El Cantante (2006)

LEON ICHASO

Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5.   

USA, 2006, .   Story by , , Screenplay by Leon Ichaso, David Darmstaeder, Todd Bello.   Cinematography by .   Produced by , , , Music by , .   Production Design by .   Costume Design by .   Film Editing by .   Toronto International Film Festival 2006.

Pop singer teams up with his then-wife (who also serves as producer) for a film about famed salsa legend Hector Lavoe.  Raised in Puerto Rico, Lavoe (born Hector Perez) left home for New York against his family’s wishes, after a few years finding himself singing on a stage before becoming the king of the musical genre that was the sensation of the seventies.  As his wife Puchi (Lopez) relates in a recreation of her 2002 interview, the better he does as an artist, the worse Lavoe becomes as a person, giving in to substance abuse and philandering and turning what started out as a happy marriage into a tempest of constant fights.  Anthony isn’t the most charismatic actor and doesn’t carry the movie easily, Lopez far outshines him as the squeaky-voiced, unpredictable woman by his side who is equal parts antagonist and inspiration, but neither of them can get anywhere with the cheap direction of this half-baked film. Rather than ever let us sink into the characters and allow the otherwise well-worn cliches of musician biopics to feel pleasantly familiar, director Leon Ichaso presents the entire tale in a dizzying rapid-cut montage that makes it all ring hollow and tired instead.  A few of the musical numbers are highlights but we never get to know who Lavoe is as a person, what music means to him or the role it plays in his feelings about himself or his family.

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