Love: European Style

Romance in a Can Does It with a Continental Twist

Small Jerusalem

Miami is picture perfect. Its light and its dark, its skyline and its shoreline, and, yes, even its people, are all suitable for framing. Furthermore, Miamians behave as if they’re living their very own movie; and at any given moment each of us is ever ready for that proverbial close-up.

So it makes perfect sense that this Magic City would have more than its fair share of film festivals. From the Brazilian to the Italian, the Underground to the Borscht, the Miami Gay & Lesbian (which is up and running till May 2) to the International itself, at some time or another during each and every year, something cinematic is going down somewhere in our town.

This week is exceptionally no exception. Why? Because this is the week where we get what’s called Romance in a Can, the one film fest where nothing but love is in the air – and on the screen.

Actually, make that a long week, on a very hallowed screen. From April 29 through May 10, in fact, all at Miami-Dade College’s landmark Tower Theater, which of course is located in bustling Little Havana. In addition to the main line-up, there’s also a night of student-made shorts at Miami Beach Sr. High, which is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring things we’ve seen offered to students in a good long while.

But enough with the kidstuff. Or maybe not. Because we’re here as adults to talk about the one thing that has the potential to make each and every one of us act as if we were teenagers all over again. And that’s that thing called love.

This year’s signature filmmaker is French director Jacques Demy, he of 1964’s all-singing Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), which will be showing twice during the fest, as will be his ’72 movie, The Pied Piper. Also on tap will be Demy’s Peau d’Âne (Donkey Skin), another hypercolorful musical, this one based on a fairy tale by Charles Perrault, he of everything from “Little Red Riding Hood” to “Puss in Boots.”

According to festival founder Isabelle Lambert, the idea to show Demy’s work comes from Tower Theater director Orlando Rojas, who one day mentioned how much he loved watching French films while growing up in his native Havana. After Lambert asked Rojas which among the directors he most admired, and Rojas answered with Demy, an honoree was born.

Cyndi Lauper in Here and Therew

Last year’s tribute went to Josephine Baker, so you can clearly see what kind of tone Lambert is taking with Romance. In fact, she says it’s not all about love; well, at least not all the films are entirely about love anyway. But they are all independent, and each at least has a certain romantic undercurrent – if not a charming overbite.

Take the other two highly romantic classics which round-out that part of Romance’s calendar – Jules Dassin’s Greek reworking of Pygmalion, Never on Sunday (1960), and German director Helmut Käutner’s take on Gue de Maupassant’s Romance in a Minor Key (1942). Not only should both be required viewing whether you’re in or out of love, but each has that kinda quirky take on life that makes it most livable. Kinda like Leonard Cohen’s quip about there being a crack in everything, which is how the light gets in.

Kebab

But the bulk of Romance in a Can’s calendar is devoted to contemporary films from, in some form or another, 10 different countries. France and Germany are best represented with, respectively, three and five flicks each. For France it’s Could This Be Love?, Nothing Against You and Small Jerusalem. For Germany, there’s Anna’s Summer, The Beloved, Kebab Connection, Malou and Memory. Both countries also chime in with Jaffa (Germany/Israel/France), and France seconds and thirds an assist with Eccentricities of a Blond Girl (Portugal/Spain/France) and A Talking Picture (Portugal/Italy/France).

There are also offerings from Italy (At a Glance), Poland (Little Moscow), Serbia (Here and There) and Spain (An Invisible Woman; Seven Minutes), as well as dual productions between Serbia and Slovenia (Red Coloured Grey Truck) and Colombia and Spain (The Accordeon Angel).

Spain being Spain, the Spanish film, An Invisible Woman, which is directed by Oscar-winning producer Gerardo Herrero (The Secret in Their Eyes), closes the love fest. And its leading actress, María Bouzas, promises to be in attendance for the festivities.

But fret not you English-as-an-only-language types, for each and every film in this fest is duly subtitled. Still, even if they weren’t, there’s little chance you wouldn’t be caught up in the romance. After all, no native tongue has a corner on love.

There’s something to be said about someone deciding to bring to our town a different way of looking at things, something very keen indeed. That Isabelle Lambert went out on her own to deliver us from violence and to give us a respite from the crass American commercial marketplace, should resoundingly be applauded. That she’s done so with such a winsome idea means we also owe her our thanks. And what better way to say “thank you” than to grab your baby by the hand and head on over to Romance in a Can?

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