Published Jun 29, 2012With an astonishing surplus of more than 40 films under his belt, being recognized by both Cannes and the Oscars, Spanish filmmaker Carlos Saura is mostly synonymous with movies featuring traditional flamenco and other Spanish dances. Fans of his work undoubtedly know him best for his flamenco trilogy in the '80s, which consisted of Bodas de Sangre, Carmen and El Amor Brujo, making this latest experimental documentary of sorts both unsurprising and familiar, seeing as Flamenco, Flamenco is about, well, flamenco dance and song.
Filmed entirely within the Seville Expo 92 pavilion, large reprints of some of the world's most beautiful paintings stand scattered across the floor and are either incorporated or the inspiration for the surplus of flamenco performances featured in the film. Saura gathered such international stars as Eva Yerbabuena, Sara Bara, Farruquito and Estrella Morente, and showcases the various sultry, emotional and spunky sides of the flamenco artistry.
What sets this film apart from other documentaries is how it's pieced together. The narrative is thrown out the window and instead replaced with a series of music video-quality performances, even foregoing the use of subtitles or any sort of translation. At the beginning of each piece, a small onscreen notation is provided to indicate the name of the performer(s), the genre and occasionally the name of the applicable choreographer. Once the performance is shown, the screen fades to black and then it's on to the next. Some feature only music, while some have full ensembles and one or more dancers – one even features three men sitting around a table knocking their knuckles in unison to emit a flamenco-inspired, peppy tune.
Those already keen on this performance genre will undoubtedly find this film breathtaking, revelling in the gorgeously framed visuals and sensuous performances. Notable is the minimal, but apt usage of colour, which perfectly complements the on-screen action, much like the large, cavernous space, allowing for some incredible camera angles that capture the spirit and emotion of the performances.
However, those without any prior knowledge of flamenco hoping to learn about the art's rich history will be disappointed by the 90 minutes of music videos, sans plot. (Mongrel Media)