Detective Conde: I’m too fucking nostalgic…
Karina: How decadent…
Detective Conde: Decadence is what fucked up Havana
That’s a bit of the dialogue from Episode 1 f the 4 part series that Netflix has introduced to us just a few weeks ago. The series is called Four Seasons in Havana, and the star, as Detective Conde is Jose Perugoria.
The basics are straightforward. Homicides happen and homicides need to be solved.
The title of the first episode is The Winds Of Lent. The skinny is this: There’s been a brutal murder of a young high school teacher. Conde is on the case and as he works through it, he becomes aware that this teacher taught at the very high school that Conde went to.
As the story expands, we are going to discover the involvement of a drug dealer, some possible police corruption, how important is loyalty, the truth does matter, and that our lead detective falls in love far too quickly.
The series begins this way: It is night-time in Havana but more like in the last few hours before sunrise. There’s some smoke and it seems to becoming from a few separate block. A fire? Not at all. This is just a fumigation truck spraying something into the atmosphere.
But that can only hold your interest for just so long. We need something else. How about this?
A woman and a car. Who is she? We have no idea.
A man enters the scene. He asks if she needs some help with the car which has a left front tire that needs to be changed. We have no idea who he is either. But we will come to learn that he is Lieutenant Conde, a homicide cop.
Later, or is it the next day – the homicide dicks get a call about a murder. Conde goes there as does the forensics officer. There are some available clues – Marijuana in the ash tray, a packet of four tabs of methamphetamine under the bed. Attempts were made to wipe away finger prints. The woman was beaten, raped, and then choked to death.
And there was more, Semen was found in the vagina and a used condom was found in the bathroom. The forensic analysis reports that the semen samples came from two different men.
Conde tries to gain some information or insights to the case so he goes to the high school to ask some questions. None of the students will talk to him – as Conde is a cop.
So it looks like Conde has run into a stone wall. The higher-ups down at Police HQ want results and fast.
Conde will seek some help from an old friend of his from the neighborhood. A guy named Red. Conde asks him to get him some intel.
Red: Asking questions will get me killed
Conde: You don’t have to ask, just keep your eyes open…
The series is set in Havana in the 1990’s. This was the period that was the most difficult for Cuba. The economic sanctions as well as the isolated status of Cuba made living conditions difficult. People lacked so much that their main passions were limited to food, music, and sex.
This Havana, though filled with color and ambience is kind of a bleak place. Detective Conde and his brother and a few other friends all remember the Revolution and the bright promises made by Castro and company. Now they are in their late forties and their disappointment with the Cuba they live in, rather than the Cuba they had hoped for, is not only apparent, but is more than a feeling. It imbues every aspect of life.
Conde’s brother was wounded in the war in Angola and no longer has the use of legs which is of course a difficult reminder of the Cuba that had failed at that time.
Any way, I’d rather not give away too much of either the first episode of the three that follow. This mini-series has been billed as the first Caribbean Noir. Directed by Felix Viscarret, and adapted from the novels penned by Leonardo Padura, the series oozes atmosphere, color, and vivid characters.
The second episode is called Pasado Perfecto, The investigation of the disappearance of a businessman undergoes a turnaround when Conde discovers that the man’s wife, and main suspect, is his old passion.
Episode Three is entitled Máscaras. In the scalding summer of Havana, the body of a gay young man and son of a diplomat is found, leading Conde to a world of sexual possibilities.
Finally Episode Four is called Paisaje de Otoño. With the arrival of a hurricane, Conde needs to uncover a murder case involving a former public employee who has suspicious links to valuable works of art.
I thought that series was a great watch. While the style of Noir may be familiar to you, having it placed in Havana will likely be a brand new experience for you. Pessimism, fatalism, and menace abound. And you won’t be surprised by the dark themes, or downbeat characters.
Presented by Netflix, the series comes to us as the first sale made by Wild Bunch TV as a distributor. Check out the trailer: