As a hall fills with performers, a narrator says that flamenco came from Andalucia, a mix of Greek psalms, Mozarabic dirges, Castillian ballads, Jewish laments, Gregorian chants, African ... See full summary »
As a hall fills with performers, a narrator says that flamenco came from Andalucia, a mix of Greek psalms, Mozarabic dirges, Castillian ballads, Jewish laments, Gregorian chants, African rhythms, and Iranian and Romany melodies. The film presents thirteen rhythms of flamenco, each with song, guitar, and dance: the up-tempo bularías, a brooding farruca, an anguished martinete, and a satiric fandango de huelva. There are tangos, a taranta, alegrías, siguiriyas, soleás, a guajira of patrician women, a petenera about a sentence to death, villancicos, and a final rumba. Families present numbers, both festive and fierce. The camera and the other performers are the only audience. Written by
This film is entirely musical and dancing vignettes, composed and photographed on a sound stage (actually the public space of a train station converted to a stage for this film). It's beautifully, sparely photographed. If your entire conception of flamenco consists of the images of some lithe guy in a toreador outfit and an austere woman in a lacy black dress with castanets or thumb cymbals in her hands, drumming dramatically with their boot heels, this movie will open up a new view of flamenco.
This film shows a world of flamenco -- singing, dancing and guitarplaying melded into an intense, enclosing and dramatic space. The flamenco presented here is jazz-like and interpretive. Song, guitar and dance are blended in surprising and inventive ways. Song and dance are sometimes a cappella, extending the guitarplaying in subtle and intense "solos" accompanied often by hand-clapping or knuckles rapped on a table. This dancing is purely interpretive, as jazzy and individualized as any modern dance. These dancers have learned the technique but they make the flamenco their own. This is not an abstracted art form like a string quartet sitting in the well of a performance hall.
Nor is this flamenco the flared-skirt performance of athletic divas. Here we see children dancing with their parents; and grandparents demonstrating decisively that flamenco imbues the spirit with a graceful power that does not age.
At the end, we see the form of flamenco symbolically passed through a class of aspiring dancers. But the heart of the flamenco, I suspect, cannot be learned.
The only flaw in this film is likely to lie in the beholder. If you are not fluent in Spanish, the lyrics of the songs are meaningless. They are literally translated in the subtitles (the only "dialog" in the film), but I found the translations distracting. Like a lot of such translations, the literalness often made the powerfully sung lyrics seem trite.
Nonetheless, as the credits rolled at the end, I found myself shaking my head in wonder that just spare, rhythmic guitar, singing in an unknown language and dancing that consisted of as much anticipation as movement could leave me feeling that I had just watched something special. Over and over again.
4 of 5 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?