City Paper is not for tourists
Unless you’re a tango aficionado, you may find yourself a bit confused during the first half of Café de Los Maestros. Miguel Kohan’s documentary on the masters of the Argentina-born music presents the mostly silver-haired players, producers, and singers one after another in settings from studios to soccer games, never explaining how they became titans and rarely even bothering to introduce them by name. Instead, these tango luminaries offer their thoughts on the music; then Kohan will cut to, say, a scene of a Buenos Aires street. It all feels quite random, but the film settles into a groove when focus shifts to the event that gives the film its title: In 2006, 22 of tango’s best were gathered at the swanky Teatro Colón to perform, and the result is magnificent regardless of whether you have any idea who these people are. (Each is eventually name-checked during the end credits.) A sequence that interweaves performance footage with candid shots of the performers practicing or goofing off is a highlight, though it makes you wish the entire doc had more of this cohesive charm. Café de Los Maestros may fail in its apparent effort to be the Buena Vista Social Club of this passion-driven art, but the music is the message: “If when you listen to a well-played tango you don’t feel your chest trembling,” one arranger says, “go do something else.”
Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Also at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. Both showings at the Avalon.