Posted by martinteller on May 2, 2014
This is the 6th film I’ve seen by Carlos Saura of this ilk (7th if you count Blood Wedding, which is pretty much in the same vein)… no plot, just pure performance of Spanish dance and music. I believe I have now seen all of them. This one is based entirely on the work of late 19th-century composer Isaac Albéniz. Despite being focused on the work of just one man, the music is varied enough to not get too monotonous. Much of it draws upon traditional folk styles (especially flamenco) and instrumentation ranges from piano to guitar to cello to percussion to more avant-garde stylings. Most of the pieces are accompanied by the usual impressive choreography and stunning use of color and staging. The look of the movie will be familiar to anyone who has seen any of Saura’s similar films: a wide-open soundstage with plain backdrops, highlighted by bold colors or shadows. “El Albaicín” is the film’s most striking segment, both musically and visually, as a woman performs a tormented dance behind a sheet of plastic wrap. Saura does occasionally employ projected images, but here it’s done in a way that’s less tacky than in Fados.
There’s a lot of great stuff here, but overall I have to place this in the middle of the pack. There’s very little singing this time around, which makes this film a bit harder to get through than others. Although the performances are stellar, there’s not quite enough personality on display, and I didn’t feel as warmly about the players as I did with Flamenco or its sequel Flamenco Flamenco. But there are sections that have a little more heart and soul, such as the portions with the young students of dance, or “Torre Bermeja” with those marvelous, very maternal-looking women. The dance of “Almeria” tells of a rough-and-tumble love triangle.
I wish there were a couple more stand-out pieces… some of them felt like “been there, seen that”. And I definitely prefer the films where there’s more singing. But on the whole there was a lot more that I enjoyed than what I didn’t enjoy, and the movie is as beautiful as any of the others. Rating: Good (76)