Cafe De Los Maestros

Cafe De Los Maestros


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

This is an affectionate and intriguing tribute to a generation of musicians, in effect a tango version of Buena Vista Social Club. While it's fun to watch even for those who are not aficionados of the genre, those who are most familiar with it will draw the most enjoyment.

The titular cafe is an evening of performance, an extravaganza that brings together dozens of bandleaders, musicians, composers and singers as tribute to the tangos of the Thirties and Forties. These people are gems, hard working into their eighties, filled with vigour and a love of tango. Well subtitled, the biggest weakness is that neither the performers nor the 'talking heads' are identified on the screen. With so many (doubtless famous) folk involved, keeping them straight takes a little work, and assistance would have been appreciated. The situation is made more confusing because the maestros tend to refer to each other by their nicknames, unsurprising given that many have been working together for over fifty years. While there is a montage at the end that gives us their names, it would have served better as an introduction than an epilogue.

Copy picture

The biggest problem with Cafe De Los Maestros is that it never quite hits the mark. There are over 40 songs featured, and even though we see some of the rehearsals and the eponymous show there's always the sense that it's been trimmed, unsurprising perhaps, but while it's argued the perfect tango is "three minutes of passion" many songs are just snippets. While it's almost inevitable that the tie-in album (or highlights thereof) will appear with a Sunday supplement in the near future, the chance to hear more of these talented musicians has been missed.

Director Miguel Kohan has produced a celebration here, but it leaves some questions unanswered. Audiences may well be curious as to what happened to tango in the intervening years, wanting to hear of the next generation. Every description of a golden age invites us to ask what happened to end it, but Cafe De Los Maestros gives us nothing. Certainly some answers will never be forthcoming; the film ends with the sad note that three of the participants have died since filming was completed.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2008
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A celebratory film about the maestros of tango.

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Chris **

Director: Miguel Kohan

Writer: Miguel Kohan, Gustavo Santaolalla

Year: 2008

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: USA

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