Book Review | 2019
"Back when these cinemas where built it wasn’t just ‘function’ that these cinemas needed they had something that almost all modern cinemas lack, style."
CINES DE CUBA | Carolina Sandretto | Skira Edition
Cuba has always been an island that has never seemed to do things by half. At first when you look through Carolina Sandretto’s stunning new book CINES DE CUBA you can’t help but feel a strange sense of confusion. Why so many cinemas?
Ever since the early 20th Century cinemas have been played a vital role in the I’ve of Cubans. Much like old cinemas in America or across Europe the communal aspect of cinema, seeing a new picture, and going out was a vital part of life for many.
My interest in this book was deeper than I had expected because I lived for the cinema when I was young and spent many nights and a weekend at the local cinema in my village. On reflection, I can appreciate the uniqueness of the cinema and its original decor but when I was young I just loved being inside and watching whatever film I was allowed to see.
Almost instantly those memories of my young flooding back to me mean I get to enjoy each of Sandretto’s images with a nostalgic view but also with a deeper appreciation of what these cinemas meant and what they mean now.
In her introduction Sandretto notes that ‘cinema has been disappearing and leaving space for other social needs’ and she goes further to explain that this is a ‘loss for our society…’ This isn’t just a true statement of the situation facing places like Cuba but also the reality that many small independent cinemas face across Europe and America.
From 600 cinemas in its heyday to 19 remaining as cinemas today the slow decline and growing dilapidation of the communal experience of cinema in Cuba have been hard. One has too, as Sandretto explains, view these cinemas as the beacons of cultural experience and architectural wonders that tell of different time and place. Back when these cinemas where built it wasn’t just ‘function’ that these cinemas needed they had something that almost all modern cinemas lack, style.
"These cinemas offer more than a place to watch a film they are buildings that inspire and the encase your passion and desire for more."
One only has to look at Cine Alcázar, Camagüey (p 176) to appreciate the true wonder, majesty and beauty of these places. The four pictures of the cinema on p. 177 are mesmerising. There is no simplicity, no normality and no desperate need for the function to be boring or simple, the design is beautiful and is to exude beauty. The stairway, the balcony and the yellow slat windows offer a breathtaking glimpse into what this place would have looked like when it was packed with local cinephiles.
Cinema is an event, it is a reward for the imagination that allows you to get lost within the celluloid world of make-believe. In Carlos Garaicoa’s ALONE AT THE MOVIES in talking about his childhood experiences he says ‘Such intense experience could not fail to leave me, at the very least, with an absolute passion for film.’ These cinemas offer more than a place to watch a film they are buildings that inspire and the encase your passion and desire for more.
Grettel Jiménez-Singer in OASIS describes a delightful way the importance of cinema and what it meant to them. Jiménez-Singer still paints a delightful romantic view but it is peppered with the reality of life on in Cuba. Jiménez-Singer reminisces of a hard time but one that offers life lessons and experiences that stay with you.
In CINES DE CUBA Sandretto images capture the decay and the near dilapidation of some cinemas but she also shows the glorious cultural past that is steeped in history and passion for film that is hard to fault.