J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil ‘09: Wandering Heart

Many sides of Caetano Veloso, arguably the greatest figure of Brazil's Tropicália musical revolution, have been presented on film. He appeared as the romantic balladeer performing in Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her. Often times, he is presented as an icon of artistic conscience or simply the spiritual godfather of Brazilian music in general, as in films like Carlos Saura’s Fados. However, director Fernando Grostein Andrade offers a different perspective on Veloso, capturing the musician-vocalist’s laidback sense of humor in his documentary Wandering Heart, which screens during the 2009 Cine Fest Petrobras Brasil Film Festival.

Veloso’s fans know him as a charismatic performer, but they might be surprised how funny he is in private. Sometimes he even cracks himself up, as when he tells a Lady Di anecdote that is incomprehensible due to his giggling. Still, the music heard throughout Heart is of the consistent high quality his listeners will expect.

Loosely structured, Heart essentially follows Veloso during the American media campaign for his first English language album, and a subsequent tour of Japan, where he seems to have remarkably camera-friendly fans. As a result, the audience gets to hear some of his renditions of American popular song (like the Berlin standard “Blue Skies”) in addition to his traditional favorites.

While Andrade by-and-large paints a portrait of an artist living the good life, late in the film he includes an oblique reference from Veloso regarding personal tragedies that adds considerable context to his apparent happy-go-lucky attitude. Ultimately, Veloso emerges as a genuinely likable individual, joking with fans and laughing off criticism, secure in his estimable place in the Brazilian music scene.

Though Heart’s running time barely exceeds one hour, Andrade uses nearly every second. Viewers should be advised to stay through the entire final credits, because they are liberally interspersed with further candid footage and a brief but complete performance.

Heart is an entertaining profile of Veloso that should please longtime fans and intrigue new listeners. Refreshingly, he comes across like a person who would be fun to hang with—a youthful sixty-six year-old, despite his arrest and period of exile during the years of the military regime. One of several music documentaries selected for this year’s Cine Fest Petrobras, Heart screens again at the Tribeca Cinemas on Friday night (8/7).

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