The Fado is a dolorous folksong tradition from Portugal, first sung in the early 19th century by barefoot peasants mending nets and contemplating a roiling black Atlantic. It has survived to the present day, providing MP3 succor to middle-class professionals on antidepressants (lyric: It was Gods will that I live with anxiety)and now its the subject of a film revue by the venerable Carlos Saura. Contemporary celebs appear (superstar fadistamewlers Mariza and Lura), alongside ghosts (Amália Queen of Fado Rodrigues). Saura is formally ambitiousa troupe travels through the film, articulating lyrics in dancebut the movie missteps when departing wholly from the intrinsic nostalgia of its subject, as the seventysomething director imposes his idea of contemporary cool: interspersed hip-hop trio NBC, SP & Wilson and Brazilian reggae artist Toni Garrido. The sequestering of performers into warehouse-studio spaces adds a certain chill to the proceedings, but there are happy exceptions. Nonagenarian Argentina Santos fills her single-take frame with stout gravitas. The penultimate scene takes place in the House of Fados, a Freed Unit version of a Lisbon barroom, its walls a graveyard of headshots, where song is passed around like a challenge and teenaged braceface Carminho shuts the place down.
June 5-18, 2009