Review: Fados

Carlos Saura’s hybridization of cinematic and musical techniques is an orgy for the eyes and ears.


Fados is Carlos Saura’s art-gallery fête of a popular genre of Portuguese music whose influence can be traced to the Moors. This concert film blissfully synthesizes various modes of fado, but while Saura’s accommodation of styles old and new represents a humane exercise, the Spanish director does not risk the fearlessness of Tony Gatlif’s Vengo—not because Fados lacks a conventional narrative, but because a reverential Saura does not elucidate how fado music is an extension of a country’s history and expresses a people’s private needs. The closest he comes to such insight is a performer’s stroll through a row of room-high panels onto which documentary snippets of modern Portuguese living are projected—or is this thrilling tableau simply an acknowledgement of the formalist Saura’s agoraphobia? Beyond the passion of the fado music showcased in the film is Saura’s fancy use of props and the camera’s liquid-like movement through the stage’s mise-en-scène. The filmmaker’s fixation with pastel screens and silhouettes no longer excites, but his projections have never been deployed to such kaleidoscopic effect. Saura projects the bodies of singers and dancers onto the surface of enormous screens, catching their reflections at such angles that solos are transformed into duets, troupes into armies. Saura’s latest exaltation of a native dance may not frazzle the nerves, but its hybridization of interplaying cinematic and musical techniques is still an orgy for the eyes and ears.

 Director: Carlos Saura  Running Time: 92 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2007  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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