Questions and Commitments and Consequences
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"CHICO, a two hour film that is a mixture of documentary footage, biographical exploration of an amazing young man who just happens to be the actor portraying himself, and historical drama creating a film that is as confusing, contradictory, explicitly powerful and ugly as the wars it traverses. Given the fact that the film is shot in multiple locations and in many languages (Spanish, English, Hungarian, Croatian, German, and more), it is extremely demanding of the viewer: not one minute of concentration can be spared to attain the impact of the message writer/director Ibolya Fekete spreads before us.
Chico (Eduardo Rózsa Flores on whose life this film is based and who stuns with his acting skills) begins the film as a young boy living in Chile, the son of a Bolivian Catholic mother and a Hungarian Jewish father, and is caught up in the revolutions of the 1960s very much under the influence of Che Guevara's teachings. He family is Communist but Catholic (!), forced to flee Pinochet's Chile and the turnover with Allende, and though not speaking any language but Spanish, Chico goes to Europe as a young man whose goal is journalism but whose convictions embrace revolution as the means to alter the future. In his confusing role of journalist/freedom fighter he becomes intimately involved with the revolutions in Hungary, Albania, Israel, Croatia and the Balkan War with the Yugoslavian decimation of the 1990s.
Throughout his travels from revolution to revolution, first as a reporter, but always ending up as a freedom fighter, we meet a huge cast of characters, a cast representing both sides of each revolution, and the lines between identities become blurred to the extent that it is impossible to identify the two sides at odds. It is here that Fekete makes his strongest statement: war is atrocious, cruel, meaningless, destructive, brutal and foolish. Chico sees it all yet continues to actively participate in the killing and the mayhem, all the while feeling the pull of his Catholicism and even his Jewish heritage bifurcating his emotional commitment.
The huge cast passes in front of our eyes so quickly that few are present long enough to evaluate as actors. One exception stands out: Richie Varga plays Jimmie, a American from Chicago who steps into the final battle of the film and leaves an indelible impression with his good looks and his sensitive portrayal of a soul searching for meaning in the mess of war. Easily the star of the film is the Chico of Eduardo Rózsa Flores, a man who made it through all the changes and chances of the story and maintains the ability to transmit his puzzling life to us in a verismo manner. This is a film that is very difficult to follow, just as are the various revolutions and wars in countries that are forever changing boundaries and names. But in the end it teaches us a lot about the concept of 'why revolution' and even more about the absurdity of war. Burningly alive cinema, this film is recommended for those who need to understand our global condition from the 1960s to the present. Grady Harp, November 06