John Baumgartner

shot4shot I am Cuba

I AM CUBA (1964, Mikhail Kalatozov)

One of the most insanely long and exciting shots I’ve seen is from the beginning of I am Cuba, a lushly lyrical fever dream of a movie. (Two movies have felt like fever dreams to me, this and Coraline – how’s that for a spectrum?)  This shot literally goes to unexpected places, and just seems to thematically fit in perfectly with what’s happening in the scene – like some voyeur wandering around with a handheld Bolex camera (come to think of it, the whole movie feels like that.) Made as communist propaganda in the 60’s, this film, and especially this shot, must have nonetheless played well to the Don Draper set.

Like Tarkovsky’s work, you can get lost in Kalatozov’s powerful, timeless visuals, if nothing else. I think the wide angle lens creates a dream-like, hallucinatory vibe (consistent throughout the movie) that — coupled with the amazing photography of the whole film — casts a real spell if you’re the patient type.

Check it out starting at 2:10 below. Though how gorgeous, transporting, dreamy, and Terrence Malick-y is the very opening of this clip?

Thanks to pal & filmmaker Mika Johnson for introducing me to this movie last year.


  • May 23, 2011

    This reminds me of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” a bit, thematically. The poor inhabit the world down next to the earth while the wealthy elite are removed up into the artificial heaven of the skyscrapers. I’ve never seen this movie – I’ll have to check it out.

  • May 23, 2011
    dave Cotton

    I would love to see how they filmed that!
    Very cool!

  • May 25, 2011
    Jeremy Cole

    Damn, that guy knew where to put a camera! It makes you feel like you’re the life of that party.

    It’s so hard to choreograph a scene like that with no empty moments and make it full of surprises yet somewhat natural and motivated. That’s a gem. I’ll have to check out the rest on Netflix.


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