Sex, drugs, salsa and rock & roll. That pretty much sums up Que viva la música, a movie inspired by Andrés Caicedo’s 1977 novel of the same name, one of Colombia’s most iconic books about teen angst.
The movie revolves around María del Carmen, a young woman from a wealthy family, whose only concern in life is going out every night, getting drunk and having sex with whoever she wants. She can’t be satisfied and seems to be on a constant search for something new, valuing her freedom more than her own life.
Cali becomes the perfect ally for her hedonistic lifestyle, in which excess is the norm. The city – the real protagonist of the story – inspired an entire generation of young artists and intellectuals in the 70s, including Andrés Caicedo, whose suicide at the age of 25 turned him into a mythical figure, with cult status even to this day.
The premise of the film initially seemed very attractive. The idea of recreating Caicedo’s novel on the silver screen generated a lot of hype among cinephile circles and fans of his work.
Caleño director Carlos Moreno, whose earlier work Perro come perro earned him rave reviews, announced that he wouldn’t try to adapt the book, making it clear that this would be an independent movie inspired by Caicedo’s work.
Unfortunately, the end result falls short. As a work of fiction, Que viva la música is a poorly written drama movie with an unclear storyline. It seems like a collection of party scenes tied together by voiceovers, a lot of which are lines from the novel that won’t make much sense to viewers that haven’t read it.
On the bright side, the musical score is fairly enjoyable and it plays well with the remarkable cinematography. The atmospherics are the strong part of the movie, but overall it struggles to assemble a compelling narrative.
Another weak point is the lead actress, Paulina Dávila, whose flat interpretation couldn’t be disguised by the excessive use of sex scenes.
Although full of festive and euphoric moments, at its heart the film deals with dark topics like racism, classism and suicide. All the elements for a good movie seem to be there but unfortunately it leaves the viewer, like María del Carmen, deeply unsatisfied.