May 26, 2011 / Filmwell
Kenji Koiso has his summer vacation all planned out: he and his friend Sakuma have …
October 16, 2010
Calle 54 (Fernando Trueba, 2000) is named for the Manhattan recording studio where the director filmed his favourite Latin jazz artists playing signature pieces. There is little to the film apart from the music – which is all to the good. Brief portraits of each musician precede uninterrupted takes of energized, sometimes virtuosic performances by musicians such as Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Eliane Elias and Chano Dominguez.
The film bears comparison to The Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders, 1999),which is arguably a more satisfying cinematic experience , providing story and context that are barely hinted at in the Trueba film. But the Wenders can be frustrating, musically. Where Buena Vista Social Club cuts many performances short, Calle 54 revels in the music itself, and each piece is presented as an uninterrupted musical whole, beginning, middle and end. If you love to watch musicians making music, this one’s a treat: the camera settles on the pianist’s fingers during a solo, cuts to the right players at the right time, revels in the silence after each performance.
An unexpected treat for cinephiles is the conversation with Gato Barbieri that precedes his performance of “Llamerito Y Tango / Bolivia”: