Lost City
dir. Andy Garcia

The Lost City is about Havana, the city Andy Garcia lost in 1959 when he was five years old. The break from that world had a tremendous impact on the boy; it haunted his dreams as a teen in Florida, and finally compelled him as an adult to invest the fortune of a Hollywood career in the cinematic recreation of the home, friends, and family he had lost in real life. It took Garcia 16 years to complete The Lost City, which is based on a novel by G. Cabrera Infante and set in the last days of decadent Cuba—the Cuba of hot dancers, handsome mobsters, and percussive music.

In The Lost City, the director, Garcia, plays Fico Fellove. Like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, he is a club owner who’s indifferent to politics, but, like Brando in The Godfather, he is committed to his family (amoral familism, as sociologists call it). However, Fico’s younger brothers (numbering two) are political, and against the will of their father, a proud professor, they join the revolution. By the end of the film the brothers are dead. One is murdered for attempting to kill the president; the other kills himself because he comes to realize that being a revolutionary is the same as being a cockroach. The movie is long, and Fico’s sadness is infinite. Like a powerless boy, there is nothing he can do to stop the world from changing. He can only play the piano and hold back bitter tears.

To give us a little comic relief from all of this sorrow and serious talk about social change, Bill Murray is thrown into the film. For reasons that can only be known to God (if, that is, God exists), Dustin Hoffman is also thrown into the film. He plays a sly Jewish mobster who wants to turn Fico’s honest club into a criminal casino. But the mobster has nothing to do with the story as a whole.

If you want to see the poor in pre-revolutionary Cuba, you will not find them in The Lost City. They are, instead, in a much better film, I Am Cuba, which was directed by a Soviet five years after Garcia left the city that haunts his right-wing dreams.