Los Van Van will open the film festival in Havana and nobody finds it weird. In fact, it is not. But, twenty-five years ago that wouldnt have happened, they wouldnt have opened such a cultural event. Popular music, or to be more accurate, the music that people dance to, is not designed for that.
The fact is that Van Van has become, over time, a band of worship, suitable for anything. It doesn’t seem out of place anywhere. They can play at La Tropical and then improvise with the symphony. In Cuba they are what they are, but in Latin music they have not yet been fully recognized for their enormous influence and vast quality. This means that in the lands of salsa, an awful term, so decaf, but for once we accept the label of the industry, there has not been around a better band than Formell’s. Not a more consistent.
It has become a slogan to think of them as the Cuban Beatles. Silvio Rodriguez, for example, stated that. But I believe, with historical correctness, and self-evident analogies, our Beatles would be Irakere in the seventies and Los Van Van would be our Rolling Stones. Although this conclusion can lead to misinterpretation.
I remember a poem by Juan Carlos Roberto Flores which vindicates Friol and says-I quote from memory-that Friol doesn’t appear in the anthology of the fifties, but he, Flores, has read him and has raised him to the height of a mountain in the shelves of the soul, and that’s enough for Friol to be on par of Homer, Virgil, Shakeaspeaere … of Friol.
Los Van Van are part of my sentimental education; they have defined in more than one way the person I am, I owe to their songs more than I owe Mick Jagger and perhaps even more than I owe Lennon, that’s enough , then, for them to spin on the recorder of my soul and rise to the height of the smoke of their musical locomotive.
There is a brotherhood among the people who are weak in the face of compositions by Formell and Pedroso. They recognized one another beforehand. I will make every effort to attend the inauguration of the festival, not because of the movie, nor the pedigree of the openings. Some people kill to enter the room on the opening night as if the start were the bulk. Monumental failure. These are barely the surface environments, of exhibition.
There is nothing worse for a film than opening or closing an event. What a movie should demand is the lack of expectation for her, go unnoticed, without too many references, without the responsibility of opening, the viewer reaches the lost room, moody, because they closed the door in his face for other packed film, and then act on it.
The viewer, at first skeptical, starts slowly leaving the popcorn aside, starts sitting more comfortably in the chair, his breathing calming down, starting to forget, and will assume, with obedient zeal, the blow and not a whole film, but a couple of scenes, dialogue or any capture that speaks to him as nobody ever did.
All classics, the true ones, must have begun like that. For sure. Not in the openings, where most people track the personalities instead of the films, and where the barrier is so high that one always comes out thinking they were not good enough to open.
Los Van Van will break the ice on the day of their forty-third anniversary. So long, too long in popularity not to go beyond our understanding. However, their relationship with cinema is not new, even dating back to the documentary they made, or the soundtrack of Los pájaros tirándole a la escopeta.
Bare art, whatever the manifestation, moves the same springs and appropriates the same symbols. There are melodies that seem the translation of certain book and both, in turn, the aesthetic representation of death, loneliness or love.
I do not know exactly if it refers to the strength of its pace, the nostalgia of the platforms, the grandeur of the frame or the sum of all but the emblem of Van Van is a train. I repeat: a train. An iron-made thing that moves. And does anyone remember what the Lumiere brothers shot in their first movie?
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