Sun August 19, 2007
I don't want a documentary.
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
Jennifer Lopez can act, Gigli notwithstanding. In El Cantante she narrates the life of 70's Salsa songster Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony) with some sparks of creative energy. After all, as Puchi, she smoke, drank, and took drugs with him on his way to stardom, inevitable obscurity, and early death. Enabler? Maybe. Witness the Ray Charles, Kurt Cobain arc and you'll know how Hector's life sank so low (no homonym pun intended).
El Cantante is a disappointment because the celebrity couple Lopez and Anthony could have had Oscar flyovers with better script and direction. Many of the scenes are stock musical biopic: low-angle shots of the star strumming and singing, cut to drugs, cut to wife, back to another performance moment, cut to a Fania album cover, all with MTV swift editing and few scenes of depth that are not clich?s of the first order.
Clint Eastwood's life of Charlie Bird Parker is a classic of character development; the recent La Vien Rose about chanteuse Edith Piaf depicts the artist sufferer in a mixed bag of time but a straightforward rendition of talent. Cantante shows a druggie who might have been an icon but for his weaknesses. If I have to sit through drug and alcohol addled performers once more, I need better story, regardless of how accurate the film is.
I don't want a documentary?I want an interpretation. Cantante is just a musical like any other, no more.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com