Here's the thing. When you film the recordings of a music album, capturing the doubts, the questions, the essays, the stop-start attempts, the rehearsals, the conversation, how do you make it into an actual, fully-fledged documentary worthy of theatrical presentation and not just one of the standard industry-issue "making of" pieces offered as enticing bonuses to get you to buy the physical disc?
In the case of Portuguese filmmaker Bruno de Almeida, that difference lies in his visual eye, in his clearly defined vision of a recording session as a group of workers assembling something.
Fado Camané's grainy, black and white textures and the director's attention to eyes, faces, bodies, physical presences are all about the push and pull of people coming together to manufacture art, though this is manufacture as handicraft, artistic creation as a decision tree that whittles down possibilities.
Fado Camané is, thus, a singer recording an album - the outstanding Portuguese Fado singer Camané and his 2008 studio album Sempre de Mim - and finding it as he goes along, with the help of the musicians, the recording engineer, the lyricists, the journalists who interview him during the recording, the producer, the cameramen who also interviews him.
It's also a different beast than the original version of these images as - there you go - a 30-minute "making of" piece included in a limited edition release of the record. The six-year interval between the album's release and the film's completion means this is no shameless plug but rather an exploration of a creative, artistic process as exemplified in a series of recording sessions, a quest for artistic meaning that focuses on personalities and relationships.
But, for all that, there's a sense that its timelessness is not enough to let Fado Camané carry its weight as a theatrical feature, that the attempt at interspersing theory (the sitdown interview segments) and practice (the actual recordings) is an acknowledgement that there's only so far you can go with this sort of material and you can't really bring nothing new to the table unless you completely reverse the approach - something that wouldn't work with an artist as sober and serious as Camané is.
Fado Camané is thus a fascinating portrait of the way Camané records, of the way he approaches the songs and of how his musical director and producer José Mário Branco helps him get where he wants to be, smartly if unobtrusively handled by Mr. de Almeida; it is certainly more than just DVD bonus or late-night-slot television, but that doesn't make it more than just a solid, well-made music documentary.
Director, producer and editor Bruno de Almeida; cinematographer Paulo Abreu (b&w); production companies BA Filmes and Museu do Fado in association with Warner Music Portugal
Screened October 14th 2014, UCI El Corte Inglés 9, Lisbon (distributor press screening)
FADO CAMANÉ de Bruno de Almeida Trailer from Arco Films on Vimeo.