When a young European woman assumes a false identity in 1920s Argentina, she gets more than she bargained for.When a young European woman assumes a false identity in 1920s Argentina, she gets more than she bargained for.When a young European woman assumes a false identity in 1920s Argentina, she gets more than she bargained for.
On a ship heading to Argentina during the 1920's, Stephanie (Mathilda May), a woman bored by her marriage to the wealthy, much older Judge Torres (Fernando Ray), takes the identity of a young woman she sees jump overboard.
Stephanie more than spices up her life when as Alba, a young Jewish girl from Poland, she finds herself in an arranged marriage to Zico Borenstein (Esai Morales), a member of the Zvi Migdal. This is an organisation of pimps on the grand scale, which tricks women into prostitution. After attracting the attention of Choro, an Argentinean gangster played by Vincent D'Onofrio, events head off in unexpected directions, all swept along by the music and the mystique of the tango.
The stars make this film, and the stunning Mathilda May makes believable all the obsessive attention she receives from the males in the movie. I remember her spectacularly uninhibited performance in the otherwise forgettable "Lifeforce". Here she dances the tango of the film's title to the music of a blindfolded orchestra without any discernible loss of poise.
Vincent D'Onofrio gives an eye-popping performance, but it fits seamlessly with the theatricality of the whole thing. I wouldn't be the first person to notice his resemblance to Orson Welles (he's actually played him in a couple of movies) but here, half hidden in the shadows with the brim of his hat pulled down, he is uncannily like Harry Lime in "The Third Man".
Esai Morales and Fernando Ray wisely underplay, leaving the fireworks to May and D'Onofrio. Fernando Ray is perfect as Stephanie's real husband who realises too late that wealth, position and comfort are not enough to keep his beautiful wife away from the machismo of the dangerous Choro.
This is the second film I can recall that featured the Zvi Migdal. It was the driving force behind the plot of Jonathan Demme's underrated Hitchcock homage, "The Last Embrace", but in that film it is only alluded to, here it is front and centre.
"Naked Tango" has great locations, sumptuous sets, an arresting story, and a couple of stars that burn up the screen. When all is said and done, the title of the film is a good warning as to whether or not you are likely to enjoy this film - it's nothing less than an invitation to a dance on the wild side.
- May 12, 2015