When a good performance turns great, you hardly notice the transformation. Instead, you focus on the myriad details – the intricacies of a dancer's hand gestures, the deftness of a guitarist. You become caught up less in the genre's traditions or tropes and more in the endless possibilities and variations opening before you.
That's the case with Carlos Saura’s new film, Flamenco Flamenco, which simply captures 21 brief, masterful flamenco performances. It is a sequel of sorts to his similar 1995 film Flamenco.
With famed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, The Last Emperor) behind the camera, Saura makes ingenious use of backdrops and scrims, each decorated as grand paintings and all framing the Flamenco dancers, singers, guitarists and other musicians who take the stage to reinterpret flamenco and all its sub-genres.
Rocio Molina dances a piece in a kind of gaucho style, with cigarette in mouth, as she gestures seductively while fast-clicking her heels.
Israel Galvan performs the most mesmerizing dance, a solo work with only his heels and finger snaps for accompaniment, as his body takes on a rapid succession of codified shapes. Deep in his performance is the feel of Spanish suavity and refinement.
Guitarists, meanwhile, amaze with rapid patterns up and down the fret board, while singers threaten to steal the show with Arab-tinged songs of lament and yearning. Estrella Morente is particularly commanding as she sings tangos and flips her mane of streaked back with aplomb.
These are simply incredible performances, captured stunningly on film.