Here is a perfect film.
After awhile, you wonder whether such will ever appear again.
To call Mattew (Mateo) Stoneman a white “mariachi” singer is somewhat misleading.
But that’s the gist of it.
Of this documentary.
No, this isn’t the Columbian drama Mateo from about the same year.
This is Mateo, the priceless documentary directed by Aaron Naar.
Because it is true.
I can attest.
To the life of the musician.
Somewhere…I must have been dreaming…while watching.
But the life of a musician is really not even worth two dollars.
I know the life of a rubbish-filled room.
Sleeping on some pillows.
Or a mattress on the floor.
Bedbug man comes to spray.
Doesn’t know where to start.
I know the life of playing crap gigs.
All for the big payoff.
To leave a legacy.
Mr. Stoneman (Mateo) references Scorsese.
That’s rich. And right.
Talking to the filmmaker.
Do we ever see him?
The man with the movie camera?
I don’t know.
But he more-or-less makes himself invisible in this pungent story.
We get Los Angeles.
Where I should be.
But I chose another path.
And yet, Mateo chose the right one.
Follow the music.
Not the money.
Follow your heart.
Play and write and sing until your heart gives out.
Until the apple juice and Subway sandwiches finally kill you.
Bukowski described it as dog food.
The life of a writer.
But what Mateo does is scrimp and save.
Because he’s addicted to recording.
Or rather, he’s making his masterpiece.
A $350,000 album.
No record label.
This guy, Mateo, has cojones.
A white man in a brown man’s genre.
But he’s all love.
Love for the music.
And the kicker is Cuba.
Yes, dear friends…
Much of our action happens in Havana.
Over and over and over again…Mateo travels to Cuba.
Quantegy GP9 tape.
I may be useless to most of the world, but I get this.
Reel after reel after reel.
And so it is mambo.
But so soft and subtle.
Like the bossa nova of 60s Brazil.
But Mateo succeeds in his aspiration.
And so his voice is feathery-light…like Billie Holiday on Lady in Satin.
Because Mateo Stoneman had to pay his dues.
Almost like François Villon.
Stealing to make music.
To afford to record.
I’ve been there.
Pawned all my best shit.
To make a record.
Or cared about.
But finally for me it came down to family.
And we get some of that too.
Matthew (Mateo) Stoneman.
From New Hampshire.
We wonder about Ernest Stoneman.
And we get Ernest Hemingway.
20 years in Cuba.
“Who was he?,” asks the novia.
Up in Ketchum.
Next to where Ezra Pound, his champion, was from.
These are the savant details which Stoneman, Mateo can rattle off concerning music.
And I can do the same.
But I had to diversify.
So from cornering the market in shit, I spread my tentacles into manure.
A bit too pithy a metaphor.
But just so you know.
The life of a musician.
One minute up.
Touring Japan. Or Sweden.
Wads of money in your pocket.
Next minute down.
Catching hell from the two-bit valets.
Having to pull out the LA Times.
This is me, motherfucker.
…it ain’t easy.
Sticking to your guns.
Through extreme poverty.
But Mateo shows you what it takes.
You might be autistic.
You might have crippling anxiety.
You might have existential episodes…depression…woozy disorientation.
“What the fuck am I doing?!?”
So do the best of them/us.
And so if I am counted “in that number”…of saints…like Mateo…then I am happy that I have lived my life bravely and to the last drop of blood and courage.
Ars gratia artis.
But for real!