Director Carlos Saura is an elegant stylist with a passion for song and dance that comes through in every frame of Fados, opening Friday, May 8, at Starz FilmCenter. The movie is essentially a series of music videos that are linked sonically — all of the material is derived from or inspired by fado, an often melancholy genre native to Portugal — as well as visually, by virtue of their staging in a large, uncrowded studio. In lesser hands, this setting would be a blueprint for boredom, but Saura uses film projections, mirrors, bold backdrops and elegant camera moves to frame the performances, most of which juxtapose musicians with dancers who figuratively or literally embody a given lyric.
As in any project of this sort, some sequences work better than others. For instance, "Marceneiro," a hip-hop excursion featuring NBC/SP & Wilson, feels relatively forced. But singers such as Mariza ("Transparente") and Lura ("Flor di Nha Esperança") are spectacular camera subjects whose delivery is so open and uninhibited that their every note leaves an emotional mark.
Fados screens at 7 p.m. at Starz, in the Tivoli building. Tickets range from $6 for Denver Film Society members to $7.50, and additional showings are scheduled through May 14. Details are available at 303-595-3456 or www.denverfilm.org.