My friend muckefuck urged me to rant about the film I saw last night–Carlos Saura’s Fados… so I will, though it will mostly show that I have no idea how to talk about music, or dance.

Fado is a distinctively Portuguese musical form, prototypically featuring a mandolin-like instrument properly called the Portuguese guitar; an acoustic guitar; and a soulful soloist.  About all I knew about it before was the key word saudade, roughly meaning ‘longing’ or ‘nostalgia’.

You get plenty of that in Saura’s film, but it’s also exploded by a wide range of variations: different instruments, a wider range of emotions, old and new schools, and above all a welcome splash of energy from Africa.  Most of the songs are accompanied by dance; my wife thought this added little, but I thought it worked.

The best thing about Saura’s direction is what he doesn’t do.  He doesn’t have a fit in the editing room in an attempt to jazz up the music.  He doesn’t force the eye with extreme close-ups, or show just snippets of songs.  There’s no talk.  It’s all music (and dance), allowing you to focus on the performances.  I dislike overviews that cut the work in question into little pieces, a practice which insults the very work the editor is trying to showcase.  And though talk can be good for getting some context, it’s not the best use of a movie’s time… I can always look up the verbiage later.

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