Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) eases his way into feature-film directing as co-director to some notable World Cinema patrons such as Julio Medem (Sex y Lucia) and Gaspar Noé (Irreversible). However, their inharmonious hotpot of Havana nights dredges up that old phrase: ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’, or perhaps the lesser known, but more apt: ‘Too many pretentious pricks ruin art films.’
The film is comprised of seven vignettes telling the story of various characters’ doings in the Cuban capital. With a different director taking the helm for each section, á la Grindhouse — it even makes use of the Tarantino-style title cards, just without an ounce of the excitement in between.
Del Toro’s story follows a travelling American’s attempts to, well, get laid. Noé shows the consequences of teenage lesbianism in an extended exorcism scene. Emir Kusturica, the Serbian arthouse auteur, spends one night on a drunken jaunt through Havana’s musical nightlife, and then goes home. The other four forgettable stories are as directionless and uninspiring.
What should be a cultural foreign language film is more like a clumsy tourist guidebook in its execution. Even if you accept it for what it is, a collection of Cuban practices and eccentricities, that won’t stop you from being bludgeoned into boredom.
One excruciating section follows Elia Suleiman directing himself as a mute traveller who simply walks up and down hotel corridors, sits alone in his room, and stares at people on beaches – at this point, a lucky third of the audience in my screening left so they could continue living their lives.
If it’s titillation you’re after, Del Toro and his cohorts make sure to counter-balance boredom by slipping in a shower scene, prostitute scene, or any other scenario that allows for a bit of guiltless tits-and-arse. Of course, Del Toro has some way to go before joining the ranks of those masters who mask titillation as art so critics can praise their stealth-porn during the festival circuit.
Amongst the Havana dalliers you might recognize The Hunger Games’ Josh Hutcherson and Inglourious Basterds’ Daniel Brühl flaunting their acting skills in hope of recognition. Don’t worry, apart from these two, all the other actors struggling to get a lead role in Hollywood are yet to take such desperate measures. Although Hutcherson’s section might be the best, the transparent set-up which ends with him taking home a very masculine-looking woman who – wouldyaknowit – turns out to be a man, leaves the audience thinking: “Uh-huh… And?”
If you’re doing research for your group trip to Cuba, forget 7 Days and buy the Havana Lonely Planet guide instead because it’s more thrilling in comparison – and cheaper than a couple of cinema tickets (£7.69 on Amazon). Sidestep this film like you would a broad-jawed blonde on the dance floor of a Cuban nightclub.