Director: Leon Ichaso
Writers: Leon Ichaso, David Darmstaeder, Todd Bello
Cinematographer: Claudio Chea
Starring: Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, John Ortiz, Manny Perez
Studio/Running Time: Picturehouse Entertainment, 106 min.
"'Hey, Hector! You always have it made
YouÂ?re always with women and at parties'
No one asks if I suffer, if I cry
If I have a pain that hurts deeply
I am the singer."
-HÃ©ctor Lavoe Â?El CantanteÂ?
Born during the '60s, salsa music came from the streets of New York City by way of Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrants. HÃ©ctor Lavoe, one of salsaÂ?s earliest and biggest stars, is the subject of the film El Cantante, which features Marc Anthony as the singer and his real-life spouse Jennifer Lopez as LavoeÂ?s wife Puchi. Anthony is surprisingly good, both as an actor and in the live musical performances scattered throughout the film. These are the saving graces of an otherwise mediocre production.
Early in the film, LavoeÂ?s career takes a major turn when he is signed by Fania Records, hailed as the Motown of Latino music. But with his rising fame comes an addiction to heroin, some adulterous affairs and numerous tragic events. The script doesn't explain his damaging vices except for some reference to a broken relationship with his father. The one constant in his life is Puchi, though the marriage is continually fragile and explosive.
At times, the film hints at a success brought about through FaniaÂ?s marketing but doesn't touch on the emotional chord Lavoe struck with his fans, which constitute a rabid following that has lasted well past his 1993 death. From some early, tentative steps up until his mega-star swagger, AnthonyÂ?s Lavoe is raw and authentic as he embraces the singer and makes the part his own, much as Gary Busey did in The Buddy Holly Story or as Lopez in Selena. Ironically, itÂ?s LopezÂ? depiction of a present-day Puchi reminiscing about her husband (tiredly filmed in black and white) that weakens her performance and the film itself. However, if your goal is to learn more about HÃ©ctor Lavoe and his music, El Cantante is an adequate starting point.