Fito Páez: El Amor Después Del Amor
Photo: Netflix

Biopic of Argentine Musician Fito Páez Immerses Viewers

Biopic Fito Páez: El Amor Después Del Amor (Love After Music) is, among other things, a gateway into Argentina’s most celebrated rock star’s songbook.

Fito Páez: El Amor Después Del Amor
Ivan Hochman, Micaela Riera, and Manuel Fanego
April 2023
Infancia & Juventud
Fito Páez
Libros Cúpula
June 2023
El Amor Después Del Amor
Fito Páez
Warner Music
February 1992

For all the trappings biopics are prone to fall into, it’s rare to find one that encapsulates almost everything about an artist and what their work stands for. The challenge of representing a life’s worth of trials, errors, and eventual acclaim can be daunting and unrewarding. Audiences are often subjected to sanitized, overly-filtered, and often inaccurate portrayals. Yet, occasionally, one production breaks free from the usual biopic tropes and achieves the best results imaginable.

Fito Páez: El Amor Después Del Amor (Love After Music), a Netflix production, aims to depict the life of Argentinian rock singer and musician Fito Páez. The series takes most of its inspiration from the songwriter’s memoir, 2023’s Infancia & Juventud: Memorias [Childhood & Youth]. Directed by the duo of Felipe Gomez Aparicio and Gonzalo Tobal, the series also features Fito Páez as one of its producers, alongside Juan Pablo Kolodziej – Fito’s father-in-law. Including a person so close to the artist in such a bonafide attempt to represent some of his most important life events might raise red flags, but don’t be fooled: in spite of any minor inaccuracies or barely-touched subjects, this eight-part serial does its best to paint a faithful, touching, immersive picture of one of Latin-America’s most endearing figures. Fito Páez reflects the lengths one is determined to go to follow their muse.

Fito Páez dodges excesses by focusing on the first 30 years of Rodolfo’s (Fito’s birth name) life. Concluding (and, technically, starting) in 1993, with the rockstar enjoying widespread praise upon the release of his blockbuster album El Amor Después Del Amor – released the previous year, and to this day the best-selling rock record in Argentina. Páez played sold-out stadiums and enjoyed a fledging relationship with Spanish actress Cecilia Roth. Fito Páez‘s storytelling enlightens audiences about how this long-haired piano geek got to the Olympus of South American pop rock. 

Born in the provincial city of Rosario in 1963, Páez didn’t know his biological mother, as she passed away soon after giving birth. Raised by his father, also named Rodolfo, and his “grandmothers” (biological grandmother Delma and great-aunt Josefa), the young Fito lived a sheltered life for the better part of his childhood, with the house inhabited by his family and his school fully occupying his mind. Although familial warmth is tangible in the series’ approach, it does not refrain from addressing touchier topics – notably, an instance in which a nine-year-old Páez was abused by a maid tending to care for the house, in an experience that, while not graphically represented, is clearly alluded to. 

Upon reaching adulthood and already proficient at playing piano despite his father’s objections, Páez joined a group of young musicians from his hometown who shared his desire to make it big. They took their music to Buenos Aires. Led by guitarist and poet Juan Carlos Baglietto, the so-called “Trova Rosarina” collective managed to rid itself of its small-city affiliation by playing Obras Sanitarias, a high-profile concert venue in the biggest city in the country, thanks to a record industry maneuver.

This concert attracted the attention of legendary musician Charly García, who noticed a like-minded ethos in the young keyboardist and invited him to join the new band designated to tour behind his then-latest record, 1983’s Clics Modernos. Here, Páez gets a taste of life as a touring musician while developing an infatuation with Charly’s backing vocalist, Fabiana Cantilo. As his status in García’s band elevates and his relationship with Cantilo becomes an actual romantic pairing, Páez alienates his family, something the Netflix series initially only subtly hints at.

It does not take long before the supporting musician gets an offer to start his own career in a step that will shape his life just as much as his father’s passing soon after. Striking up a friendship – and, later, an artistic collaboration – with rock legend Luis Alberto Spinetta, Páez’s ascension is not so dissimilar from that of so many of his peers: an often-troubled relationship with Cantilo, dalliances with drugs, and the nervousness of striking out on his own all play a part in his professional development.

As well represented as all these steps in Fito Páez’s life may be, special attention is paid to what is perhaps the most dramatic moment of his life: the murder of his two grandmothers in 1986 at the hands of a deranged individual who remained at large for years following the crime. The tragedy, which deeply affected the musician’s output and life, takes new shades of horridness once Páez himself is deemed possibly responsible, which, in turn, directly influences the making of his third solo album, 1987’s Ciudad de Pobres Corazones. As much empathy as such an event might have generated, it did not reflect in album sales, which led to Páez being dropped from his label. This, paired with the deterioration of his romance with Fabiana, sees the musician at his lowest point. 

It must have seemed like a miracle that things would sort themselves out the way they did, and Fito Páez does its best to show the transformation. Páez meets actress Cecilia Roth (with whom he would remain in a relationship until 2001) and is offered a new, highly profitable contract from Warner Records. These events represented a new chance to reach commercial success, and Páez didn’t think twice before grabbing the record contract opportunity as if his life depended on it. Making an album with appearances by García, Spinetta, and his ex-girlfriend, Páez would become Argentina’s most popular contemporary artist.

Here lies another of Fito Páez‘s triumphs: by ending the series as he plays to the biggest crowd of his career thus far at the Vélez Sarsfield stadium, it doesn’t delve into the aftermath of his superstardom, wherein in the ensuing decade, he would produce albums that ranged from excellent to mediocre. By staying close to his memoir, Infancia & Juventud, the series ensures the depiction of key elements that might not be common knowledge. A viewer less familiar with the artist’s life story might be more impacted by the somewhat difficult circumstances that led him to become the household name he is today. But even initiated fans might feel the seriousness of many events that shaped Páez’s life for the better and the worse.

Iván Hochman shines as Fito Páez, not only due to the uncanny resemblance with the singer’s young self but also to the abandonment and dedication brought forth in Fito Páez‘s most dramatic moments, which range from funny to heartbreaking in the span of minutes. Micaela Riera’s Fabiana Cantilo has her fair share of moments in the spotlight, although her character development sometimes falls flat. Julian Kartun brings a warm, selfless sort of demeanor to his interpretation of Spinetta, and singer Andy Chango might be the best of the supporting characters thanks to an uncanny performance as Charly García – to the point in which, if one squints a less attentive viewer might think digital de-aging processes were involved in the making. 

Fito Páez also serves as a gateway into Páez’s celebrated songbook. By featuring new performances of the songs instead of the original versions, though, hardcore followers might feel let down. That, however, does not ruin a thoroughly intense, ultimately lovely experience: Fito Páez: El Amor Después Del Amor does not promise things it cannot be and wholeheartedly achieves most of its key goals. Overall, it does a fine job of summarizing the first 30 years of Fito Páez’s well-lived life.