El Cantante

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -2

Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony. Musical/bio. Written by David Darmstaedter, Todd Anthony Bello, Leon Ichaso. Directed by Leon Ichaso.

FILM SYNOPSIS: The film celebrates the life and music of the legendary Puerto Rican salsa singer Hector Lavoe, a pioneer of the sound and sensibility that redefined Latin music in the 1960s and 1970s. Spanning the 1960s to the 1980s, El Cantante charts Hector Lavoes rapid rise to success as an artist whose music combined Puerto Rican tradition with streetwise modernity and unabashed emotion with straightforward realism. It reveals the singer not only as an architect of Salsa but as its soul the kind of artist, like Billie Holliday, Edith Piaf or La Lupe, who forges an uncanny emotional bond with his audience.

PREVIEW REVIEW. Hector Lavoe died of AIDS, contracted from drug use. His son was accidentally killed by a gun shot, and shortly after an extensive interview concerning her late husbands life, Lavoes wife died tragically in a car accident. Its almost as if some force was eliminating them from this world before their time. Excess ruled the Latins personal life (according to the film) then destroyed it. Earlier this year, the same messages concerning fame, excess and rebellion to Gods instruction was intertwined within the story of Edith Piaf (La Vie En Rose). Indeed, we have seen numerous lamentable bios concerning the rich and famous and unlucky.

One cant watch such a film without realizing that life is full of challenges and bitter-sweetness. Even the gifted and blessed are unable to escape problems. And no matter how much they obtain, theres just a little more outside their reach. Conclusion: Life is about more than gaining the whole world or even the little cottage with the white picket fence. Life is a fleeting moment in time, an obstacle course filled with peaks and valleys. And each obstacle we face has to do with character development and faith.

Now, Im not suggesting that message was the directors intent. Its just something Im reminded of whenever I see characters on the silver screen dealing with adversity. No matter who you are, problems are unavoidable. Theyre meant to be a part of the life experience and give evidence that there is more to our stay on this planet than obtaining self-glory.

Trying to exorcise his destructive inner demons, the film portrays Lavoe being treated by some sort of Hispanic shaman, a sort of witch doctor who combines Christianity along with voodoo-like practices. Wanting to defeat the monkey on his back, Lavoe is seeking a spiritual healing. But since I do not know enough about his actual religious beliefs, I cant tell why he met defeat. I can say this: drug addiction is an insidious one thats difficult to defeat even for those who seek spiritual healing through the Great Physician, Jesus Christ. But to seek cleansing with the aid of demonic sources, well, the Bible makes clear that those folks are defeated before they even start.

Despite its rough language and the tragic depiction, El Cantante is a powerful cautionary tale. Dynamically acted and well paced by a sincere director, it is a thoroughly engrossing production. One of the best films of the year.

Im wondering, and Im not being flippant, just how long before we see such stories concerning Paris Hilton, Britany Spears and Lindsay Lohan. To those given much, much is required.

DVD Alternative: If you do not wish to support a film with R-rated content, try this suggested video: Funny Girl. This 4-star musical production of the life of singer/comedienne Fanny Brice stars Barbra Streisand. Ms. Streisand won the Best Actress Oscar of 1968 (actually, a first that year she shared the win with Katharine Hepburn for The Lion in Winter.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: The characters use obscenity throughout, this reveals a cultural upbringing; the actors use it because they just dont seem to know how to express emotional release without it; over 80 obscenities, mostly the f-word.

Profanity: I didnt catch any misuse of Gods name.

Violence: he lead couple shares a volatile relationship, but it never lapses into physical battery. The violence is done to themselves through narcotics and adultery. At one point, Lavoe is seen jumping from a window, attempting suicide. We do not see the fall, but hear that it causes considerable damage.

Sex: There are several sexual situations, a couple of which are fairly graphic between the lead couple; the film has much sensuality and it is made clear that Lavoe had many extramarital relations.

Nudity: None, though a couple of scenes feature women in brief apparel.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Smoking, alcohol and drugs from pot to heroin are threaded throughout, but the depiction is not meant to glorify their use, but to show their destructiveness.

Other: I felt that none the content was exploitive, but rather used to show how destructive a lifestyle can be when it desires self pleasure above spiritual awareness.

Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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