspired richness. There are shots in here any live action Director would kill for, and it all flows seamlessly with the story.
The one weakness of the film is the main character animation, which is done via Rotoscope. Mind you, it is very GOOD Rotoscope, but it still has that "pasted on" feel to it. It's really unfair to put this type of character animation up against the technological and artistic tour de force of, "Rango". In "Rango", the characters CLEARLY inhabit their animated environment. In "Chico & Rita", the characters move through, but are not quite part of, the same world as the sets.
But that defect doesn't detract from the character acting itself! Indeed the Rotoscoping allowed the filmmakers to capture some very convincing emotions and reactions. And of course, it also kept the budget down.
This is a THOROUGHLY satisfying film. Intelligent, detailed, well resolved in story, INTERESTING in the sense of exploring a world of performers few of us know well enough, and just gorgeous to look at and listen to.
VIEWING NOTE: This is an adult animation. There are brief scenes of violence and some sex scenes. The film is Not Rated, but would probably get a PG-13 -- perhaps even verging on an R rating.
The "making of" Extra and the Commentary, featuring two of the three co-Directors, are both well above average. The Commentary is in English, albeit with a few stumbles here and there, as neither of them are primarily English speakers.