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Flamenco, Flamenco

Posted by martinteller on May 2, 2013

Carlos Saura is a master at showcasing dance and music.  Sometimes he misfires (Fados) but more often than not he delivers, especially with what I consider his best film, Carmen.  In 1995, he did a film called Flamenco, a stunning document highlighting the dance and music of the same name.  Fifteen years later, he gives us this follow-up.  I’ll have to revisit the first one to be sure (I docked it a few points at the time for pacing issues) but I think he outdid the previous effort.

The movie is shot inside the Seville Expo 92 pavilion, a cavernous modern space.  Saura employs minimal staging, but incorporates paintings by the Spanish masters — and in one scene, movie posters — bringing the Spanish culture together under one umbrella (speaking of umbrellas, one dance number is accompanied by rain).  Vittorio Storaro returns to provide dazzling, breathtaking cinematography.  The camera sometimes weaves around the performers, sometimes cuts to showcase their feet or faces or fingers.  The lighting and colors are incredibly gorgeous, and the film seems to progress from evening to night to morning.

Roughly two dozen performances are featured.  While there were a couple I didn’t care for (the guy dancing alone with no music goes on far too long), for the most part they’re spellbinding.  Songs about gypsies, Cuba, bullfighting, blood, lost loves, jealousy and burning desires.  Impressive musicianship, most of the percussion done with handclaps and everyday objects, and brilliant guitar playing (even at the peak of my abilities, I wasn’t a quarter as good as these guys).  And such beautiful dance, seductive and sensual, bursting with passion, heartache and joy.

Guaranteed to get your toes tapping, your mind humming and heart pounding.  I’ve seen a bunch of Saura’s performance movies, and I’m still hungry for more.  Rating: Very Good (87)


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