This week’s videos presented NorteñoBlog with a tough choice: Trakalosa’s big-budget mini-novela about the perils of the accidental cocaine trade, or something that looks like Ed Wood’s cocaine-fueled fever dream? NorteñoBlog being a blog of largely puerile interests, you know which one I chose.
Los Pakines de Perú started in the ’70s as a groovy cumbia band, and have since added vocals and smoothed out their sound. Their latest video “Vacia” opens with a guy — we’ll call him Young Man of Perpetual Scowl (Scowl for short) — breaking up with a girl. Scowl tries to climb on top of her car as she drives away. This bold act fails to win her back, so he returns to his apartment, where visions of the young lady’s ghost keep penetrating his furrowed brow. As we’ve seen with other bands of a certain age, notably Los Cardenales, nobody wants to see old dudes learning the ways of love, so the video cuts back and forth between young Scowl’s torment and the seasoned band’s cheerful performance of a tropical cumbia, resplendent with coordinated supper club dance moves. In the next scene Scowl sits at his table smoking a cigarette and talking to a cheap stuffed bear who wears a “love” t-shirt. The nightmare begins: A doctor delivers a cruel diagnosis of “thumbs down.” A Rasta smokes a blunt. An exorcist violently expels some guy wearing a devil horns and a green goblin mask and playing a trumpet. Cut to the delirious band swaying away. Now we’re thrust into Scowl’s kitchen for the most garish sight of all: he and the ghost of ex-girlfriend have a cutesy encounter with frosting. I would rather have the devil inside me than frosting smeared on my face. I’m sure this betrays the privilege of the never-possessed, but there we are. Los Pakines’ founding guitarist takes a solo; the ghost couple takes selfies out on the lawn. We leave Scowl to scowl alone in the grass while the band smiles for the camera, refreshed by musical camaraderie. As J. Hoberman has written, “The objectively bad film attempts to reproduce the institutional mode of representation, but its failure to do so deforms the simplest formulae and clichés so absolutely that you barely recognize them.” As J. Hoberman has not written, VALE LA PENA. Literally.