Film Reviews

EL CANTANTE

By • Aug 3rd, 2007 •

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I loved it. It has great acting, direction, story, and music. The sexual chemistry of the stars was palatable. Lopez and Anthony are sensational.

Marc Anthony is very short, maybe 125 lbs tops, and has been nicknamed “Skeletor” on gossip websites. Yet on the screen he is mesmerizing. You can’t stop looking at him. He’s got it and the camera shows it.

I know exactly what it is and, if I wanted to tell you what it was, I could. As weird as it sounds, Marc Anthony has a sexual electricity that comes across. He does a terrific job as the likeable, drugged-out Hector Lavoe. And he is a terrific singer and performer, so his stage performances as Lavoe are exciting to watch.

The film opens with a personal-war-ravaged Puchi (Jennifer Lopez) being interviewed about her famous dead husband, The King of Salsa, Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony). Puchi is a tough lady and lays out the warts-and-all-story of her 20 years with Lavoe. And what a story it is.

Flashing back to the beginning in 1963 in Puerto Rico and against his father’s advice, Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony) leaves for New York City. Singing in Latin dive bars in the Bronx, Lavoe is discovered by a budding music company and the Salsa phenomenon is born. Lavoe meets Puchi and they begin a torturous, complicated relationship. Lavoe reaches international superstardom but along the way becomes a willing victim to the vices of, among many things, other women and drugs.

Someone once said about heroin: “If God created something better, He kept it for Himself.”

Real life husband-and-wife acting teams rarely work on screen and most people were astonished when Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced they would co-star together. With Leon Ichaso directing (as well as having written the screenplay with David Darmstaeder) and Lopez foregoing the glamorous, saintly wifely role for one of honesty, depth and grit, she delivers a terrific performance layered with many dimensions.

Puchi is not June Carter. She fights hard and is nobody’s fool. She is a richly drawn character. Lopez is sensational. She has returned to acting.

Puchi accepts Hector’s drug use. She knows the lifestyle well. She knows exactly where he is shooting up and pulls him out of drug dens, cleans him up, gives him some cocaine, and gets him on stage.

Other women come along, but after 2 years and a son, Puchi, in her wedding gown and with the priest in tow, pulls Hector out of a drug and sex party to get married. It’s a wild scene that shows off Puchi’s toughness, a toughness that allows their relationship to survive.

As Hector’s stardom grows, his frequent absences affect his marriage and relationship with their son Tito. They fight bitterly but Hector is also a very jealous man. Drugs eventually start to take control of Hector and he begins missing gigs. The downward spiral begins.

Puchi gets fed-up, but they are addicted to each other and the music. The music is wonderful and is richly presented.

Then tragedy strikes, Hector gets sent to a psychiatric hospital, he attempts suicide, and finally, is diagnosed with AIDS.

As producer, Jennifer Lopez chose the perfect director to bring Hector Lavoe’s life and music to the screen. Ichaso presents the music as a celebration of sexuality and love of life. All the scenes are vivid and filled with an emotional charge. He has fashioned performances from Lopez and Anthony that are psychologically vibrant. This is more than a musical about the birth of Salsa, it is a stark look at a marriage destroyed by fame and drugs.

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