A documentary of interest only to those already familiar with its subject, Maria Bethania: Music Is Perfume is meant to be an in-depth biography of the Brazilian singer, who is, if the press notes are to be believed, a living legend in her home country. Few non-native viewers are likely to know that, however, and director Georges Gachot makes no attempt to explain her importance in the artistic or social contexts that could make the story resonate for American audiences. The film gets by for a little while on performance footage and on the strength of Bethania’s personality, but it doesn’t take very long before the lack of depth in Gachot’s portrait of the woman begins to grate. There’s nothing here substantially different from an MTV documentary, and though Bethania is significantly more articulate than our vapid pop stars, Gachot doesn’t seem especially interested in doing anything with her insights. Without any greater context, her words are simply evidence of a director too enamored with his subject to look beyond her personally, the rare exception being the few times Gachot layers Bethania’s words over footage of Brazil’s rundown streets, a juxtaposition that could have been a commentary on the healing power of music in the country if the film’s camcorder-quality video didn’t make the whole thing look like your aunt’s crappy vacation footage.
- ArtMattan Productions
- 82 min
- Georges Gachot
- Maria Bathania, Nana Caymmi, Miucha, Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Jaime Alem
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