the whore with the broken heart of gold who attempts suicide five times. With a little prodding from Diego and a little manipulation by Senel Paz, the screenwriter whose story “The Wolf, the Forest and the New Man” provides the basis for this film, David and Nancy find mutual consolation for life’s disappointments. But, though they barely exchange even an abrazo, Strawberry and Chocolate centers on the love story of Diego and David, a rather odd couple. One is a swishy and exquisite sentimentalist, a devout dilettante and Catholic, while the other, a political science major, is a doctrinaire dialectical materialist. Diego is the kind of flaming gay who might have escaped from La Cage aux folles, only to be trapped in repressive Cuba. He of course adores Maria Callas and introduces his new friend David to one of her arias. Diego is far more sophisticated than David, who has not strayed from the official culture of the thin Red line. Diego flaunts his autographed books by taboo authors Mario Vargas Llosa, Juan Goytisolo and Severo Sarduy, and he spices his conversations with knowing allusions to Dostoevsky and Cavafy, whom David evidently does not know. When John Donne is mentioned, David thinks the antique poet might be Diego’s pal, and he mistakes a photo of Cuban author Jose Lezama for his flamboyant host’s father. Diego recreates a sumptuous dinner from Lezama’s novel Paradiso, and the novice aesthete swallows it all in awe. David is a bit of a nebbish, a cipher who serves as a surrogate for the skeptical viewer. Perugorria’s ebullient performance makes Diego the movie’s center of energy, a mighty life force whom only a sanctimonious, insecure prig could condemn. Strawberry and Chocolate seems aimed at straight Cuban men, to urge them away from the intolerance of sad vigilantes like Miguel. Rather than betray Diego, David learns to love him, chastely, and so does the viewer. When officials refuse to authorize an exhibition by a creative sculptor, Diego indiscreetly dashes off an irate letter that terminates his own career in Cuba. In the movie’s final frames, Diego heads off for exile, and we know, with David, that the island he leaves behind will be a much, much smaller place, bereft of wit and mirth, the Falstaffian panache that commissars can never abide. “Banish sweet Jack Falstaff and banish all the world,” wrote Shakespeare, without antagonizing Tudor censors. It surely helps Alea’ s standing with Cuban authorities that Strawberry and Chocolate is set in 1979, when, even they might concede, official oppression of gays was more severe. His standing in the United States has been enhanced by an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Strawberry and Chocolate and the Taiwanese Eat Drink Man Woman must be considered favorites against the unheralded competition of Before the Rain \(MacedoBurnt by the Sun Farinelli: Il Castrato Cuban entry is a bit like last year’s Oscar laureate Philadelphia, except that it is devoid of AIDS. In the innocent days before the lethal virus, homophobia seems even more than ever an idiopathic affliction. “When will they understand that art is one thing and propaganda another?” asks Diego, exasperated over government censorship of his friend’s unorthodox sculpture. But propaganda is sometimes merely BY ANN DALY THERE IS A KEY MOMENT in the “Sentimental Cannibalism” section of Bristle tory excerpts performed February 17 at the Paramount Theatre in Austin by the New York-based Donald Byrd/The Group: In an obvious nod to the final masturbatory image of Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1912 Afternoon of a Faun, Byrd has one of his male dancers lying prone on the floor, downstage center. His head is turned away from us in the audience, toward the four women standing further upstage. As they seduce this lone man with the fast, almost contortionistic movements of their exquisite bodies, he humps the floor. Because Byrd has positioned the manboth literally and figurativelyin our spectatorial place, we are forced to identify with his sexualized response. It’s an effective device that unveils the voyeuristic structure of most dance: Women displaying their bodies for the satisfaction of their male-identified spectators. The problem is that Byrddespite his rhetoric of political and social engagementdelights in the bodies of his dancers and especially in the splayed-out legs of his female dancers. The entire evening, which featured excerpts from Life Situations Drastic Cuts consisted of men and women struggling with each other: Women the willing or resistant objects of desire, men the faceless bearers of desire. Byrd certainly has mined a myriad of possibilities of partnering Ann Daly is a professor of theater and dance at the University of Texas at Austin. the art of our enemies. To a jaundiced eye, Strawberry and Chocolate is itself propaganda. Its mild reproach of official policy 15 years ago advertises the fact that the Castro regime, which allowed the film’s release, is now more enlightened than the bureaucrats who harassed Diego. And the film is shameless propaganda for an end to sexual shame. Strawberry and Chocolate preaches that the parfait society must make room for many flavors. Its message of respect for the varieties of human behavior is made more palatable by omitting any heinous behavior except on the part of the intolerant. Alea and Tabio stack their deck, and the queen is a winning card. women’s legs, but it wears thin, and worse. At the close of the evening, in the last moment we see of Drastic Cuts, a woman extends her leg forward, up to her face, clasps it and falls headlong into the arms of three or four men on the floor, who cheerfully proceed to fondle her. Any claim that Byrd might make to a politics of gender deconstruction is effectively discredited. Byrd, who presented his Minstrel Show to Austin several years ago, has choreographed more than 80 works since 1976, including commissions for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Lyon Ballet, and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. He started Donald Byrd/The Group in Los Angeles in 1978 and moved it to New York in 1983; today it’s an award-winner on the contemporary dance circuit. The group’s mission is “the creation and presentation of work which reaches the broadest possible segment of society while reflecting the African-American experience and exploring new artistic boundaries.” That’s a difficult tightrope to walk. Much like Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, in which the violence that was being critiqued was so seductively presented that it became impervious to criticism, Byrd’s repertory program ends up exploiting the most sexist conventions of classical ballet. And in this sense, he’s fallen into the same trap as similarly ambitious choreographers William Forsythe and Karole Armitage \(back in her punk construct ballet. You can’t have it both ways: If you’re going to play to the pleasures of a woman’s legsthe pointe work, Ballet with Attitude .
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