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Set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the film tells the story of director Mario Suarez's quest to make the ultimate tango film. Lonely after his wife (one of the film's stars) has left him, Mario must find the themes that will hold the film together, while simultaneously permitting his musicians and dancers the freedom of expression that is necessary to satisfy the tango-hungry Argentine audience. Things become complicated when Mario falls in love with Elena, a beautiful and talented young dancer who is the girlfriend of the powerful and dangerous Angelo Larroca, an investor in the picture. And Mario's creative vision is challenged by his investors when he plans a scene that recreates Argentina's dark years of political suppression and "disappearances". Written by
Martin Lewison <firstname.lastname@example.org>
While so many have commented on the superlative dancing and the spectacular use of color, this film is not solely about dance. As he did in "Carmen", Carlos Saura invites us into a beautifully crafted melange of realism, impressionism, and surrealism to express the human emotions of love, betrayal, jealousy, fear and redemption. His melange results in a film that is an enigma wrapped in the sensuality, color and passion of a tensive tango that expresses his horror at the atrocities of Argentina's "Dirty War". This film is as much a political statement as it is a well-crafted masterpiece of cinematic art, color and music. In "Carmen" we never know when Antonio's real relationship with Carmen ends and the flamenco drama begins. So too, in "Tango", Saura sucks us into a reality carefully created to deceive us while at the same time it teaches us in colorful shades the subtle and sometimes unnoticeable differences between illusion and reality. Until the end of the film the viewer actually believes that Mario has lost Laura and found himself again in his love for Elena, who he suspects will be murdered by one of LaRocca's henchmen. Saura films the scenes with Elena and Mario at the restaurant and in the bedroom in a colorless reality that assures us that this is a real relationship. Thanks to set designer, Waldo Norman (Ricardo Mourelle), Mario is able to travel between time and space through color, particularly shades of red, giving the dream sequence in which he kills Laura a surreal affect. The devils of Mario's surrealistic subconscious are exorcised again in the graphic choreography of the torture and rape scenes depicting the "Dirty War" against liberals, students, artists, union workers, and intellectuals. In their acrobatic bends, twists and rolls, the dancers give us the impression of intense pain at the hands of their cruel torturers. Perhaps this surreal dance is the only way that Mario, and Saura, can deal with the horrific atrocities inflicted on the thousands of Argentine "desaparecidos" (the disappeared ones) from 1976 1983. Mario says as much in the bedroom scene with Elena. While holding her in his arms, Mario states that imagination is the only guardrail that keeps us from plummeting into the deeps of horror and atrocity. It is after this scene that the "Repression Tango", Saura's balletic version of the horrors of the "Dirty War" take place. Having experienced a choreographed impression of Hell, the viewer is jolted back to reality in the end, when Elena awakens from death to ask if she had played the scene of her murder well. The lights are on and the stage is bustling with actors and stage techs. Mario with his arms around Elena seemingly incredulous at her resurrection, realizes that he too for a moment was sucked into the artist's illusion, but now stands redeemed through art in a reality free of his inner-most demons.
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