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Margarita Rosa de Francisco,
A wonderful Spanish musical soap opera for anyone to enjoy
As telenovelas go, this is without question one of the best ever by far, and thus I gave it a 9. I would have given it a 10, except for the sad mess of the two endings: one short, rushed, abridged, and censored for the U.S. and Chilean markets; and the other long, well-developed, unabridged and uncensored for the Colombian market (and the rest of the world), but, unfortunately, of not as good film quality as the one for the U.S./Chilean ending.
So, what is so good about this musical Spanish language soap opera? It is original, extremely well-written with well-developed, believable characters, witty, profoundly dramatic to the point of tears in many places, and, as it is customary in Colombian productions, with moments of hilarious (intentional!) comedy. There are no byzantine plot twists, and yet the suspense and feeling of inevitability is palpable and well constructed. The characters are multifaceted and behave in an understandable, if occasionally frustrating, human way. Even the worst "villains" sometimes utter compelling truths, and the most beloved "heroes" sometimes are completely flawed. We "live" the story with them. Just like in real life, the behavior of these characters have the power to infuriate us, annoy us, move us or melt our hearts, as the situation may be (Tissue alert: several episodes are so heart-rendering sad, they might move you to tears!). And at all times, since this is essentially a story about mariachis and their world of traditional music, it entices us to sing and dance alongside the characters.
For the lovers of traditional Mexican and Central American music, La Hija del Mariachi, is a wonderful treat, as the soundtrack features over 130 of the best songs of the genre, sang magnificently by Jairo del Valle, Adriana Bottina, and Alejandro Scarpetta. In fact, the soundtrack has become a collector's item eagerly sought by aficionados. The cast is first rate, and the interpretations so true to life, that the evolution and physical maturing of one the principal characters throughout the novel, has led some people to believe that the part was not played by the same actor from beginning to end (not true, it is the same actor!).
If there is one complaint is that, due to commercial agreements, this magnificent story was produced with two similar, but separate endings. The bulk of the story, up to episode 118 is identical for both versions. From then on, for the production intended for the U.S. and the Chilean markets, the ending was compressed into six episodes, beginning with episode 119 and ending at episode 124. This, apparently, was the result of a contract with Televisa that originally called for 124 episodes and, even though the novel was a runaway success, it was decided to stand by the original commitment and end it abruptly despite public demand for a more elaborate conclusion.
For the Colombian market, and many other countries, since the demand was so high, the ending was developed into 29 additional episodes by RCN, again from episode 119 and ending at episode 147. The story is essentially the same, and both endings come to exactly the same conclusion, but the Colombian version is unabridged and uncensored, it adds a "Colombian" aspect that is perhaps missing from the body of the story, and answers all the concerns raised throughout the storyline in a more complete and satisfactory manner. The U.S. version, unfortunately, is rushed and leaves quite a few questions to the imagination of the viewer.
So, it would stand to reason that we would all prefer the Colombian ending without question. Well, yes, but not without question. My objections are mainly technical. The first one is that the quality of the film, which is excellent up to episode 118, is not quite up to the previous standard from then on in the Colombian ending. This is also true with the sound at certain times, particularly in episodes 146 and 147. Also, there is some repetitive recycling of scenes, even when, occasionally, the recycled material might not fit completely the need of the specific scene. All of this has been attributed to the cessation of funding from Televisa, which ended with the completion of the U.S. contract. It could certainly explain the film, sound, and recycling of scenes, but it does not justify the way some scenes were photographed, from top down in a distorted manner and the unkempt physical appearance of Mark Tacher in the final episodes, including an obviously ill-fitting mariachi suit, which are not in any way relevant to the plot, but might actually detract from it. In that sense, the U.S. version is superior both in film quality and the "look" of the actors,which preserve the "charisma" of the first 118 episodes. Because of all of this, I gave this otherwise excellent telenovela, an evaluation of 9 instead of 10.
Incidentally, all versions of this superb telenovela have now been uploaded to YouTube, mostly in excellent quality. Even for those that do not understand the language, the music alone is worth a visit.
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