Pros: Jorge Perugorria, handsome Vladimir Cruz
Cons: standard bimbo + older/wiser/frustrated would-be lover comedy/melodrama
Who would expect a film from Fidel Castro's Cuba (circa 1994) about overcoming homophobia that also illustrates official persecution of homosexuals by the regime? Allegedly, director Tomás Alea (who made the ambiguously nostalic "Memories of an underdevelopment" once upon a time) denied that there are HIV concentration camps, and neither HIV nor AIDS are mentioned in the film. I guess it is set in the late 1970s.
Whether AIDS is avoided or irrelevant, a friendship between a straight communist and a self-proclaimed maricón is a sweet surprise from the last Stalinist outpost in "the West." Further, the prettiest, most narcissistic character (Francisco Gattorno) is the most doctrinaire communist. He preens in a mirror with a picture of James Dean next to it, whereas the homosexual Diego (Jorge Perugorria) is a resolute supporter of Cuban culture, with a prominent picture to José Lezama Lima. (Diego also copies a dinner I don’t remember from Lezana Lima's Paradiso as a reward for Davíd and as a prelude for losing his virginity with Nancy).
Based on Senel Paz's short story “El Lobo, El Bosque y el Hombre Nuevo” (The Wolf, the Forest and the New Man), the movie shows a straight student of lower-class background, David (Vladimir Cruz ), discovering that a "counter-revolutionary" older artist, Diego (Jorge Perugorria), has many good qualities, including his veneration of Cuban culture, and that he (David) can learn much from him (Diego). Diego is being hounded into exile.
The movie provides a relatively positive portrayal of the older gay man, even despite his initial "designs" (wish to seduce) the young revolutionary. It does not go so far as to show the gay man bedding the student. It is Diego's contemporary, a female prostitute Nancy (Mirta Ibarra), with whom David develops a sexual relationship. While the movie indicated greater "tolerance" for homosexuals in Cuba, happiness and fulfilment was denied Diego -- just as the gay characters who appear in Hollywood movies are effectively neutered.
I thought the film was going to end with the last line of "Some Like It Hot" ("Nobody’s perfect"—Davíd’s response to Diego’s "pero no eres un maricón"!-- "but our aren't a f-a-g") which is perhaps even greater acceptance than the hug.
I found the return to the ice cream outdoor cafe (the movie's title comes from the choice of two available flavors of ice cream) even funnier than the first visit, since Davíd mimics what Diego did then. This constitutes a sunny acceptance anywhere, particularly in a Latino society, particularly in Cuba.