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Friday, May 21, 2021

La Habanera (1937)

In 1927, a young Swedish woman (Zarah Leander) and her Aunt (Julia Serda) visit Puerto Rico. While her Aunt takes an intense dislike to the island, the girl sees it as a paradise and falls in love with a dashing and wealthy landowner (Ferdinand Marian) and stays behind to marry him. But as the years pass, she becomes disillusioned with both the island and her husband. Directed by Douglas Sirk, this was his last German film prior to fleeing the country (his wife was Jewish) and eventually relocating to the U.S. The movie is a melodrama, in line with the genre that would make Sirk one of Universal's most popular directors in the 1950s and later elevated to auteur status by the French. Its exotic portrait of Puerto Rico (it was filmed in the Canary Islands) is a fantasy rather than a reflection of the real Puerto Rico but that's irrelevant overall. The film is slightly schizophrenic as it seems to impart mixed messages. On one hand, it seems to say European (or Caucasian if you prefer) people don't fit it with these "natives" who are primitive compared to European culture. On the other hand, the tyrant who oversees the island is reminiscent of what was going on in Germany at the time and the government downplaying a deadly virus that kills its populace because it will interfere with the island's economy is eerily prescient. With Karl Martell and Boris Alekin. 

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