A monumental figure in Brazilian music receives an in-depth profile in “Maria Bethania: Music Is Perfume.” Pic sticks to musical side of the best-known woman exponent of the 1970s movement known as tropicalia, and that works fine, as the gray-maned diva has plenty to say in that department. Sure to be devoured at any fests featuring musical docs, performance-heavy effort is a natural for DVD.
Georges Gachot, best known for his portrait of volatile pianist Martha Argerich, follows Bethania through rehearsals and recording sessions, where the unique chemistry of her relationship with great songs (often by Chico Buarque or old-timers like Vinicius de Moraes) is revealed in detail. She slowly warms to the camera, making observations about the music in general (“Samba is a sadness that cradles us,” she quotes from one tune) and the unique atmosphere of birthplace Bahia in particular. In that heavily Africanized town, there are memorable visits with her famous brother, Caetano Veloso, and their big-hearted mother. Gachot sometimes goes intriguingly off-subject, as when viewers get to see night crews cleaning up the beaches of Rio.