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Chico

A picaresque journey through the series of coups, revolutions and wars that colored the latter half of the 20th century, Chico (2001) presents a personal, tragicomic perspective on a period of history when, at least for one man, everything fell apart. Hungarian director Ibolya Fekete weaves documentary footage together with historical re-creations to tell the semibiographical story of Eduardo Rózsa Flores, who also plays the film’s eponymous lead. Born in Bolivia to a Jewish-Hungarian father and a Catholic-Spanish mother, the young Chico grows up enamored of his charismatic father’s communist activism, while serving Mass every morning with the local priest. He then bears the burden of these hyphenated allegiances from country to country and cause to cause as his family is buffeted by a disruptive course of historical events. Following the 1971 coup in Bolivia, it’s on to Chile in time for Allende’s fall, after which the family flees to Hungary. “A homecoming for my father, a new exile for me,” says Chico in voice-over after his father leads a plane of refugees in a rendition of “The Internationale.” Then, under the thrall of Che, Chico seizes the reins of his own destiny and travels to Minsk for KGB training, where he sees how the spirit of his father’s revolution has ossified into empty rhetoric. After disheartening stints as a spy, a terrorist (with Carlos “The Jackal”) and a journalist, he becomes a freedom fighter in Croatia, as much out of personal pique as political commitment, only to watch as the Balkans go up in flames. It’s a crowded resumé, which director Fekete presents in a disordered series of extended flashbacks — a jumbled chronology that mirrors Chico’s growing drift and disillusion as the grand storylines of the Cold War come undone.

Other recommended new releases: The Errol Morris Collection: Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, Vernon, Florida (DVD); Guadalcanal Diary (DVD); Gabbeh (DVD); How Tasty Was My Frenchman (DVD); Hukkle (DVD).

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