This is an extraordinary film musically. It made me feel awful that Rodrigues died in 1999, before I had a chance to see her live. To know that she performed a marvelous Lincoln Ctr. concert in 1991 & that I might've been there, but wasn't is painful beyond words.
I just purchased my first Amalia recording. While the musical recording is fantastic, being able, in this film to SEE her face & its tremendous expressiveness & passion as she sings these songs of terrible sadness is wonderful. Sort of like seeing the face of Mary as she cradles Jesus in her arms in the Pieta. Watching her on film, reminded me of being witness to a similar extraordinary concert performance by Mercedes Sosa in the mid 1990s at Lincoln Ctr. As I sat listening to Mercedes sing, I felt I was in the presence of a tremendous spiritual & musical force that contained awesome primal power. Some of "The Art of Amalia"'s musical segments are touching, such as Caetano Veloso paying tribute to Amalia & singing one of her songs solo in front of a packed concert hall. The musical segments also convey the incredible international sweep of her musical repertoire & the bonds she created w. fans throughout the entire world. There is one segment in which she claims that she has played in every single town in Italy that has a stage!
In another section, Amalia talks about her bout w. mouth cancer & how she came to NYC to commit suicide in a hotel. Yet, through watching Fred Astaire film videos she gradually persuaded herself that life was worth living & turned away from killing herself. Amazing! Later in the film, she quite bravely & directly admits to the interviewer that though she might've conquered the world musically, her personal life was one of pure sadness. She admits that she has never been happy. This is unbearably sad to hear, but perfectly in keeping w. a singer steeped in the fado (which she translates as "bad destiny" or "bad luck") tradition. Also, one longs to hear more about her personal life: what was in that made her so sad? what were her disappointments?
"The Art of Amalia" is a little disappointing in other major areas. My quibbles: to show 20-30 full songs in the film yet to only provide an English translation for the very last one seems a waste (unless the film was only intended for a Portuguese speaking audience, which I can't imagine). To see the profound pain on her face as she sings & not to understand the lyrics is a let down. As for the other minuses: there is almost no biographical material about Amalia's family background. There is one 20 sec. snippet w. her singing w. her mother (it's absolutely grand). There is one short reference to her parents moving fr. the countryside to Lisbon. I would've loved to see film footage of the village she came from. The interviews such as they are are almost solely w. Amalia herself (& a few close friends). She is a good, but not great subject. There are no interview subjects who are experts on fado or Portuguese culture & society, so we get no depth of understanding of her musical roots.
In short, this is a wonderful film that everyone interested in Amalia should see. But it's not a perfect or definitive work on the subject.
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