When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
Carlos Saura’s FADOS
Categories: Getting Personal


I caught the new Carlos Saura movie FADOS in NYC on the way to Lisbon a few weeks ago. At that time, the air traffic fates seemed against me since my flight was delayed and I had a 24 hour stayover in New York before leaving for Europe. Fortunately the Cinema Goddess gave me the perfect sendoff for 2 weeks in Portugal by having this movie playing at those theaters that are across from Lincoln Center.

Saura is not one of the filmmakers to whom I was intuitively drawn, but instead I initially saw a film of his on recommendation: while on the board of directors of IMAGE Film/Video Center in Atlanta, a colleague who was a former dancer gave me a heads up on Saura’s CARMEN. The film really clicked and I’ve tried to catch all his works since.

When Saura’s movies went from being dramas-with-dance to dance-and-music-anthologies (around the time of his TANGO), I had to stop and re-evaluate his movies. (Again, with cinematic synchronicity, I saw TANGO around the time of my first trip to Buenos Aires.) With FADOS, I discover viewing a film that is strictly collaged from interpretations of a cultural artform can heighten the enthnographic study and pleasures of seeing a film. Seeing legendary performers and fresh hiphop artists interpreting fado music in a single sitting, situated in intelligent and totally filmic spheres of performance, can enrich in a way that his earlier drama-based works could not. (And the sequences were executed in a way that made a tech-head like me sit up and try to unravel how shots were made.)

And speaking of legends, on my first trip to Lisbon (before fado music became fashionable again) I went to an underground cavern of a nightclub that was very Rick’s Cafe Americain in its melange of international clientele, and under-the-radar camaraderie. The high point of the evening was hearing a remarkable singer, Argentina Santos, who Had The Power and knew what to do with it. She climbed on the intimate stage and began singing: the room was silent. [I totally forgot about the drink in my hand for the entire set.] With each breath, she would arch her eyebrow in a certain fashion that seemed to say, “Hang on, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”

Argentina Santos


When Santos’ face, in all her decaying magnificence, materialized on the cinema screen in FADOS, my hand flew to my chest as my body experienced a semi-kundalini rush. She still has everything that makes fado what it is: tristesse, mystery, passion, control.

Doug / PoMo Joan

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