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Critics reviews
Buena Vista Social Club
Wim Wenders United States, 1999
It’s distractingly apparent that Wenders, a German, wishes to evade the trap of taking a glib position on Cuba’s political legacy and thusly indulging an alien’s unseasoned perspective, which is admirable but artistically self-defeating… There’s mystery, majesty, eroticism, and despair in many of these images, which Wenders clearly believes to speak for themselves, but there’s also an inchoate hollowness in this film that leaves terrific moments scattered about without a foundation.
May 06, 2017
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It’s inside the ancient studio’s walls that Wenders’ film snaps to. His camera finds an astonishing sight: two beautiful Afro-Cuban singers of a certain age, facing each other behind two old microphones… The pair, matching their voices’ timbres with easeful grace, sing in rounded Cuban Spanish about silence and love and death. They wear expressions at once tender and serious as they gaze bemusedly at each other and the lush notes between them. The camera, as if transfixed, slowly circles them.
April 18, 2017
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Maybe Wenders himself was seeing the writing on the wall. After the failure of his ambitious magnum opus [Until the End of the World], he spent the ensuing decade making increasingly less successful fiction films, his name seemingly destined to become a dated relic of arty ‘70s and ’80s seriousness. But he found renewed life — not to mention an Oscar — with 1999’s Buena Vista Social Club (Nov. 12 only), a remarkably exuberant portrait of the titular Cuban musicians.
November 05, 2015
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The result is arguably the finest film of its kind since the similarly intimate and somehow almost miraculously expansive musical event-movie, The Last Waltz (Martin Scorsese, 1978). Buena Vista Social Club is also the most joyous celebration of the sights, sounds and aromas of Latin culture by sympathetic northern outsiders since the once very highly praised but today rather underrated French/Brazilian Academy Award and Palme d’Or winner Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus, 1959).
October 06, 2014
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It’s a celebration of tobacco-laden, campesino lore so star-struck with the joy of performance that it becomes less a journey into Castro’s Cuba than glorified concert footage. Wenders is a well-meaning outsider and has nothing but respect for the music of the Buena Vista Social Club though there’s little here to suggest that he understands the profundity of Ibrahim Ferrer’s lyrics.
August 19, 2001
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Despite the clumsy execution, the film is a valid celebration of musical sophistication and ageless optimism.. The visual evidence of Cuba’s decline is beautifully caught with overexposed film to create a sunbleached effect that goes with the now anaemic Cadillacs and Buicks that were once part of the sumptuous pre-revolutionary Cuban experience of the 50s.
September 01, 1999
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The best Wim Wenders documentary to date and an uncommonly self-effacing one, this 1999 concert movie about performance and lifestyle is comparable in some ways to Latcho Drom, the great Gypsy documentary/musical… The players and their stories are as wonderful as the music, and the filmmaking is uncommonly sensitive and alert.
June 01, 1999
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