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Buena Vista Social Club VHS
In 1996, composer, producer, and guitar legend Ry Cooder entered Egrem Studios in Havana with the forgotten greats of Cuban music, many of them in their 60s and 70s, some of them long since retired. The resulting album, Buena Vista Social Club, became a Grammy-winning international bestseller. When Cooder returned to Havana in 1998 to record a solo album by 72-year-old vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, filmmaker Wim Wenders was on hand to document the occasion. Wenders splits the film between portraits of the performers, who tell their stories directly to the camera as they wander the streets and neighborhoods of Havana, and a celebration of the music heard in performance scenes in the studio, in their first concert in Amsterdam, and in their second and final concert at Carnegie Hall. The songs are too often cut short in this fashion, but Buena Vista Social Club is not a concert film. Wenders weaves the artist biographies with a glimpse of modern Cuba remembering its past, capturing a lost culture in music that is suddenly, unexpectedly revived for audiences in Havana and around the world. Wenders makes his presence practically invisible, as if his directorial flourishes or off-screen narration might deflect attention from the artists, who do a fine job of telling their own stories through interviews and music. It's a loving portrait of a master class in Cuban music, with a vital cast of aging performers whose energy and passion belie their years. --Sean Axmaker
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Amazon, you're really loosing the plot on your DVD's .
Right around the same time I ordered a Meryl Streep DVD "House of Spirits" it came to me in a formatted DVD "region code 2" which can only play in Middle East, Europe, Greenland, etc.... (Only "region one" can play in the USA ) I sent back the unplayable DVD and the replacement came back to me with the same unplayable "region 2" again!! I sent it back for full refund and ordered the DVD thru Walmart at a quarter of the cost.
CONTINUITY, CONTINUITY !!!!!
Musicians introduce themselves and tell their story in Spanish, subtitled in English. They talk about their family, childhood and their music/instruments, as well as the hardships they've had to overcome in their lives. The story telling is accompanied with music and snap shots of their album recording sessions, and sold out concert at Carneggie Hall.
Music greats such as Ibrahim Ferrer and Compay Segundo take you inside their delapidating homes in old Havanna, and give you a glimpse into their day to day lives, walking through the streets and allies, allowing the viewer to see Havanna's real life and beautiful, but decaying buildings.
It is great Spanish listening practice and will also be a great supplement for music teachers as it exposes students to an authentic, old style of music that was nearly extinct until Ry Cooder recruited these great forgotten musicians and made the Buena Vista Social Club album.
This movie takes you back in time and into the magic of Cuba, it's beautiful music and incredibly resilient people who turn to music in order to cope with their sad reality.
It is well organized, and told in such a way that made my heart melt, falling in love with the characters.
I strongly recommend this product for personal enjoyment and as a teaching aid.
Cooder has long sought out masters of "roots" music to learn from and play with. This time he found his way into a diamond mine, and the resulting three albums, "Buena Vista Social Club", "Afro-Cuban All-Stars" and "Introducing Ruben Gonzales" could all have won the 1998 Grammy award, as the former actually did.
The film follows the aging Son musicians around their native Cuba as they prepare for overseas concerts in both Holland and New York City. The city of Havana shows the effects of aging itself, run down and seedy, but, as with the musicians themselves, there is a spirit of unity and inner strength that overrides the worn down facade. That spirit emerges quickly as you see how deeply the Cubans feel their music. You also see a country that preserves the old and makes it work personified in the "antique" automobiles the Cubans use to get around.
Several musicians are featured in the film, but two gain the film's focus, jazz pianist Ruben Gonzales and singer Ibrahim Ferrer, the "Cuban Frank Sinatra". Gonzales no longer has a piano and plays one in a gymnasium reserved for Cuban gymnasts. Ferrer feels the public no longer appreciates his music and is shining shoes to supplement a tiny retirement. Ry Cooder and his son Joachim (sp?), a talented drummer, try to stay as far in the background as possible. Cooder's style is to sit at the feet of the masters to learn and participate. I think the director, Wim Wenders, gives him more face time than he would prefer. No matter, as he is a wonderful musician and facilitator, without whom the original project and the film would not have happened.
Wenders weaves the music and the life of the musicians in a pattern that draws the audience into the lives of the musicians, especially Ferrer. I was very familiar with the music from the three albums and that made my experience with them almost personal. I was excited as I saw the rehearsals draw the musicians closer and tighter. They became young again as the music started flowing from them.
The culmination of the film is the concert at Carnegie Hall. I was fully engaged by then and I had chills when the Son music was playing and when the audience responded with such enthusiasm. I had tears of pleasure as the music flowed over me.
I've recommended this film to many of my friends, and they all have gone out of their way to thank me. I don't think I've seen another film in 1999 that I've liked better. I'll paraphrase what Ry Cooder says to his son in the film, "This is the kind of opportunity that comes once in a lifetime".
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