Exploring fantasy, magic and mysticism in West African films
Mary Dore, director of She's Beautiful When She's Angry, spoke to us about making her documentary about the early years of the women’s rights movement.
The films of Carlos Saura create a doorway to understanding the body, heart, and soul of the people of the Iberian Peninsula and its diaspora. Saura is a Spanish filmmaker whose films focus on dance, music, and singing in the flamenco tradition, and sometimes use those things to tell a story. He’s best known in this country for his Flamenco Trilogy, comprised of Blood Wedding (Bodas De Sangre, 1981), Carmen (1983), and Love, the Sorcerer (El Amor Brujo, 1986). Blood Wedding, Love, the Sorcerer, and Carmen are story films, as are Tango (1998) and Salome (2002), and all share themes of love, death, betrayal, and passion. Saura’s Flamenco Flamenco (2010), Fados (2007), Iberia (2005), Sevillanas (1992), and Flamenco (1995) are compilations of performances unified around a common theme. The difference between his performance films and his narrative films is that in his narrative films there’s a story in which somebody gets stabbed. However, both of Saura’s filmmaking formats utilize elements from both fiction and documentary styles. All of his films are love letters, a record of his passions for Spain, music, dance, language, and love itself. Saura is the only filmmaker I can think of whose films tie together so many art forms of the Spanish-speaking world: tango, flamenco, and sevillanas are all uniquely Hispanic dances.
Saura is a filmmaker who finds the moviemaking process at least as interesting as the story that unfolds in front of the camera, so his films always “show the bones”; in fact he makes use of them as an element of the design, like pipes in a loft. He’s not interested in realistic sets or pretending that the songs and dancers weren’t staged especially for a camera. He rightly thinks the dancers themselves, their lives, and the process of making a film are just as visual and film-worthy as anything else. He supplies just enough structure to unify the production.
Saura employs signature devices to enhance and intensify the visual impact of his dancers and singers. Every Saura film incorporates silhouettes, scrims and screens, mirrors, and raking light to try to give a feeling of watching each performer “in the round”, or at least from multiple angles at a time. This has the effect of intensifying the images of the dancers. For each film, he rents out the biggest places he can find and fills the space with his transparent and mirrored walls. Oh, yes, and he loves a good catfight.
Through the themes and characters of 2010's Black Swan and 1948's <em The Red Shoes, Amy Anna argues that ballet is "the monster that eats its young."
THE COMPANY OF WOVLES is a fascinating fairy tale about the ambivalence of puberty and the seduction and dangers of adulthood.