Adorned in oranges, purples, and golds, and unfolding on shimmering soundstages flanked by scrims and screens of varying sizes, Fados creates a universe unto itself, an enclosed festival space meant to stand in for an entire world of song. This is the norm for the brilliant Spanish director Carlos Saura, who for nearly thirty years has built a parallel film career (to his more conventional dramatic one) as a charter of musical traditions. After his “flamenco trilogy,” all collaborations with the late, great dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades, in which he was working through his notions of how to convey dance and movement on screen (Blood Wedding, Carmen, and El amor brujo are all dazzling, self-consciously movie-movie deconstructions as much as filmed flamenco ballets), Saura then moved on to the straightforwardly titled Flamenco and Tango, both immense popular successes. Fados, which takes its title from a tradition of emotive, melancholy singing derived in the poor port-side areas of early nineteenth-century Lisbon (but with African and Brazilian origins), and which has survived into various modern incarnations, rounds out this second trilogy.
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