Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s enthusiastic, plainspoken “Chavela” dissects the life and career of Cost Rica-born performer Chavela Vargas, a passionate interpreter of Mexican popular music who rose from the ashes of decades of alcoholism and flailing longings to come out, become a muse to Pedro Almodóvar and to tour the world with her emphatic, stirring style of ranchera performance. The stories from the bright lights and brought forth from the shadows are captivating, even if the tone of the film itself tends to the lugubrious. Vargas’ charisma alternates with empathetic assessments of her failings. 93m. (Ray Pride)
“Chavela” opens Friday, October 20 at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.