EL CANTANTE

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Posted October 1, 2007 in Film

Hector "The Voice" Lavoe–Nuyorican singer whose teasing, tapping records introduced the world to salsa–had as many vices as he had hit songs. It’s clear from the first scene that he won’t survive Leon Ichaso’s charming, if formulaic biopic–coke, smack, booze, and broads aside, as the ill-fated troubadour (a wan Marc Anthony) already looks dead. (Somebody get that man some cucumber slices stat.) From the 1960s on, Lavoe hid impassively behind aviator shades and trusted his music to speak for him; Anthony handles both fine. As Puchi, his spitfire wife and enabler, a good Jennifer Lopez does the emotional heavy-lifting in flashbacks and an interview that reads like a love poem, eulogy, and therapy session. Leon Ichaso’s slo-mo, saturated art house drama can’t be bothered to age his cast over the decades, but he’s savvy enough to question Puchi’s memories. As she waxes poetically of their first time, he cuts to the happy couple cramped in a backseat. The Lopez-Anthonys, who co-produced, seem to find vindication against the tabloids in how the Lavoes’ marriage veered between ecstatic and cruel. "Love is never perfect when it’s real love," insists Puchi. And despite the groom being drunk and coated in groupie cooties on their wedding day, she never loosened her vice grip on her marriage–even after the enigmatic Lavoe took his feelings with him to the grave, leaving her, Ichaso, and us to hunt for him in old recordings. 


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