The Art of Amália

             Amália Rodrigues (1920-99) recorded numerous albums, starred in
     about a dozen feature films and numerous shorts, appeared on international
     concert stages, and was considered a national treasure in her native Portugal.
     She was well-known and loved in various European countries and American
     audiences were exposed to her prodigious talents as early as 1949 when
     she was a guest on Coke Time With Eddie Fisher. Still, outside of a rarefied
     few, she remains relatively unknown in the United States. That may be
     about to change, thanks in part to The Art of Amália, a fine documentary
     directed by Bruno de Almeida.

             Culled from a five-hour portrait made for Portuguese television,
The Art of Amália concentrates almost exclusively on the Ms. Rodrigues'
     singing. Anyone expecting to learn more than the rudimentary facts about
     her private life will be disappointed; there's no salacious gossip, no
     confessions of grand passions or disclosures of hidden secrets. Instead,
     de Almeida, commissioned along with Rodrigues' biographer Vítor Pavão
     dos Santos to shoot a film about the performer in 1995, has made the
     bold choice of allowing the woman's talent to speak for itself.

             Amália Rodrigues began her career as a teenager performing in
     the taverns of Lisbon and soon came to be the doyenne of fado, an
     indigenous musical form akin to American blues that mixed Arab, gypsy
     and European influences into a melodic lament. (Fado means "fate" or
     "destiny.") Over the course of her long career, Rodrigues collaborated with
     composers and transformed the style, stretching it to include Spanish
     and Italian -- as well as Broadway -- idioms. While there are other
     fado singers, Amália Rodrigues was THE fado singer.

             De Almeida has mixed clips of her stage appearances (including
     archival footage that dates back to the 1940s) with scenes from her
     motion pictures and a contemporary interview with the diva. The result
     is a fascinating portrait of the growth of an artist from a young woman
     with a powerful voice to an aged but undimmed beauty and talent. A
     loving tribute to Rodrigues who died shortly after her interview was filmed,
The Art of Amália serves as both an introduction to those unfamiliar with
     her talent and a final bow for one of world music's most gifted performers.

                             Rating:                  B -
                             MPAA Rating:         NONE
                             Running time:        90 mins.
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.