Buena Vista Social Club

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday April 25, 2017

Buena Vista Social Club

When Ry Cooder and Wim Wenders went to Cuba and documented the sounds, and stories, of some of the island's pre-Castro musicians -- men now in their 80s and 90s -- they uncovered a group whose talents were undated by time. The result was 1999's hit documentary/concert film "Buena Vista Social Club," which was accompanied by an equally successful album propelled by masterpieces like "Dos Gardenia" and "Chan Chan."

Criterion Collection gives the film a proper remastering in both visual and audio elements, and it's like re-living the film for the first time all over again. Bolstering the experience are the many extras, which include a new interview with Wenders, who gives a charming rendition of the story of how he became involved in the project and how the film grew and morphed into something more and more remarkable before his eyes -- and who comes close to being visibly choked up when he discusses how the musicians began to die not long after the film was made.

Wenders appears on an archival audio commentary from 1999, and the various musicians are heard on radio interviews from 2000. Ninety-something musician Compay Segundo's 1998 interview on a Spanish talk show is included, too, with Segundo telling tales (some of them sounding a little tall) about his career in Cuba before the revolution. Deleted scenes are also included in the extras, and Caribbean scholar/popular geography writer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro contributes a liner notes essay.

Most documentaries about musicians are just that -- documentaries. They may offer us insights into artists we love and give us valuable, revelatory cinematic portraits of artists, but they seldom achieve a sense of real artistry in their own right. "Buena Vista Social Club" is among the rarities. As a music lover a film buff, you need this definitive edition.

"Buena Vista Social Club"




Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.