Chico Buarque – MPB Especial TV Cultura 1973 (2010)


Chico Buarque
MPB Especial
produced by TV Cultura 1973
Released on DVD via Biscioto Fino 2010
Este MPB Especial foi gravado em 1973, poucos anos depois do retorno de Chico Buarque do auto-exílio na Itália, ainda na Ditadura Militar. E, por meio de um relato sobre sua produção artística da época, registrou-se um documento significativo não somente para a compreensão da obra do autor, mas também por expor faces e nuances de seu processo de criação.

Meu Refrão – Citação
Amanhã Ninguém Sabe – Citação
Deus Lhe Pague
Ela Desatinou / Construção – Citação
Samba De Orly
Ilmo Sr. Ciro Monteiro – Citação
Hino Do Politheama
Cuidado Com A Outra
Bom Conselho
Soneto – Citação
Olê, Olá
Boi Voador Não Pode – Citação
Flor Da Idade

What a wonderful surprise and delight when I walked into my favorite record/bookstore and saw this DVD on the shelf. It is a brand new release of an old classic program — MPB Especial on TV Cultura, the program where you never hear the questions, just the answers. I don’t know why they did it that way, and it kind of drives me insane, but that was their “thing” and there is nothing we can do about it now… In fact the result in the case of this particular program is that we get to watch Chico smoke a lot of cigarettes while he listens to the long-winded questions of the interviewer that the audience never hears…

This interview/performance sees Chico at a fascinating point in his career. Recently returned from his self-imposed exile in Europe, he is recently or currently involved in some of his most important albums — the pivotal masterwork, Construção (1971), the soundtrack for Caça Dieges’s film ‘Quando o Carnaval Chegar’ (1972), and the album Chico Canta (1973) which would contain a great deal of songs from the theatrical piece ‘Calabar’ written with Ruy Guerra, and which would have been its soundtrack album. “Calabar” was banned by the military government from opening as a theatre piece — and not only that, but it was prohibited to TELL anybody that it had been censured and banned!! At the time of this filming, Chico is still working on the play with Guerra and none of the bad stuff as happened yet… Or, perhaps I am wrong and it has — three of the songs that suffered the most from censorship, “Cala Boca Bárbara”, “Anna de Amisterdam” e “Vence na Vida Quem Diz Sim” (these last two were treated like Milton Nascimento had done with Milagre dos Peixas — removing the lyrics entirely and making them into instrumentals..) — do not appear at all in this interview. Of course, they could have been edited out subsequently to the filming. In between these two albums Chico had also issued collaborative efforts for the soundtrack to the Carlos Diegues film “Quando o Carnaval Chegar” and a live album shared with Caetano Veloso.

Some of the more revelatory things about the interview is the fact that, a) Chico doesn”t remember a lot of his own songs.. In something that might be called the stance of a ‘true artist’, he focuses all his energy on a piece until it is done being written and recorded, and then he lets it go and moves on to the next thing. The result here is seeing him start playing a lot of tunes (at the request of the invisible interviewer) and stopping saying, ‘I don’t remember the rest” or “I don’t remember anything.” I find this fascinating because, unlike, say, Alice Cooper being too drunk to remember his own songs, this is Chico f’ing Buarque, the sober intellectual, and his fans probably remember these songs better than he does. Other wonderful moments are b) listening to him talk about the writing process, and the fact that he didn’t write lyrics before the music — which is contrary to what I had always thought about him. In fact he claims he *can’t* write the words until the music is there — and I am not sure if I believe him about this! He is also asked to give an opinion about his friend and partner Vinicius de Moraes, to which he gives kind of a hilarious response beginning with “A gente não tem opinão do Vinicius…”, which along with what follows amounts to saying in English, “You don’t have an’opinion’ about Vinicius. Vinicius just IS.” He goes on to talk about their ‘confused but beautiful’ relationship, having known each other via Vinicius’ friendship with his father, famed historian and intellectual Sergio Buarque de Hollanda (whose book ‘Raizes do Brazil’ is still required reading, by the way). Later, we learn that c) Chico spent a fair amount of his time in Italy bored out of his mind and occupying his time by designing imaginary cities and inventing a board game based on Monopoly but involving football (soccer).

More reflections about the bizarre format of the invisible and unheard interviewer… It appears that the working method of TV Cultura was to have the interviewer in another room and giving his questions via a feedback monitor speaker, probably placed on the ground or on a wall. This is deduced by the fact that Chico frequently can’t hear the questions very well and has to ask them to be repeated (O que??), something that I have noticed in other interviews for this program. I guess they didn’t want anybody else in the camera shot, or disturbing the intimate performances? There is also a really beautiful woman hanging around inside the room taking photos of him, so perhaps he simply gets distracted. Also the absence of the questions can really and truly be frustrating — towards the end of the program the subject matter seems to veer from Chico’s opinions on God, literature, and Ruy Barbosa, with little for us (the audience) to hang onto in terms of a thread of continuity. I have a new theory about this weird way of presenting the material: because of the fact that everything had to be passed before draconic Brazilian censors during the dictatorship — song lyrics, television scripts, jouranlistm — perhaps TV Cultura was deliberately protecting itself by making the QUESTIONS unavailable? Thus, since it was anybody’s guess what Chico was responding to, there is no chance for a censor to say “You can’t ask that question.” … This is pure speculation on my part, perhaps someone who actually knows things can fill me in.

The musical performances and part-performances are wonderful, charming, and make me understand how even heterosexual men would make an exception for Chico. The guy is just too cool and beautiful. At one point he is asked (something?) about Nelson Cavaquinho, who had apparently claimed to be Chico’s godfather (in jest or symbolically, it seems), and Chico refuses to single out any favorite composition from Nelson, saying he loves them all, and then begins to play “Cuidado com a outra” only to stumble after the second phrase and end it. He says to the camera, smiling, “vou aprender… na próxima vez vou aprender as músicas para tocar no seu programa” (L’ll learn it. Next time, I’ll learn the songs to play on your show..” Who else but Chico Buarque could say this and not appear aloof or arrogant but rather candid and utterly sincere? “Show business” or even “performing” were never what it was all about for this guy. Shortly therafter, he rips into an incredible reading of one of his most evocative songs, “Cotidiano” from the album Construção. Hearing him play it here, just violão and voice, once again leaves me with only clichés to describe my reaction: goosebumps. A tingling down my spine to hear such a perfect matching of word, timbre, voice, and guitar, all of it acting together in complete unity, a unity inclusive of the dissonant guitar chords that he drops in the progression belying the ‘normality’ of life during the ‘Brazilian Miracle’ of the early 70s…

As proven by at least two recent boxsets which include DVDs and also Chico’s massive multi-DVD project from a few years ago, there is a lot of video available about Chico Buarque. And it is only fitting — he is the most important living songwriter in Brazil, period. But the ‘vintage’ of this performance, and the fact of it only being released now after so many years, makes this a must for any fan of Chico, and for historians or scholars of Brazilian intellectual history, music, or popular culture.

MKV file (playable in any media player worth its salt) missing the main menus but including subtitles in Portuguese and English

*note: this file seems to make some media players freak out. I highly recommend VLC Media Player, the open-source Swiss Army Nice of video, which plays it fine. Meanwhile, another format is on its way here, stay tuned

Full DVD in ISO format: part 1 // part 2 // part 3 // part 4

note: you MUST have all 3 files present on the same drive in order to unzip these

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