Buenos Aires. Film director Mario Suarez, seeking distraction from a broken love affair, throws himself into his next project, a musical about the tango. This is the dance which originated in the slums of Buenos Aires, combining arrogance and sensitivity with raw sexuality. As Mario improvises with his collaborators, fashioning the movie from the past and present of Argentina and his own life, we are never sure if we are seeing rehearsals, reality, dreams or the finished film. The dance scenes are electrifying, the music exhilarating and Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography is magnificent. (115 Mins)
Dir: Carlos Saura: Argentina/Spain/France/Germany 1998
Mario Suárez, a middle-aged director, is holed up in his apartment in Buenos Aires, licking his wounds. Laura, his girlfriend, has left him. And she’s not just his lover, she’s his principal dancer. There’s nothing for it but to throw himself into his next production, a musical about the tango. Even that is problematical: the chief investor, Angelo, wants a part for his girlfriend, Elena – an offer Mario can’t refuse, especially as Angelo has connections with the Mafia! Any thoughts of refusing disappear as she dances: he wants her, and not just in the film.
Tango is an accomplished musical, sacrificing plot, characterisation and dialogue to colour, movement and music as the genre demands. It’s a competent film about filmmaking, with the usual crises in rehearsal, tensions in the cast and battles with investors, and the built-in ambiguities as cameras film cameras, stage roles affect ‘real life’ and vice versa. Director Carlos Saura pushes this ambiguity to the limit, blurring the lines between rehearsal, performance and real life, and leading to a dramatic denouement in which we realise only slowly what we have just seen.
It’s also a documentary about the tango. The tango is no ordinary dance; sometimes seen as an exercise in male dominance, at its best it’s truly ‘making love set to music’. The polite version seen on Come Dancing gives the merest hint of the passionate, raunchy creation of the slums of Buenos Aires. Saura takes us back to its roots, bringing out the mix of machismo, sensitivity, elegance and lust that makes it so exciting: watching it borders on voyeurism. As you would expect from the maker of Blood Wedding, the dancing is exhilarating, erotic, and beautifully photographed.
Tango isn’t perfect; it’s very self-conscious, sometimes rough and unfinished, sometimes it doesn’t quite work. But it’s an intriguing, perplexing piece that keeps you watching even when it falls over its own feet.
Mario Suárez: Miguel Angel Solá
Laura: Cecilia Narova
Elena: Mia Maestro
Director/screenplay: Carlos Saura
Photography: Vittorio Storaro
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Choreography: Juan Carlos Copes, Carlos Rivarola, Ana Maria Stekelman
“Lovely final twist … Buena Vista Social Club + plot … very enthralling, plenty of sexy legs … good start to programme”
“first half too long and repetitive”
“virtuoso – dance, costume, music … sometimes difficult to understand the nuances ”
“a powerful film that would have benefitted from shorter dancesand a clearer plot”
“not quite sure if the ‘levels of reality’ idea quite comes off – but the dancing was terrific”
“baffling – but marvellous dancing and photography”
“very nice to look at, but not really my kind of thing”
“truly Tango – nothing but!”
“it takes too long to tango”
“marginally preferable to synchronised swimming, but not among the medals. I’d prefer a remake about morris-dancing, set in the Thatcher era”