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Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas • Page 35
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Austin American-Statesman from Austin, Texas • Page 35

Austin, Texas
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PAGE C7 INSIDE i nr Jazzblues, C8 Rock 'n' roll, C10 Television, C15 :1 Friday, July 24, 1987 Austin American-Statesman Esai Morales and Lou Diamond Phillips give the movie its heartbeat. Phillips creates an unforgettable Valens a gentle, talented, intelligent and motivated person. Morales, as his foil, is every bit his equal. This fiery, brilliant actor is the Mr. Hyde to Phillips' Dr.

Jekyll, and his characterization gives the film its' spiritual balance. i I jjU ,4 i i tr-. aj Lou Diamond PhilliDS. left and above, stars as chie Valens and Esai Morales plays Bob, his half brother who has trouble accepting his success. La Bamba strikes with a passion C16 'La Bamba' released in Spanish By Patrick Taggart American-Statesman Staff Review acters with such a wide range of emotions, that we accept its somewhat saintly portrayal of the singer.

While Valdez deserves credit for the film's fleet movement and attention to virtually a dozen supporting characters, it is Morales and Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens who give the movie its heartbeat. Phillips, a Dallas-based actor of Filipino parentage, creates an unforgettable Valens a gentle, talented, intelligent and motivated person whose ambition always sees him past family turmoil and little defeats along the way. I can't tell you if the Ritchie. Valens in La Bamba is an accurate reflection of the real one, but as a role model, he's hard to beat. Morales, as his foil, is every bit his equal.

This fiery, brilliant actor is the Mr. Hyde to Phillips' Dr. Jekyll, and his characterization gives the film its spiritual balance. Their crossed polarity creates all the tension, electricity and danger of a summer storm. La Bamba, rated PG-13 for profanity, opens-Friday in a multiple run.

He had three hits: the jumping Come On Let's Go, the poignant ballad Donna, and, of course, his rocked-up version of the traditional Mexican folk song, La Bamba. At the time of his death Valens' musical career encompassed all of eight months. Valdez centers on the last year or so of Valens' life, and focuses on his development as a musician and the strains his success brought to the relationship with his half brother Bob. Defeated and frustrated, Bob acted out his jealousy of his brother in vicious and self-destructive ways. Valdez, who is aided by a selfless and explosive performance by Esai Morales as Bob, chose not to pretty up this aspect of Valens' life.

Which is not to say that La Bamba completely avoids the storybook, romanticized look of the typically reverential film biography. What's different aboui La Bamba is that we don't care when it puts the occasional halo around its central figure. This film is so full of passion, and empowers its char As soon as our recent screening of La Bamba ended to the enthralling sounds of Los Lobos performing Ritchie Valens' music, I turned to the friend and colleague sitting next to me and sighed, "Well, I sure wish Luis Valdez had directed Full Metal Jacket. I feel a little conspicuous beginning an examination of a terrific movie with a personal reflection, but the difference between Stanley Kubrick's approach to Full Metal Jacket and Valdez handling of the Ritchie Valens story is as wide as the deep blue sea. And it is also why Full Metal Jacket frequently seems so cool and distant, and why La Bamba seems in contrast so focused, personal, intense.

The difference is passion. La Bamba has it as few movies do, and the person who is not swept up by it is to be envied or pitied, I'm not sure which. Valdez, creator of the comic and theatrical Zoot Suit of a few years ago, wrote and directed the new film and shrewdly fused dramatic license with fact in telling the story of Valens, the 17-year-old star who died in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly. For the uninitiated (which included me until a few weeks ago), Valens was the product of a poor, fatherless California family who absorbed the music of such early rockers as Elvis, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. Where music was concerned, things happened quickly in Valens' life.

First a backup musician in a neighborhood group headed by an incredibly poor singer, Valens (originally Valenzuela; his manager renamed him) broke off and formed his own band. A shrewd manager eventually took Valens under his wing and produced his records. Director sees changing Hollywood Movie reflects new atmosphere in filmmaking, country, Valdez believes By Patrick Taggart American-Statesman Staff fmummn.w,mo. mimn nun mm 1 fnm inMuwiwumwurau wi i i i I I niiii1.llirMl.l.irm.M., M' 1 and there was this void.

And I said, that's not right. So it was a matter of finding out if there were contributions by Hispanics made, and Ritchie Valens was; one." At the time, Danny Valdez thought of. casting himself in the part. Unfortunate-, ly, Hollywood wasn't listening. "I was young enough to play him, but nobody really listened to us and we didn't; get anywhere," he said.

Interjected Luis: "The conditions-weren't yet right." The men said information about Va-; lens was difficult to obtain and the primary source was his surviving family. The Valenzuela family (Ritchie's name was changed by his agent) was fiercely protective of its distinguished son's memory, "I spent a year with them just listening to them," Danny said. "Once I gained See Valdez, C16 sponsible for getting the ball rolling and he's a Chicano, and I wrote and directed it. That's something!" No kidding, and so is the movie. A recounting of the last year of the life of singer Ritchie Valens, who died at age 17 in 1959, La Bamba is a loving, infectious, passionate film.

One does not have to be a student of pop culture or the '50s in order to be swept up by its vibrant energy. The idea for the film was Danny Valdez'. and he had harbored it since 1973. At that time he was a young singer under the management of Taylor Hackford. who had not yet become a feature filmmaker.

They were casting about for movie ideas when Valdez came up with the Valens story. "1 was intrigued because there was such a tremendous Latin influence on American music in the 1940s," Danny Valdez recalled. "But then the '50s came That the new movie La Bamba gut made at all is proof that there may be a "new Hollywood," says the film's director, Luis Valdez. "I really think the movie is a reflection of what is going on in the country today," the director said in an interview during a publicity tour stop in San Antonio recently. "Not just the characters and the story, but who is involved in it and how it got made.

"First, you have the producer, Taylor Hackford, who is out of the '60s and the Peace Corps. "And then there are people like ourselves," he said, indicating his brother, associate producer Daniel Valdez at his side, "who have been working the landscape for years. This project. Danny is re Luis Valdez found it difficult to obtain information about Ritchie Valens" life. Valens' surviving family was the main source of information.

Night life Everything's nice. Two of Austin's great voices onstage at a great club. Tonight and Saturday at 10 at Antone's. Cover is $6. To Russia with love Can't be in Leningrad this fall? Well here's a chance to preview the show that Austin musicians will present when they play in the Soviet Union in the fall.

Talk about democracy, how about a musical mix of rockabilly, folk. funk. jazz, and more? The musical ambassadors include Ray Campi, Elouise Burrell. Steve Parkess, Bobby Mack, Butch Hancock. Bruce Truitt.

Tomas Ramirez and Deborah Giles. At 8:30 on Sunday at Steamboat. Cover is $2. John T. Davie cane syrup.

And the Mighty Diamonds definitely represent the tradition at its finest. The trio was formed in 1969 by three Kingston schoolmates. Since then, it's scored hits with Pass the Kouchie, Right Time and Pretty Woman. The politics are evident, as is the beat, but it is the twining vocal prowess which makes the Mighty Diamonds shine. For two nights, with Reggae Force tonight, and Magical Revolution on Saturday.

At 10 both nights at Liberty Lunch. Cover each night is S3. Nixon's the one Imagine a cross between Lenny Bruce and Porter Wagoner, and you have some idea of the range Mojo Nixon rides. A cowboy satirist who shoots straight from the lip, Mojo can make a believer out of the most hardened citybilly. After listening to him make his case for Elvis as an alien (the King, being perfect, must represent an advanced civilization), you believe! When he says he Don't Want No Foo-Foo Haircut On My Head, you believe! And he's not a crook.

At 10:30 tonight with the Neats at Continental Club. Cover is $5.50. Soul Sisters If Lou Ann Barton's fiery rock and soul is hot salsa, then Angela Strehli's and blues is pure champagne. One smolders and the other sparkles. And vice versa.

Pearls and miniskirts, high heels and whiskey, fire and ice. the rights and privileges of providing moral and finanacial supports for the band members." Or, As Bators puts it. "Why should we have to worry about where we're sleeping or where our next meal is coming from when others can pay for the privilege of taking care of those things for us?" Why indeed? With the Kill at 10 tonight at the Cave Club. $3 cover. Diamonds in the rough One of the elements that sometimes gets lost in the riddim and the politics of reggae is the vocal harmonies.

At their best, classic reggae vocal harmonies can be as intricate as vintage doowop arrangements and as sweet as Night life is a guide to music this weekend in Austin. Praise the Lords The Lords of the New Church used to be the proverbial band with a Bad Attitude. Formed by ex-Dead Boy Stiv Bators, the group snarled its way into this decade with most of its bleeding punk abrasiveness intact. In time, that approach mellowed (relatively speaking) with some pop stylings, and even a ballad (nicely counterpointed by its savaging of Madonna's Like A Virgin). But the irreverence is still intact, as evidenced by this latest tour, the "Mercenary Tour '87." To help defray expenses, the band is selling 5.000 shares of stock.

According to a press release, "bearers. be entitled to numerous benefits, including Fest fun The K-98 Jet Ski Grand Prix Championship pits top water racers in regional and national competitions today and Sunday on Town Lake. It part of this weekend's preliminary activities for Aqua Festival. Time Out.

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