Animated films made for adults (at least those not involving kinky Japanese tentacle fetishes) are about as rare as a Fritz the Cat Happy Meal. So it's both surprising and delightful to watch Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal's throwback to Ralph Bakshi--era mature cartoons---the kind that sported nudity and drugs while addressing issues of race, gender, class and politics, all with a rotoscoped fluidity and overheated Technicolor palette.
Inspired by the Cuban jazz greats, Trueba (Belle Epoque) teamed up with a fellow Spaniard, graphic artist Mariscal, to make a bebop romance between a pianist (Oa) and a singer (Meneses) set in the '40s and '50s, pinballing between pre-Castro Havana and postwar America. Missed connections, changing cultural tides and, of course, history interfere with their star-crossed romance. The boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl-and-turns-heartbreak-into-great-art plot is as hoary as they come, but Mariscal's eye-popping artwork and the evocation of a bygone musical era (Charlie Parker at the Village Vanguard, Tito Puente at the Palladium) are delirious. Nominated for an Oscar for this year's Best Animated Feature, it's a welcome change from the category's usual suspects: an animated film that could actually open up audiences to the world, instead of giving them an escape from it.