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Home Vision Entertainment presents
Vengo (2000)

"It was good, but it wasn't love."
- Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 03, 2004

Stars: Antonio Canales, Antonio Perez Dechent
Director: Tony Gatlif

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:28m:34s
Release Date: July 29, 2003
UPC: 037429179628
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- CBB+ C+

DVD Review

Vengo is a curious amalgam of a film, a gangster story soldered on to a valentine to the culture of Andalusia; it's a bond that never quite takes, but the movie is rich in atmosphere and culture. The running time of the picture is less than an hour and a half, and at least half of the film is devoted to musical interludes; it leaves for not much story, but it is likely to get your feet tapping.

Such as it is, the story concerns two rival gangster families, and the inevitable mob hit gone wrong. Our hero is Caco, whose (offscreen) brother, Mario, has recently whacked one of the Caravaca family, and the Caravacas are intent on having their revenge. Caco is a slick one, in his Italian suits and long hair; he loves the good life, he loves the culture of Seville, and most of all he loves his family. Principally here that means Diego, his nephew, Mario's son; Diego is physically impaired (a diagnosis is never made explicit, but the spasticity of his muscles suggests something along the lines of cerebral palsy), but his mental capacity seems fine, and his love for his uncle is unbounded. Caco's judgment may not always be sound, however; the principal event of the first portion of the film is Caco setting up a liaison between Diego and a young woman of easy virtue, for Diego's deflowering.

Of course the tensions rise between the families; the Caravacas threaten Diego with harm, possible payback for the loss of one of their own. The dramatic scenes are handled serviceably enough, but they'll seem familiar to anybody who's seen any gangster movies at all; admittedly, most other pictures in the genre don't have the benefit of being dappled by the extraordinary Mediterranean light. The acting is overall fair enough, though some of the supporting performers tend to push things into generalities, contributing to the idea that the filmmaker, Tony Gatlif, is less interested in these characters as individuals, and more keen on looking at them as types, or necessary props in the landscape.

More important, to the filmmakers no doubt and to the audience, are the singing and dancing. Some of the performances are so beautiful that they move Caco to tears; if you're not Andalusian yourself, your reaction may not be as extreme, or perhaps that's the sangria talking. Still, it is entertaining and fascinating, full of rhythm and melody and atmosphere. And it's the dance that's likely to stay with you, the propulsive syncopations of flamenco being far more memorable than the workmanlike storyline.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The sometimes arid, sometimes lush landscape is shot and captured well, and the transfer to DVD is pretty clean, though the colors are occasionally not as saturated as one might like.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Both audio offerings sound fine, with more nuance in the 5.1 track; the rhythm of the flamenco sometimes sounds better to my ears merely in stereo, though.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Swing
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. accompanying short film (see below)
  2. booklet, with an essay on flamenco, by Pedro Cortes
Extras Review: Los Almendros-Plaza Nueva (24m:49s), a short which was frequently shown with Vengo on the festival circuit, accompanies it on DVD as well; it's a jokier look at some of the same territory, when a Gypsy neighborhood is up in arms when the driver on their bus route is replaced. You'll also find a brief biography and filmography for director Tony Gatlif, and a trailer for another of his films; and a longer piece (19m:47s) combining press junket interviews with two of the lead actors, Antonio Canales and Antonio Dechent (Canales, who plays Caco, gets most of the screen time) with clips from the feature.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

This hybrid of gangster movie and flamenco documentary doesn't quite come off, and the latter is much more strongly presented than the former. Still, it's got its passionate and musical moments.


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