By Celluloid Liberation Front
A nausea-inducing film of simplistic primitivism, Return to Ithaca is Laurent Cantet’s contribution to the debunking of the myth of Caribbean socialism (as if there were any illusions left). We are in the sado-Marxist island of Cuba, where any human right is cruelly crushed bar those of being able to have a house, a healthy and long life, and a free education (useless things, as we all know). On a Havana rooftop, a group of middle-aged friends has met up to reminisce about the bitter old days; the tragic thing being that we spend the rest of the film on that fucking rooftop and with the same people, as if that wasn’t a monotonous enough premise. One of them has just returned from Spain after leaving the hellish Caribbean island some sixteen years ago because he could not be a writer there, Cuba being renowned for its commitment to forced ignorance. “Did you write any novels while in Spain?” asks one of his friends. “No, I didn’t feel like being a writer while away from Cuba,” answers the poor exiled soul. Talk about career problems!
As in every self-respecting reunion there is of course a secret, which will be unveiled at the end of the film to no one’s surprise (the characters themselves seem to forget about it from time to time, so brilliant is the screenplay). So there we go for 95 interminable minutes from commonplaces to bad acting, dull direction to pathetic blatancies and back again, like on a soporific and unpleasant merry-go-round. The director patiently explains to us that socialism in Cuba is far from perfect and life on the idyllic island can be quite tough. Really??? Who knew! Thank you Mr. Cantet! Actually, let us take that Che Guevara poster off our bedroom wall right away now that we know that all we had thought to be true about Cuba was actually a big, propagandistic lie. Since you are so smart and anti-conformist Mr. Cantet, can we ask you one last question? Can you please fuck off?