Buena Vista Social Club (1999) – Wim Wenders (Friday’s Finest)

Director Wim Wenders and guitarist Ry Cooder team up again to present this marvellous music documentary Buena Vista Social Club. Cooder did the slide guitar soundtrack for Wender’s Paris, Texas 1984 which featured here recently on Friday’s Finest. Buena Vista (good view) is a celebration of the music of Cuba. I have lived in Latin America for 12 years and heard a great deal of Latina Music, but I would say my preferred music (at least the most reliable) here is Cuban music and in particular a style called Son Cubano (They are Cubans). The musical genius of the Cuban people is undeniable and that is what is shone in this film.

IMDB Movie Summary: Aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro’s takeover of Cuba, are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travelled to Havana in order to bring the musicians together, resulting in triumphant performances of extraordinary music, and resurrecting the musicians’ careers.

The opening scene in Buena Vista which is presented at the end of this post with Ry Cooder and his son Joaquim riding through the streets of Havana and the sublime music of the Chan Chan in the background is something to behold. Anyone who is even remotely interested in musical heritage should find Buena Vista captivating. In 2020, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

The film documents how Ry Cooder, long-time friend of Wenders, brought together the ensemble of legendary Cuban musicians to record an album (also called Buena Vista Social Club) and to perform two times with a full line-up: in April 1998 in Amsterdam (two nights) and the 1st of July 1998 in the United States (at the Carnegie Hall, New York City). Suffice to say the soundtrack of this film is exemplary and the movie received critical acclaim.

The film helped the musicians, some of them already in their nineties, become known to a worldwide audience, with some going on to release popular solo albums. These included Ibrahim Ferrer, Compay Segundo, Rubén González and Elíades Ochoa. The latter went on to support younger musicians making the same style of music beyond 2010 under the name “Buena Vista Social Club”.

Besides the sones, guarachas and boleros (basic styles of good-old Cuban music), the beauty of this documentary relies on Wim Wenders’ magnificent camera use. It is impossible not to feel the emotion of the crowded Carnegie Hall in the climax scenes, but there are also many other images that carry the viewer to more intimate experiences of La Habana, its music and musicians.

References:
1. Buena Vista Social Club – Wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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Posted in Movies and TV, Music
7 comments on “Buena Vista Social Club (1999) – Wim Wenders (Friday’s Finest)
  1. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    I looked it up…you can’t beat that rhythm… It’s a shame they were forgotten but I’m glad this film brought them to people who didn’t know.
    Ry Cooder always gets the real deal when he plays or produces.

  2. Fantastic piece. Common ground. A favorite of mine also. A revisit has been in the works.

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