THE problem with anthology films is that they feel like pencil sketches: patchy variations on a theme, contorted to a punchline.
Which is why these films tend to bait their hook with tasty auteur names like Fellini, Malle and Vadim for Spirits Of The Dead or Coppola, Scorsese and Allen for New York Stories, or Benicio Del Toro, Gasper Noé and Laurent Cantet here.
The theme for 7 Days In Havana is love in all its close, loose, romantic and familial connections; and blimey, doesn’t that feel like a classroom assignment for a student fiction writing class? Across seven shorts, one for each day of the week in the Cuban capital, most of the filmmakers view Havana in a sunny light.
Del Toro leads off with an anecdote about a sweet young yank (Josh Hutcherson) touring Havana clubs and girls in a manner that naturally showcases Havana Club rum – which sponsored the project and are prominently featured in every segment.
The drinks company might not be quite so enamoured of Pablo Trapero’s section with Serbian director Emir Kusturica, who stars as himself in a vignette where he rolls off the plane, throws up and boozes through a visit to accept an film award before ditching the ceremony with his driver.
Inconsistency is the curse of the anthology film, and on the debit side, Noé offers a lurid voodoo ceremony to “cure” a girl of lesbianism that feels like a doodle in shock tactics, but worst of all is a moony love triangle from Julio Medem about a singer trying to choose between a besotted music producer and her self-pitying sports star boyfriend. Medem wants us to know that Havana is a sexy place where anything can go down. Sadly, two of those things are your eyelids.
Remarkably, not one of the seven stories takes a shrewd, or even Loachian view of the realities of living in Cuba. Instead 7 Days In Havana feeds us sunsets, cigars, salsa and faded grandeur at indulgent length totalling 128 minutes. Most of us would have settled for a minibreak.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh, and Glasgow Film Theatre, from Friday