The Music According to Antonio Carlos Jobim (A Musica Segundo Tom Jobim): Cannes Review
Co-directors Nelson Pereira Dos Santos and Dora Jobim create a lively musical memorial to Brazil’s ambassador of bossa nova.
This freewheeling tribute to the Brazilian music legend Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim offered one of the most effortlessly enjoyable screening experiences in Cannes, but also one of the most insubstantial.
Showcasing the songs of the late composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist credited with popularising the bossa nova sound worldwide, it was co-directed by Jobim’s 36-year-old daughter Dora and the 83-year-old Brazilian veteran Nelson Pereira Dos Santos.
Essentially an audio-visual mixtape stitched together from archive musical performances, this breezy documentary has no editorial commentary, no talking heads and no clear narrative structure. Apparently aimed at specialist music fans already familiar with Jobim’s life story, the film’s most likely post-festival afterlife is on the small screen and home entertainment formats.
Even Jobim himself, who died in 1994, is almost an incidental character in this story. We see him performing at various stages of his 40-year career, but the majority of the film’s musical content consists of other artists covering his songs in Portuguese - plus French, English, Italian, Swedish and even Japanese translations. Bossa nova classics including Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars), Insensatez (How Insensitive) and of course Garota de Ipanema (The Girl From Ipanema) recur in multiple versions and languages.
The gallery of performers who cover Jobim’s music is certainly extraordinary, spanning several generation of jazz and pop legends including Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Judy Garland and Diana Krall. Two of the stand-out sequences feature Sammy Davis Jr. becoming a kind of human beatbox of bossa nova, and Jobim himself dueting with Frank Sinatra on two cuts from their first joint album in 1967. Grand masters of song working in sublime harmony, their voices intertwined like cigarette smoke.
But while the range of musical flavors in the film is impressively broad, it does tend towards a mellifluous easy-listening blandness at times. A few more offbeat contemporary interpreters of Jobim’s canon, such as David Byrne or Iggy Pop, might have given a broader picture of his universal allure. Some of the footage, especially the Garland clip, has clearly been salvaged from poor quality videotape. The ever-shifting montage technique also proves frustrating at times, often reducing great performances to fleeting fragments in one long audio-visual medley.
The Music According to Antonio Carlos Jobim is a sweet and undemanding experience, but would have been more satisfying with a more conventional structure and more biographical back story. As it stands, viewers have no choice but to lie back and be gently swept along by the music - rhythms like softly lapping waves, voices like warm tropical breezes. The filmmakers may have set out to write a love letter to a musical icon but it comes over more like a series of postcards.
Venue: Cannes special screening, May 22
Production Company: Regina Filmes Ltda.
Cast: Antonio Carlos Jobim, Chico Buarque, Vincius De Moraes, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland
Directors: Dora Jobim, Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
Editor: Luelane Correa
Screenplay: Miucha Barque Del Holanda, Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
Sales agent: Regina Filmes Ltda.
Rating TBC, 84 minutes