Nights of Constantinople

The young scion of an old Havana family secretly writes an erotic novel that wins an international prize. When his puritanical grandmother hears the news she suffers a stroke, and the other members of the family are suddenly freed from the past's hold. At one point the matriarch compares the menagerie of relatives cooped up in the faded family villa to the House of Usher, but not much in this 2001 comedy drama is scary. It tries for blithe, but its characters are one-dimensional and hardly decadent—there's an earnestly romantic grandson, a fat-bitch cousin, a repressed-spinster aunt, an overbearing grandma. And the situations that lead to the looting of valuable paintings are contrived—director Orlando Rojas is overly fond of soft-porn scenes and drag acts—while the social commentary on Cuba is minimal, though we do learn about the island's infatuation with Western pop culture. With Francisco Rabal, Liberto Rabal, and Veronica Lynn. In Spanish with subtitles. 115 min.

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