Machin: A Full Life

The dapper, cheeky-faced genius responsible for "Besame mucho" is the subject of docu "Machin: A Full Life," about the Cuban bolero singer who dominated Spanish popular music through the '50s. Film provides a fine homage, but fails to get to realize Machin's cultural significance. Pic's appeal is mostly limited to auds who remember him, and a handful of latter-day fans.

With:
With: Antonio Machin, Sara Montiel, Joan Manuel Serrat, Joaquin Sabina, Antonio Gala, Botafogo, Antonio Canales.

The dapper, cheeky-faced genius responsible for classics like “Besame mucho” is the subject of idiosyncratic docu “Machin: A Full Life,” about the Cuban bolero singer who dominated Spanish popular music through the ’50s. Film provides a fine (if uncritical) homage, but fails to get to realize Machin’s cultural significance. Old footage, interviews and short sections of dramatization still leave the viewer wanting more music and less talk. Pic’s appeal is mostly limited to auds who remember him, and a handful of latter-day fans.

Interviews include family members — particularly his sisters, now living in poverty in Havana — fellow musicos like his old pianist Botafogo, and admirers like Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina, the most perceptive commentator on Machin’s unusual social importance as a popular black singer in a fascist dictatorship. Versions of Machin’s work vary from the memorable (as his old musicians meet up, “Buena Vista Social Club”-style, to jam together) to a couple of forgettable modern renditions. Sections recreating scenes from his life are less striking than verbal accounts of witnesses: one late scene featuring Machin’s sister is so moving as to feel almost voyeuristic. Editing is fluid throughout.

Machin: A Full Life

Spain-Cuba

Production: An Alta Films release (in Spain) of an Iroko Films, Infinity Films (Spain)/EICTV (Cuba) production, in association with Canal Sur, Canal 9, TVA Canarias, TVG. (International sales: Alta, Madrid.) Produced by Harold Sanchez, Angel Durandez. Directed by Nuria Villazan. Screenplay, Villazan, Franklin J. Diaz.

Crew: Camera (color), Carlos Arenal; editor, Nelson Rodriguez; music, Antonio Machin; art director, Derubin Jacome. Reviewed at Cines Renoir Princesa, Madrid, July 2, 2002. Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Antonio Machin, Sara Montiel, Joan Manuel Serrat, Joaquin Sabina, Antonio Gala, Botafogo, Antonio Canales.

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