Music and memory are intertwined in Fados, Carlos Saura’s documentary about Portugal’s fado tradition. Through a diversity of song and dance performances, the act of remembering or returning to a (specific, or unidentified) past is conveyed both lyrically and visually, with the director projecting archival clips of revolutions or still photos of famous artists onto screens located behind or amidst his musicians. Saura shoots all his recitals inside, a strange decision considering his focus on the bond between art and environment (which can be gleaned through his use of movie footage of Lisbon). Still, he wonderfully attunes his film to bodies in motion, superimposing silhouettes of people over bustling street crowd imagery as a means of fostering a sense of collective cultural harmony. “This ballad is yours and mine,” croons one singer, articulating the idea that fado music is a deeply rooted communal heritage. This notion of shared history is pervasive, though most masterfully expressed with a final camera pan around the studio where the film was staged, during which sights of Lisbon, the filmmakers, and the crew – as well as, via the camera’s gaze into a mirror, the audience – are all united in one final moment of mutual experience.
(2007 New York Film Festival)