Calle 54 (2000)

Genres - Music  |   Sub-Genres - Concerts, Biography, Instrumental Music, Music History  |   Release Date - May 11, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - Spain , France , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Tom Wiener

Although Calle 54 advertises itself as a valentine to Latin jazz, it should be noted that this is basically a performance film. Director Fernando Trueba is intent on capturing full-length numbers by each of the film's musicians, photographed lovingly in a recording studio on Manhattan's 54th Street (thus, the title). Trueba takes full advantage of his controlled setting to execute sensuous camera moves that are in touch with the music. It's almost impossible to pick a highlight from the film, though a reunion of Bebo and Chucho Valdes offers both emotional and musical dividends. Even a clearly aging Tito Puente, who died shortly after filming was completed, summons energy and elan for his number. Each musician is given a brief introduction, and there is an attempt to give them some context by filming them on their home turfs, which range from the Bronx and Long Island to Havana and Puerto Rico. But fans and initiates wanting more information are directed to the DVD, which offers a host of extras; an impressionistic documentary on the roots of Latin jazz includes interview material with many of the participants, and there are thumbnail biographies and extensive discographies, too. It's this version of Calle 54 which offers the fullest message of love to its subject.