One of the most important figures in the history of Fado, Lisbon's native song, and the son of one of its greatest practitioners, Lucília do Carmo, Carlos do Carmo's 50-year career certainly deserves a documentary victory lap that underlines the role he played in opening up the genre and renovating it in a period (the 1970s) when it was openly unpalatable and dismissed out of hand. After all, Mr. do Carmo's career has been well documented from his beginnings in the 1960s, and he has arguably been the genre's most visible male practitioner in the past half-century, after the death of the legendary Alfredo Marceneiro and the rise of the remarkable Camané.
Unfortunately, Um Homem no Mundo sidesteps pretty much all of these aspects to become a self-congratulatory and highly complacent home movie of Mr. do Carmo's travels and of the honours that surrounded the celebration of his 50-year career and his reception of the Grammy Latino award in Las Vegas. Director Ivan Dias, who was one of the producers of Carlos Saura's underwhelming Fado showcase Fados, seems to be attempting to make for the singer what Miguel Gonçalves Mendes did for the late Nobel-winning writer José Saramago in the vastly superior José & Pilar - a film where the personal side of Mr. do Carmo sheds light on his creative practice - but fails miserably.
There is no possible insight gleaned from a meal with his grandsons that is shown at great length, nor from the extended footage from the Grammy Latino pre- and post-ceremony - and there's precious little period footage that explains just how long his career has been and how important it's been. And the interviews with friends and admirers - like artist Júlio Pomar, Mr. Saramago's widow Pilar del Rio or musicologist Rui Vieira Nery - reveal little or nothing either about Fado or about Mr. do Carmo's artistry.
For an international audience that has little to no knowledge of Fado or of the artist, Um Homem no Mundo comes off as worthless hagiography; for the locals who know of him, the film may be diverting but is a mere fluff piece, lacking rhythm or direction, that would make more sense as a DVD extra or as segments in a celebrity gossip programme - as underlined by the embarrassing post-credits footage of the Las Vegas wedding where he renewed his marriage vows with his wife during the Grammy Latino trip, something that makes little to no sense to be shared with a wider audience. Which is a shame: Mr. do Carmo does deserve a documentary homage. But this is neither homage nor documentary.
Originally meant for a December 2014 theatrical release in Portugal, the film was delayed at the last minute until April 2015 over what the distributor claimed were legal issues related to some of the music included. This review is based on the original 109-minute cut shown at the time; the final version released in April 2015, which was not screened for the press, is according to the distributors exactly the same with a few shots trimmed in length.
CARLOS DO CARMO - UM HOMEM NO MUNDO
Director and producer Ivan Dias; cinematographers Carlos Mendes Pereira and Gonçalo Falé; editor Jorge Carvalho; production companies Duvideo Filmes in co-production with Vanya Films, RTP, Fado Património da Humanidade, EGEAC and Lisbon Fado Museum
Screened December 17th 2014, Lisbon (DVD press screener)