The Art Of Amália

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The Art Of Amália

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Star of stage and screen! The most celebrated cultural phenomenon in Portuguese history! The diva whose towering voice seduced the world in one triumphant tour after another! Named one of the five best living singers by no less an authority than Variety magazine! As seen on TV's Coke Time with Eddie Fisher and Don Ameche, and endorsed by hipster musicians David Byrne and Caetano Veloso! A 50-year career packed with nothing but dizzying peaks (except for that little incident in 1984 when she was so overcome with malaise that she tired to kill herself in a New York hotel, but you don't really care to know about that, do you?)! See it all in Bruno de Almeida's docu-infomercial The Art Of Amália, an interminable 90-minute wallow in shameless bootlicking star worship. The object of de Almeida's unchecked adulation is Amália Rodrigues, an iconic figure in her native Portugal, where she mastered the melancholic singing style of fado, which roughly translates to "bad fortune." She began her professional career at 15, then quickly rose to fame on the strength of her dark beauty and achingly beautiful voice, soon becoming an international sensation. She went on to star in several films, all box-office smashes, and performed to sold-out houses of enraptured fans in Italy, France, Spain, and America. Or at least that's the story as narrated by John Ventimiglia in a tone that combines the cracker-dry readings of a PBS narrator with the wild hyperbole of an overzealous pitchman. De Almeida, who is currently preparing a five-hour documentary on Rodrigues for French and Portuguese television, reveres her so much that he refuses to ask her the most basic questions about her life. Other than Byrne, who appears briefly by way of introduction, Rodrigues is the only talking head in the entire documentary, the leading authority on herself. The rest is just the usual assortment of stills, movie clips, and performance footage designed to immortalize a woman who apparently never played to a half-empty venue or even stumbled into bad lighting. The Art Of Amália deliberately ignores her personal life, including her 36-year marriage to an engineer and the aforementioned bout with suicidal thoughts, but since the fado tradition is rooted in tragedy, this information is pertinent to understanding her music. Instead, de Almeida encases her in bronze.

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