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DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS

It may be the most artificial of genres, but itís also one of the most subversive. Class conflict and gender strife come down to a pas de deux between Ginger and Fred, and Eisenstein never directed a crowd scene more radical or more rousing than the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number in Gold Diggers of 1933. Like revolution in general, though, the musical has been in decline of late, and the success of bogus specimens like Chicago only confirms its impending demise.

Guy Ferlandís Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights wonít change any of that, but at least itís trying. A prequel of sorts to the 1986 hit (which, along with Flashdance, led to such cut-and-paste pastiche atrocities as Moulin Rouge), it takes place five years before that salubrious Catskill-set fairy tale. Katey (Romola Garai), Yale-bound girl genius, finds her staid, studious life disrupted when dadís Ford Motor company job relocates to hot-blooded, Batista-ruled Cuba. There she discovers Cuban music (or the filmís anachronistic fusion version thereof), discards her Sylvia Plath cardigan for Carmen Miranda sheaths, and proceeds to dance the night away with sensitive Cuban busboy Javier (Diego Luna). Oh, and Castro takes over the country. Those two parts donít quite harmonize, but theyíre not exactly dissonant, either. Credit a canny screenplay ó and Garai. Whether she can dance or not is debatable given the filmís stroboscopic editing, but she has the talent and the presence of a star. (86 minutes)


Issue Date: February 27 - March 4, 2004
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