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.