El Cantante

2008-06-20 15:41
 
What it's about:

El Cantante, translated as The Singer, is a celebration of the rise of samba music and the newfound cultural pride of Puerto Ricans through a movement of music. At the forefront of this movement is Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony). The film follows the life of the founder of samba music – his rise to stardom, his passionate relationship with the spirited Puchi (Jennifer Lopez) and his self-destructive nature. It documents Lavoe's ability to combine tradition with modernism and shows the legend as the hero he was to Puerto Rico.

What we thought of it:

El Cantante is a film about passion, passionately made. It speaks to conscientisation of Puerto Ricans, a life of immeasurable joy, intense pain, loss, gain, music, colour, dance, drugs, wealth, disease, fame, heroism, darkness and light. It's a story of a life so full and so influential, it's difficult to sum up in a few paragraphs.

Lavoe's rich life must have been a challenge for the filmmakers too, but director and co-writer Leon Ichaso skillfully chose Hector's relationship with his wife Puchi as the vehicle through which to speak about the samba sensation. And it works.

What does not work, at least for the first part of the film, is the casting. Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez are probably the most successful Puerto Rican artists in mainstream media. They certainly deserve the roles and will no doubt draw a huge audience, but their personas get in the way.

It's difficult to imagine Jennifer Lopez as Hector Lavoe's wife. Heck, we just got used to her being a wife for longer that the blink of an eye. The fact that Lopez and Anthony are actually married and are in fact both musicians makes it all too loaded and reduces the impact of what is otherwise a dazzling film.

- Natalie Sineke

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The story of beloved Puerto Rican singer Hector Lavoe and the birth of samba music, told through his passionate relationship with his wife Puchi.

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