Review: ‘El Chino Bar’

In "El Chino Bar," a vibrant docu struggles to come out from underneath a lame love story. Modest story of the struggle to make a documentary about a tango bar in Buenos Aires is predictably overshadowed by the entertaining songs, memories and sound bites of the joint's vivacious real-life denizens. Pic could find slots in music-themed fests.

In “El Chino Bar,” a wonderfully vibrant docu struggles to come out from underneath a lame, deja vu love story. Modest story of the struggle to make a documentary about a scruffy tango bar in Buenos Aires is predictably overshadowed by the entertaining songs, memories and sound bites of the joint’s vivacious real-life denizens, many of them aging ex-singers with good tales to tell. Pic could find slots in music-themed fests.

Main plotline concerns Jorge (Boy Olmi), a jaded, slightly irritating fortysomething who’s left a docu about the bar unfinished after the death of El Chino, its owner. Jorge is encouraged to take the project up again by young journo Martina (Jimena la Torre). Unfortunately, the chemistry between them doesn’t ignite, leaving little to recommend this part of pic. However, the film they’re making features the real-life performers who have given the bar its local rep: Extended to feature length, this would make a fine testament to the impact of tango in BA’s working-class barrios. Much handheld lensing adds to the generally downbeat feel.

El Chino Bar

Argentina

Production

A Vocacion production, with participation of Adart Producciones. Produced by Mario Lion. Executive producer, Mario Levit. Directed by Daniel Burak. Screenplay, Burak, Mario Lion, Beatriz Pustilnik.

Crew

Camera (color), Sergio Dotta; editor, Andres Tamborino; music, Alejandro Ridilenir. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Horizontes Latinos), Sept. 21, 2003. Running time: 100 MIN.

With

Boy Olmi, Jimena La Torre.
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