Some months ago, I had written a post about The Lost City that was swallowed up by a fickle browser and I never got back to giving my impressions of this truly excellent movie. I was first inspired to see it by this Leon Hadar post, which I had commented on before after seeing The White Countess. The Lost City has much in common with the latter, and both are outstanding antidotes to Casablanca-style abstract idealism. Fico Fellove (Andy Garcia) is in many ways the opposite of Bogart’s Rick. He is a lover of music and dance for their own sake. He is one who cultivates a life apart from politics and causes not because he has become embittered and cynical in the worst sense, but because he appreciates beauty and the culture of his native city. “Have you ever thought of living for your country?” the elder Fellove lectures his hotheaded son, Ricardo–Fico does exactly this, and he is not surprisingly the only one of the three sons who lives to the end of the story. Once Castro comes to power, he does not go off to join a resistance movement, but instead goes to make his own way in America, to build up a life and find a way to get the rest of his family out of Cuba. It is a moving film that still does not pretend to take itself too seriously. So that no one becomes too philosophical, Bill Murray’s anonymous “Writer” is always ready to lighten the mood with cornball antics.
“I don’t have a loyalty to a lost cause,” says Fico Fellove, “but I do have a loyalty to a lost city…and that’s my cause and my curse.” Fico’s loyalty to place, even a lost place, a place to which he can never return, is inspiring to behold. Would that more people had a tenth of the devotion. Fico is a true family man, in that he places his loyalty to his family ahead of everything else. Unlike his brothers, who either get themselves killed fighting for abstract freedom and democracy or join the sinister forces of Castroism, he places his loyalty to them and the rest of his family first. If there is one moment where Fico puts principle ahead of these relationships, it is when he realises that “madness” has come to Cuba with the rise of Castro and that he cannot afford to stay, despite his love for the beautiful Aurora (Ines Sastre).
The Lost City is a tribute to the Havana and the Cuba that were lost in 1959 and afterwards, but it is also a hint of what might eventually be there once again once the deadening shell of party rule is dismantled. In the end, The Lost City is a sad film lamenting the disappearance of a vibrant and rich world, but it diagnoses very clearly how such places enter into oblivion: through the rigidity of ideology, revolutionary claptrap and promises of the future.