"A spare elegant style that Wenders hasn't displayed in years."
This isn't a film about a bunch of bridge playing senior citizens as the title may suggest. Instead it is a remarkable documentary about a bunch of amazingly talented senior citizen (mostly) Cuban musicians. It all began with a project started by music maestro Ry Cooder to go to Cuba round up all the legendary old time musicians he could find and cut a record. Director and world music lover Wim Wenders decided to tag along to document the historic occasion.What they have created is something that is both a candid documentary about each musician and one of the best concert films in recent memory. And best of all you don't have to be versed in Cuban music or have any knowledge of the musicians to enjoy the film.
The first of the legendary performers featured is 90-year-old Compay Segundo, the inventor of a seven string guitar (called a trilana) who Cooder calls "the last of the best, the oracle, the source." Also included as part of the band-- among others-- are Ibrahim Ferrer a famous singer for over five decades, Ruben Gonzales jazz pianist extraordinaire who hadn't played for ten years, Eliades Ochoa an influential acoustical guitarist and Omara Portuondo sort of the Edith Piaf of Cuba.
Wender's editing style emphasizes cross cuts between concert footage in Amsterdam, recording footage in a Cuban studio and personal introductions to each member of the band. What's striking is that the music--at once humorously hopeful, poignant and sadóreally, ties into their lives. Wenders says of this stylistic choice, that "their music is so emotional and rich and so full of their life stories that you just cannot divide it up."
Wenders intercuts many street scenes in Havana showing the shabby less-than-perfect conditions of a country cut off for years from modernity. This is clearly shown when the musicians walk around their neighborhoods and then are shown later walking around New York with wide-eyed wonder. Ibrahim Ferrer says glancing up at skyscrapers, "Look at this place, I never could have imagined. I'm under the spell of this."
As is fashionable today--not to mention practical in this format--Wenders underscores this by shooting the entire documentary on a Digi-Beta Cam taking most shots with a steadicam. If anything, the documentary shows the quality of work that can be achieved on video based stock.Overall the documentary has a spare elegant style that Wenders hasn't displayed in years. The film isn't really "directed" but stylistic choices were made and because of this I would say this is the best film Wenders has made in a decade. The music is so good that most will agree that purchasing the soundtrack is a must. ----- MATT LANGDON - Independent Film Magazine (http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com)