The Art of Amalia | Chicago Reader

The Art of Amalia

This accumulation of audiovisual material from the career of legendary Portuguese fado singer Amalia Rodrigues (1920-'99) batters viewers with uninflected data. Dozens and dozens of performance and film clips—she was also an acclaimed actress—are combined with zoom-ins on her face in still photographs, close-ups of dates and locations on show bills, and a dry, puffy voice-over. The relentless quantifying—we even learn how many seats were in the venues she sold out—erodes much of the power of the sumptuous performance footage, limiting the movie's scope to thinly disguised promotion. Though the star's dutiful archivist, director Bruno de Almeida, has made several other movies about Rodrigues, he shows minimal regard for how her interspersed comments (from a then recent interview) might enhance the surrounding clips. An intriguing irony barely emerges: Rodrigues's proud but detached interview manner—it's almost as if she were talking about someone else—makes an eerie contrast with the emotionalism of her performances. In Portuguese with subtitles. 90 min.

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