If ever anyone earned the title "diva," it was the late singer Amalia Rodrigues, whose international career spanned six decades. Not "diva" in the popular sense of a stuck-up bitch, but diva in the original sense a goddess of her artform. Born into poverty in 1920 in the Beira Baixa region of Portugal, Rodrigues began singing for neighbors as a four-year-old. As she matured, she specialized in traditional fado ("fate" in Portuguese) songs, characterized by heart-breaking lyrics and melancholy music. Before she was 20, Rodrigues had made her professional debut at one of Lisbon's most popular fado clubs. "The fado demands a dark soul and a suffering nature," explains Rodrigues who at certain angles resembled Maria Callas and she apparently had both, along with a gutsy voice and an imperious demeanor (though in archival footage from an American TV variety show with Eddie Fisher and Don Ameche, she looks surprisingly small). Rodrigues branched out into theater and movies including the occasional non-singing role and this documentary relies heavily on long clips of Rodrigues performing. It was edited down from the five-hour series Amalia, a Strange Way of Life, which director Bruno de Almeida made for Portuguese television in 1995, and it's hard not to wonder whether footage dealing with Rodrigues' offstage life was left on the cutting-room floor. It's certainly nowhere in evidence. Or perhaps Rodrigues's remark that she lived only for performance is true; in any event, the only glimpses behind the curtain are a brief allusion to a difficult period in her life, and Rodrigues's account of her suicidal thoughts when a tumor was found in her jaw. Fortunately, Fred Astaire videos gave her the will to have surgery and move on. This reverential film is a fine introduction to Rodrigues' work, and offers tantalizing glimpses of her larger-than-life personality.
(In English and Portuguese with English subtitles.)
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: NR
- Review: If ever anyone earned the title "diva," it was the late singer Amalia Rodrigues, whose international career spanned six decades. Not "diva" in the popular sense of a stuck-up bitch, but diva in the original sense a goddess of her artform. Born into… (more)