Vengo

As he has in earlier films like GADJO DILO and LATCHO DROM, writer-director Tony Gatlif uses the haunting, mournful music rhythms of his gypsy forefathers to give his film depth and resonance. Here the focus in on flamenco; unfortunately, the film (whose title means "I come" in the Rom language) suffers from Gatlif's apparent inability to decide whether...read more

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Reviewed by Stephen Miller
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As he has in earlier films like GADJO DILO and LATCHO DROM, writer-director Tony Gatlif uses the haunting, mournful music rhythms of his gypsy forefathers to give his film depth and resonance. Here the focus in on flamenco; unfortunately, the film (whose title means "I come" in the Rom language) suffers from Gatlif's apparent inability to decide whether he wanted to make a documentary-like look at the consequences of certain traditional Romany practices or a flat-out vendetta melodrama. Gatlif struggles throughout to find a satisfying medium, but in the end both halves of the film suffer. And that's a shame, because the story has all the juicy elements of a poor man's, Spanish-style GODFATHER, complete with warring crime families, murder, honor, power and revenge; it's too bad these themes aren't better developed. The story unfolds amid the arid, sun-scorched plains of Andalucia, Spain. Two small-town gypsy families are locked in a centuries-old blood feud for power and control. Caco (famed flamenco dancer Antonio Canales) heads one clan, overseeing the lucrative family businesses. While grieving over the death of his daughter, Caco is also serving as temporary custodian of his mentally challenged nephew, Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez), whose father is on the lam after having killed a member the rival Caravacas clan. They want revenge, and unless Diego's father returns to face the music, Diego will be killed instead. Torn between family obligation and his desire to avert additional bloodshed on either side, Caco must make a decision that will forever alter the way the two families settle their differences: His choice provides one of the film's few truly poignant moments. The non-professional actors do their schmaltzy best with Gatlif and co-writer David Trueba's sparse dialogue and what appears to have been Gatlif's very limited direction. But his use of music, which is meant to mirror the characters' emotions, undermines much of the story's drama. The majority of the musical sequences are long, drawn-out affairs — frankly, the emotion they evoke most often is boredom. The soundtrack, which won a 2001 Cesar Award for Best Original Film Music, includes traditional tunes sung by Tomatito, Sheikh Ahmad al Tuni, La Caita and La Paquera de Jerez. (In Spanish with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: As he has in earlier films like GADJO DILO and LATCHO DROM, writer-director Tony Gatlif uses the haunting, mournful music rhythms of his gypsy forefathers to give his film depth and resonance. Here the focus in on flamenco; unfortunately, the film (whose t… (more)

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