your idea of Argentine music begins and ends with tango that is a great start,
but there is a much fuller history to survey. Carlos Saura helped popularize
the tango around the world with his Oscar nominated hybrid-musical Tango (the man likes simple titles, at
least for international releases). Now he fills in the rest of the mosaic with Argentina (trailer here), a gorgeous
performance documentary in the style of his previous Fados and Flamenco, Flamenco,
which opens this Friday in New York.
is no talking in Argentina (well
maybe a bit of incidental convo, but that is just for behind-the-scenes flavor),
just dancing, playing, and singing. In some cases, the latter is more like
chanting. Saura is not fooling around when he goes for the folk roots. Some of
the music performed for his camera is not so different on the Pampas or the
Andes centuries ago.
much of the music is also profoundly sophisticated, like the treated piano
stylings of Lito Vitale (the film’s musical coordinator), which sound as
contemporary as anything you might hear at the Stone on any given night. Saura
proves once again, he is the best in the business when it comes to capturing
dance on film. In this case he has the added advantage of two wildly cinematic
show-stopping numbers. The first features Koki and Pajarín Saavedra swinging
the traditional (and usually lethal) gaucho bolas, with double-dutch abandon.
Even more energized is the dance and drum circle formed by the Metabombo
ensemble. Their moves and grooves are infectious.
Argentina is packed with good
musically evangelical intentions, but some do not pan out as well as others.
Several of the traditional drums have a low, dry resonance that probably hits
live listeners in their lower vertebrae, but are clearly difficult to recreate
on film. Saura also incorporates tributes to leftist icons Mercedes Sosa and Atahualpa
Yupanqui, but their black-and-white archival performances screened on large
back walls to dwarf the reverent listeners, creepily evokes Big Brother from 1984, perhaps more rightly so than Saura
The rest of Saura’s Argentina certainly looks characteristically beautiful. This time
around, Saura collaborated with Argentine cinematographer Félix Monti, who also
lensed German Kral’s Our Last Tango
and Robert Duvall’s Assassination Tango,
so he certainly knows how to set-up shots on a dance floor. He gives each
performance a rich, warm glow in keeping with the look of Saura’s prior
performance films. Recommended for patrons of dance and Latin folk music, Argentina opens this Friday (6/17) in New
York, at the Lincoln Plaza.
Labels: Carlos Saura, Dance on film, Documentary