We Are the Music!
From the streets of Havana to the back stairsand dressing rooms of a concert hall, into churches and smokey clubs, over the rooftops to a beach at sunsetas a lone couple dance (New York Times), this extraordinary and unique film treats us to a rare panorama of Cuban music and dance from the 1960's. Featuring legendary Cuban musicians as well as vibrant spontaneious performances, We Are the Music captures the mood and vitality of Cuba during its golden period.
Glorious footage of some of Cuba's greatest musicians...incredibly rare and beautiful. --Film Society of Lincoln Center
The history of cuban music - from a Busby Berkeleyan ballet of African dances to a beachside promenade. --Village Voice
An impressionistic tapestry of musica cubano - top acts in their prime. --Variety
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The film was made in Cuba during the sixties, and director Rogelio París, with Odilio Urfe as his musical advisor, takes us to many places in which music was played at the time. The first stop is in a theater, and we enjoy a show by Cuba's legendary Conjunto Folklórico Nacional. Odilio Urfe and his conjunto follows, playing charanga a la francesa., in what appears to be a semi-deserted building. Next comes fantastic footage of singer and pianist Bola de Nieve (Ignacio Villa) entertaining a crowd, performing some classic Cuban songs, like "El Manicero." We then go to the famous night club "La Zorra y el Cuervo," where we enjoy the music of the prestigious Quinteto Instrumental de Música Moderna, with Cuban master Frank Emilio Flynn -- who I had the pleasure of interviewing once -- playing the piano. That show also featured Ana Gloria dancing rumba under de rhythms of Nacho Rivero y su Grupo de Percusión. In addition, there are performances by Elena Bourke, Celeste Mendoza with Embale and Estela, and more. The film passionately closes with the Septeto Nacional de Piñeiro playing at an outdoor event, with the fabulous Felix Chapotin in the trumpet. It was very refreshing to see them performing the original version of the tune that we now know as "Avísale a mi Contrario."
"We are the Music!" not only gives us important historical footage of the immortal Cuban Music, but it also includes scenes of La Havana itself. We see its streets, its people, religious afrocuban ceremonies, comparsas, and so much more. This film is full of life and splendor, and it will surely make you miss those years. The DVD also features a unique short film about Omara Portuondo, one of Cuba's most celebrated singers, whose career took a second air with the release of the Buena Vista Social Club film, as well as the its CD. Directed by Fernando Pérez, this documentary showcases her with el Cuarteto D'Aida, Loquibambia, as well as her solo career. The DVD also includes biographies and filmographies. A must have, ladies and gentlemen. (Cuba, 1964, B&W, 66 min plus additional materials)
Reviewed exclusively by Eric Gonzalez for [...] on March 13, 2010
The black and white cinematography is stunning, from that 60's era of Socialist solidarity cinema that borrowed stylistic elements from Soviet films. There are so many unforgettable images: the dancing couple who made the world disappear, the exhausted rumba dancer, the santeria devotee dancing into a trance-fit, Bola de Nieve before a cozy audience, the swirling sound of the charanga flute filling up an old church ... The list is endless, the visual genius continuously mindboggling.
People I've shown this to have dropped their jaw to the ground. Many people have acknowledged I Am Cuba, made at roughly the same time, for cinematographic mastery, but I would put Nosotros la Musica right there with it, and it's much less bombastic and propagandistic.
Rogelio Paris is recognized as one of the world's great film editors. Watch how people walking in the street - just simple walking - are made to synch with the beautiful piano soundtrack and you might recognize the tremendous artistry involved here.
Musically, I prefer Nosotros la Musica way over the Buena Vista Social Club. Here, Cuban music is shown at its vibrant, youthful peak and within the context of the Cuban people, not as a museum piece or elegiac old-timers fawned over by foreigners.
I'm not sure about the quality of this edition. I was lucky to have seen the movie in a beautiful print at a film festival, and I subsequently bought another DVD edition that was horrid. Will somebody (calling Ry Cooder!) *please* issue a clean, restored version of this absolute masterpiece?
Though this is an important film that captures the culture, time has not been kind to the print used and it has not been restored in any way. The image is not formatted for TV screens so you lose the original screen titles and there are plenty of scratches. Worse still is that an audible hum runs through most of the soundtrack and is particularly annoying when there is no music playing.
As a bonus feature there is a nice 24-color documentary on female singer Omara Portuondo (from "Buena Vista Social Club"), but again the print is worn with no attempt to clean it up. Thankfully there is no hum here.
Though the package says there are "Biographies & Filmographies", there are none. I, for one, would like to have known a bit more about the musicians featured in the film.
If you have an interest in Cuban culture and music, you will certainly get it here; just don't expect to learn about the musicians or hear anything resembling high fidelity.
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