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  El Cantane

Starring: Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Frederico Castellucio, Romi Diaz

Directed by: Leon Ichaso

Produced by: Jennifer Lopez, Julio Caro, Simon Fields, David Maldonado

Written by: David Darmstaedter, Todd Anthony Bello, Leon Ichaso

Distributor: Picturehouse


Five pieces of advice for Leon Ichaso, director of El Cantante, courtesy of Yours Truly:

1. If you’re going to glue your film together using scenes featuring a narrator—Jennifer Lopez, in this case—who will later be featured in the story, remember to inform the actor or actress playing this narrator that they are also playing the same individual in the narrative. Lopez is very good here in both instances as Puchi, wife of famed Salsa singer Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony), but she seems to be tackling two different characters. In the future, when one of your cast members is only playing a single role, make sure they don’t get confused and take on two different personalities at different points in the movie.

2. Don’t be afraid to encourage your cinematographer to regularly see his doctor in order for him to acquire the proper prescription for muscle relaxants. This way, his camera will refrain from being needlessly shaky when he is holding it. Individual shots of El Cantante may be gorgeous to look at, but the movie is one of the most unnecessary exercises in hyperkinetic imagery I’ve ever seen. Why, why, why must your D.O.P. Claudio Chea’s hands always be shaking all the time? He must have some sort of nerve disorder that he is unaware of. I like inventive cinematography as much as the next guy—the recent Bourne Ultimatum’s wonderfully shaky camera is a great example of this—but this style has no place being in this movie.

3. For future reference: when there is a breakthrough performance sitting right in front of you, do not allow your editor to reduce said performance to being a mere collection of fragments of greatness. Allow the performance to breathe. Here, singer-turned-actor Marc Anthony is flat-out brilliant, but you and your editor, David Tedeschi, never allow a shot to last longer than twenty-seconds. This never really allows Anthony to embrace these things called the nuances of his character, the troubled-but-talented singer Lavoe.

4. When directing a serious biopic, never throw subtitles around onscreen as if you were Tony Scott. I guess you never came to understand that Scott was being facetious when he randomly splattered words all over the screen in Man on Fire and Domino. I understand that the scenes in your movie featuring Lavoe singing are subtitled due to the fact that the Spanish lyrics pertain greatly to the subject matter, but the way that you’ve implemented these is showy and ridiculous. What’s with the translations popping up in random locations and being in a laughably big, bold font? El Cantante wasn’t meant to be seen on MTV – this is a serious movie about real people with real problems. Standard, legible subtitles would’ve sufficed.

5. A fragmented cinematic vision may help audiences immerse themselves in the mind of a deluded protagonist—this comes with the territory of offering viewers an emotional point-of-view to latch onto—but it doesn’t excuse placing events onscreen as randomly as you do in El Cantante. Lavoe takes drugs, Lavoe discovers he has AIDS, Lavoe attempts suicide – so what? If there isn’t any tension coupled with these situations to boot, not even the most compassionate of viewers will even begin to care about what happens to the protagonist. Lavoe may have been an interesting man, but the narrative-style you implement here sure does trivialize his celebrity-status.

     All this being said, Mr. Ichaso, I didn’t hate your movie. I just view it as a seriously misguided effort. I hope you find my advice valuable, and I wish you the best of luck on your next cinematic endeavor.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 9.24.2007


El Cantante is rated R and runs 116 minutes.

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