Start May 21
Seventeen traditional tango songs, compiled by Luis Borda, Argentine music producer and composer, are on the “El Ultimo Aplauso” CD (Enja Records). Listen to it once and director German Kral’s enthusiasm to make this film will become understandable. In 1999, while visiting Buenos Aires, the city of his birth, he dropped into a small bar and restaurant: El Chino. For 26 years, perhaps 30 people had crowded in there to hear the most amazing tango singers, live and close up. Kral accompanied these elderly musicians into their homes, met their partners and talked about their love of music, disappointments, and hopes until each person became a true friend. Just two years later, upon the death of the bar’s owner Jorge Garcia, these old musicians, Cristina, Inés, Julio César, Horacio, and Walter, as well as the guitarist Abel Rías (who said, “No tango was ever written by an immigrant”) disappeared. The bar, no longer full or interesting, eventually closed. In 2006 Kral returned to the city, located those musicians still living and introduced them to 11 young members of the Orquesta Tipica Imperial. Together they revived the old songs.
The film’s climax shows all of them back at Bar El Chino for a grand finale. This doesn’t have the dramatic climax of Billy Elliot at London’s national ballet or The Full Monty men taking their hats off, but it is extremely moving and draws you into their quiet joy. This small film about real people is highly recommended, especially if you are interested in Argentina’s music.