5DoP #5 – Vestido de novia (2014)

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This is the chosen film to be reviewed in lieu of the unavailability of ‘Mr. Kaplan’ (2014), this Cuban film has been nominated to two Premios Platino, and thus been chosen as the one that most nominations has that isn’t nominated for best film. Oddly, there’s a thing with these awards, where the five films nominated for best film are also unequivocally nominated for most of the other awards, and since there are five nominees per category, the films repeat themselves. It’s a miracle that there was a film with more than one isolated nomination, and that film is this ‘Vestido de novia’, which is nominated for best actress and best feature debut. Also, today are the Premios Platino, and I honestly don’t care too much to even watch them, but it has given me the chance to write and see some movies that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, which is good, I guess. Also, at the end, as always, I rank the five films that I reviewed for this series. Enjoy and thanks for sticking!

by Jaime Grijalba.

While I didn’t personally think that I would see and review another Cuban film after ‘Conducta’ (2014) this soon, it was still an experience that I won’t deny was interesting specially when seeing something as well manufactured and supposedly well-meaning as ‘Conducta’ (2014) be nominated to everything while this certainly smaller and yet still braver and more important/interesting film is shunned away with two nominations, it was an interesting experiment, and while this film isn’t exactly great, it does bring forward more intelligent filmmaking and more accurate/telling criticism than whatever that ‘Conducta’ (2014) wanted to come up with. In some ways it’s a film that echoes certain elements and even certain social problems that ‘Pelo malo’ (2013) tackles in a much better way only because the film is better made and it doesn’t drag in certain spots, which I think is the worst thing that I can truly say about this movie: it needs new editing or the erasing or certain sequences that turn the film repetitive and even boring at times.

‘Vestido de novia’ is a film with a title that has some sort of double entendre around it, since it translates as ‘Wedding Dress’, the film doesn’t feature any dress nor a wedding dress in particular, as it plays with the word ‘vestido’, that both means dress and dressed (in particular dressed when applied to a male, a dressed male), and thus playing with the idea of a man being dressed as a woman, but in more ways the title simplifies the real conflict of the film: transsexualism in modern Cuba. Our protagonist is a girl that used to be a man, at least in biological terms, and has had her operation to be a full woman some time ago already, and so she has been married with a brute, a man that loves her deeply but it’s still anchored to the past and the traditions of Cuba, not only in terms of politics but also when it comes down to gender issues, about who should do what, and why men are men and women are women. He has no idea that his wife was a biological man at one point, and the movie dances around the revelation of that during most of its length, which becomes suspenseful but at the same time just a nuisance. When it comes down to it, if we’re pragmatic, we know that the film is heading towards some kind of revelation, a revelation that will never be truly important, and how the reactions of all the characters that surround this story are going to be affected. Once it happens (way too late into the film) the repercussions are both expected and unexpected, but nevertheless a brave portrayal of the violence and mockery that women like our protagonist suffer to this day in certain highly intolerant cultures, like the one portrayed in Cuba.

This film’s relation to ‘Pelo malo’ (2013) doesn’t stop on the issue of a toxic masculine society that surrounds the people that are in the most need of acceptance, but even to the final scene which is eerily similar in terms of what happens and why does the character do it. Besides that, it manages to show much more about how modern Cuba works than what ‘Conducta’ (2014) managed to do, it even dared to portray these relations without any censorship and it even goes boldly into some nasty territory, specially when it comes down to showing violence and blood and all that comes from being an outcast in a society that will never accept what you feel you really are, and what you defend yourself as being to whatever one asks you. It’s a shame that this film is over a 100 minutes long, because it doesn’t need to be, as it lays down its premise and the situation and spends way too much time developing characters that don’t need to be built any longer, and it doesn’t need all those close calls, that might trigger a reaction from the viewers and it surely gives the film some energy, but when it’s repeated that many times it doesn’t get any better, and when the revelation comes it’s after two almost-revelations and one begins to think that this kind of suspense was unnecessary, specially when the aftermath is given too little time to be fully explored, and while the ending proves to be worthwhile, it still comes from out of the blue.

This continues the streak, and it does manage to criticize the government of Cuba in much more intelligent ways than what ‘Conducta’ (2014) ever dream of doing, but in the end it’s not that well made for it to become a potent case for something else besides a denunciation of a toxic society that still won’t regard transgendered people as human beings that deserve love, happiness and peace.

***

And now the ranking of the 5 films reviewed in these 5 Days of Platino:

1. Relatos salvajes (2014)

2. Pelo malo (2013)

3. La isla mínima (2014)

4. Vestido de novia (2014)

5. Conducta (2014)

See you next year with a new edition of 5 Days of Platino!

2 responses to “5DoP #5 – Vestido de novia (2014)

  1. Pingback: Mr. Holmes and at-homing viewings on Monday Morning Diary (July 20) | Wonders in the Dark·

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