Buena Vista Social Club introduced the world to a host of insanely talented, mostly extremely elderly Cuban musicians who had perfected their art despite a lifetime of hardship and lack of (international) recognition. Some might accuse producer Wim Wenders of going to the same well again for this purported follow-up, but Musica Cubana is a different beast altogether which must be divorced from its more illustrious forebearer to be fully appreciated.
This DVD release brings together both feature films with the Musica Cubana title which were released internationally starting in 2004 but which only recently made it to the shores of the United States. While the "main" film is a somewhat uneasy mixture of (one assumes) fictionalized re-enactments of how BVSC featured player Pio Leiva came to front a band of younger generation Cuban musicians (in a major sexist misnomer called Sons of Cuba, despite the fiery contributions of several women) for a worldwide tour, blended with some history of these players and actual concert footage, the second DVD (inaccurately called a CD on the DVD packaging) is an incredible complete concert of the group in Tokyo.
One's enjoyment of this melding of generations and influences might be predicted by how you react to such teamings as Santana with Rob Thomas or Sergio Mendes with Will.i.am--this is not the Buena Vista Social Club, with its mostly acoustic, loosely structured arrangements. These are funk-heavy, heavily brass inflected tunes, some with rap elements, that are meant to shake the listener at a cellular level, and they very seldom fail to do just that.
The only real drawback of the film(s) is the strange interpolation of the "acting" segments in the first feature--Pio is certainly amiable and loveable in these sections, but they are totally unnecessary. The time would have been better spent in making this a through-and-through documentary, with a little more emphasis on the history of the players and, most definitely, more music.
This all-region DVD lists itself as widescreen, and it is a 1.78:1 image, but it is unfortunately unenhanced for widescreen televisions. The image remains sharp, however, capturing the grittiness of Havana, as well as the giddy atmosphere of the Tokyo concert.
The standard Dolby stereo soundtrack sizzles with the rhythms and melodies of Cuba. This is one to turn up to 11.
If you count the second DVD of the Tokyo concert as an "extra," (which is how it's billed on the package), this set rates a 4.5. Otherwise, there's a picture gallery and a trailer. The Tokyo concert, however, may be the more lasting accomplishment of this set, as it contains unedited musical performances.
If you can approach these films without expecting another Buena Vista Social Club, you will most likely be very pleased indeed, especially if you love latin music. The first film is properly not a "real" documentary, but the Tokyo concert more than makes up for the former's shortcomings.
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet