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January 12, 2001

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Steamy, sensuous, seductive!

Ruchi Sharma

Salsa The name and stills looking down from hoardings can easily conjure up steamy scenes of the sensuous dance form, but salsa is another kind of stiletto altogether.

You could call it a modern day fable, with the backdrop of heavy Latino beats.

A French film, with all the French abandon, this is the story of Remi Bonnet (Vincent Lecoeur), a brilliant pianist from Toulouse, a small town in France.

Fed up of playing the regular conventional music, Remi decides to break away from the Chopin frame of mind and embrace his first love -- Latin music.

A lot of struggle gets him nowhere. He chucks his last stuffed-shirt scholarship and heads for the salsa capital of Europe: Paris.

A meeting with an old pal, Felipe, gives him the shock of his life -- no one wants a white boy playing in a Latin band. Felipe cannot even get Remi into his own band, Sierra Maestro. Everyone wants a Cuban or a Columbian. And all certainly want Latino looks.

Feeling sorry for Remi, Felipe gives him the address of the legendary Barreto (Esteban Socrates Cobas Puente), the septuagenarian Cuban music legend, and his 'friend' Goya. The duo owns a club, Casa Cubana, which is about to be shut down due to their inability to run it by themselves.

Remi here becomes the lifesaver of sorts. He decided to join them -- since he certainly cannot beat them -- learns the salsa dance from locals, puts on an accent, tans his body and gets himself a nice new name -- Mongo. Soon, Remi is the son Baretto and Goya never had. And is quite comfortable with his life till Nathalie (Christianne Gout) walks into it. Salsa

Nathalie is a shy, reserved girl who works for a travel agency, is engaged to a lawyer, Juan, for whom she certainly feels no love. Her way of defying her family and fiancÚ is to enter a salsa competition with Mongo, with whom she has fallen head over heels in love.

At this point, the film takes off on a true Bollywood potboiler path. Remi doesn't know how to tell Nathalie that is actually not Cuban. Furthermore, Baretto meets Nathalie's grandmother, and the two discover a clandestine past that they'd rather not reveal just yet. All very Hindi film style.

Salsa may not be the kind of film that stays in your memory for a long time. You might not even call it a memorable affair.

But there are some aspects to the film that border on sheer brilliance. The choreography by Jorge and Aniurka Chatelain being one of them. The music is also outstanding, but that was to be expected of a film that survives on dance anyway.

The sexy, steamy moves of Remi and Nathalie are simple scrumptious. For those who love dance, this is an unmissable flick.

Else there's nothing much to it.

Furthermore, the English subtitles are completely off-kilter and downright funny at times.

Basically, a sweet distraction. If you have an afternoon to kill and don't know what to do, Salsa is the sauce for you.

CREDITS
Director: Joyce Bunuels
Cast: Vincent Lecoeur, Christianne Gout, Esteban Socrates Cobas Puente

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