Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Go on singing, more, more: Jobim remembered

So I come back to my first note
As I must come back to you...

--"Samba de Uma Nota Só"/"One Note Samba" by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça 

Music according to Tom Jobim (aka, The Music according to Antonio Carlos Jobim), a new film by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, takes me back not only to the heyday of bossa nova but to my own days of mad love for the sounds of Brazil and Brazil-infused jazz. Jobim's lilting, romantic music flashed through my nerves and sent my young imagination reeling. Now dos Santos brings all of that back with this unusual documentary tribute, soon to open at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's New York Film Festival 2011.

Rejecting the expected voice-over and talking-heads approach, Dos Santos allows music--plus an extraordinary collage of vintage, and sometimes quite worn, film and video performance clips--to tell the story of Jobim's career in Brazil and abroad and the huge influence his songs had on performers around the globe. If you're old enough, you probably remember Jobim for "Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema")--a worldwide 1960s hit that gets satiric treatment here through a surprising series of perfomance clips from the cute to the beyond-belief ridiculous. But there was so much more covert power to the delicious, delicate magnetism of Jobim's range of songs. You can feel that sensual, if wistful, pull in "Dindi," "Insensatez" ("How Insensitive"), "Desafinado" ("Off key"), "Wave," "Corcovado" ("Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars") and the haunting "A felicidade" ("Happiness"), the theme from Black Orpheus. Written solo or with lyricists like Newton Mendonça and Vinicius de Moraes, these lovely standards are songs to curl up inside.

Nearly seventeen years after Jobim's passing, it's both cheerful and poignant to watch him perform his music in this film. The composer's warmth and joy animate his every appearance even as we watch time thicken and age him. Even in one of his late performances, which looks rather labored, you can sense his commitment to the music and to his audience.

Dos Santos and co-director Dora Jobim, Jobim's granddaughter, have compiled footage recording sensational interpretations of Jobim songs by Gal Costa, Silvia Telles, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Diana Krall (who, sexy enough in English, wows the Brazilians by singing in Portuguese), Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Jane Monheit, Stacey Kent and Milton Nascimento among many others. If I could design a heaven, Sarah Vaughn would be singing "Wave," an astonishingly sensitive Frank Sinatra would be dueting with Jobim on "Girl from Ipanema," and Ella Fitzgerald would smash her bottle of champagne on the good ship "Desafinado."

To borrow and flip some lyrics from "How Insensitive," let me be clear: This love affair ain't over.

Music according to Tom Jobim

by Nelson Pereira dos Santos
Brazil, 2011 (Regina Films)
Portuguese with English subtitles
88 minutes

October 2 at 6pm and 8:30pm (tickets)

A presentation of the New York Film Festival
Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
Broadway and 65th Street, Manhattan

Subway: #1 local train to 66th Street/Lincoln Center Station
Bus: The M5, M7, M10, M11, M66 and M104 bus lines all stop within one block of Lincoln Center.

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