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Spanish director Carlos Saura has long evidenced an obsession with flamenco, the unique Spanish form of folk music and dance that dates back to the 18th century. Having previously exposed the art in his 1980s “Flamenco Trilogy” (Blood Wedding, Carmen, El Amor Brujo), he’s now returned with a sequel to his 1995 effort Flamenco. Featuring 21 short musical and dance numbers performed in rapid succession sans subtitles, explanatory text or narration, Flamenco is a treat for the senses that will delight dance fans. Currently receiving is U.S. theatrical premiere, it’s destined for a very long life in ancillary formats, even if its wondrous visuals are best appreciated on the big screen.
Photographed by his longtime collaborator, famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor), the film delivers a concentrated dose of expert flamenco performances by both veterans and a younger generations of artists. Highlights are too numerous to mention, but they include Sara Baras, a blazing vision of lithe movement clad in a blindingly red dress; the late 79-year-old singer Maria Bala, delivering her final filmed vocal performance; “Cartagenera y Bulerias,” featuring a pair of furiously dueling pianists; and “Copla Por Buleria,” in which singer Miguel Poveda delivers an impassioned vocal accompanied by two performers rhythmically clapping their hands on a table illuminated by a single overhead light.
Even for those not enamored of this particular musical/dance form, the steady flow of performances featuring highly varying styles insures that the viewer’s interest doesn’t wane. Shot at the Seville Expo ’92 pavilion and using landmark paintings by the likes of Picasso, Goya and Klimt as backdrops, the film is a visual treat, with Saura strictly controlling his camera movements to accentuate the virtuosity of the performances and Storaro providing a virtual master class lesson on how to use color and light for maximum effect.
The stagebound artificiality of the proceedings is breached only once, when the camera veers from the studio confines to include a shot of a blue sky and a massive structure overhead. It’s as if we’ve been suddenly awakened from a fever dream.
Production: General de Producciones y Diseno
Director/screenwriter: Carlos Saura
Producers: Juan Jesus Caballero, Javier Sanchez Garcia
Executive producers: Carlos Saura Medrano, Leslie Calvo
Director of photography: Vittorio Storaro
Editor: Vanesa L. Marimbert
Costume designer: Equipo Austen Junior
No rating, 97 min.
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