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It’s difficult to write a review about a movie that has no plot, no subtitles, and no explanation. Yet, here we are. Carlos Saura’s Flamenco Flamenco is supposedly a historical exploration of both flamenco music and dance, but to be blunt, it’s more of an hour and a half long music video. There are no interviews, no historical reenactments, there aren’t even English subtitles for the song names or lyrics. To be fair, it’s a damn good music video, mostly due to Vittorio Storaro’s breathtaking cinematography, but it’s certainly not the most captivating film, especially if you know nothing about flamenco.

Flamenco Flamenco begins with the camera slowly and gracefully entering the Seville Expo ’92 pavilion in Spain, where the stage is covered with different paintings depicting flamenco dancers and musicians. These artworks serve as backdrops throughout most of the film, and are a perfect reflection of Storaro’s cinematography. Almost every scene of Flamenco Flamenco looks like it was ripped right out of a painting. While sometimes we’re treated with wide shots of large bands or dance troupes, the film is at its most visually interesting when Storaro gets up close. Occasionally, he focuses on a piece from a lovely costume, or on a dancers reflection in the stage floor, and it’s these small details that create the most interesting shots in the film.

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While there are scenes in the movie that are incredibly charming and beautiful, it was difficult for me to really pay attention to the entire film. Maybe it’s because I was waiting for some sort of historical analysis, or any sort of introduction really. Maybe it’s because I know almost nothing about flamenco. Either way, about thirty minutes into the film I was ready to move on to something else. Even though each song is presented differently, some have huge bands, while others consist of one singer and one dancer, all of the songs and dances started to blur together in my mind. On one hand, I think that’s the effect Suara was aiming for. It seems like he wants you to get lost in flamenco, but I don’t know if it left the impression he wanted. Instead of feeling inspired or in awe, I mostly just wanted to go to bed.

Perhaps an expert in flamenco, or maybe even someone that has more than a rudimentary knowledge of the music and dance, would glean more from Saura’s film. It certainly helps to know a little bit of Spanish, because absolutely nothing is translated. I’m sure Saura didn’t want the audience to get wrapped up in the idea of trying to understand each and every verse, as that would certainly distract from the beauty of the film. But there were moments where it definitely seemed like I was missing out on something meaningful. Some sparse translations might have even broke up the monotony a little bit.

By the end, the movie had gone full circle, and the camera slowly drifted out of the pavilion, just like it entered. I think Suara’s goal with Flamenco Flamenco was to usher the audience into the world of the art form, dazzle us for an hour and a half, and then quietly kick us out the back door. I think I’m supposed to leave with a newfound respect for flamenco and with a few key scenes stuck in my mind. Both of those things happened, but I can’t say I would ever want to watch Flamenco Flamenco again, or if I would ever show it to my friends. If you’re really interested, throw the movie on in the background and go about your day. There’s really no need to watch the entire thing.

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