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I saw "Tango" for the first time on 01 January 2001; I have just watched it again and I still believe it is one of the most wonderful tributes to the tango. Carlos Saura uses the concept that history is indestructible and recalls the dark years of military dictatorship in Argentina after the amnesty entwined with a passionate love of a middle-aged man for a young woman to build the plot, supported by stunning cast, choreography, music score and lighting. However, the conclusion is confused and disappointing, and I really do not understand the relationship of Angelo and Mario acting like pals in the last scene. Cecilia Narova and Mía Maestro are extremely beautiful and fantastic dancers, and I do not get tired of seeing them dancing tango. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Tango"
(spoilers) This film was all one man's story of how he dealt with having a broken heart, and how he recovered. It is an autobiography by Mario, the main character, who tells the story himself, which is made clear in the first few minutes of the film. Mario returns to find Laura, his ex, getting the last of her things, and he begs her to come back to him but she is happy living with another man. The dancing scenes in the film seem to show a way that Mario tries to escape from his emotions, but it backfires because he sees Laura there dancing with the man that she left him for. Whenever he sees her, everything else that is going on in the movie stops abruptly. There is nothing but the music, the dancing, and Mario's mesmerized stare. He seems to be in a trance every time he sees her, and he even has murderous visions. His mind seems to be so choked with emotional turmoil that he cannot function when he is in her presence, he is absolutely captivated by her.
When Mario finally meets another woman, it is a result of her dancing ability. In fact, the first thing that is spoken of her in the film is about her exceptional dancing skill. This is very effective because from this point on, she is seen as being superior to all of the other women, and she is focused on when she is in a large group, which makes Mario's romance with her more moving. She represents a new beginning for Mario, and she makes him forget about Laura, which is all he seems to want up to this point in the film.
There was one very quick scene worth noting because it is an exact example of what the film is about. Mario is at a dancing school where there is a classroom of young students learning to tango, and he is speaking with an elderly man. The man tells him that his wife recently passed away, and his life no longer has any meaning, he has nothing left. As soon as he finishes saying this, he looks across the room and his face breaks into a wide grin as he points his granddaughter out to Mario, claiming her to be the `best in the class.' This is a perfect example of the meaning of this movie! The moment after this man tells Mario that his life is meaningless because his wife passed away, he lovingly boasts the dancing skill of his granddaughter. His life obviously still has meaning because, even though his wife is gone, he can still watch this girl grow as both a person as well as a dancer. I hope Mario noticed this man's glaring miscalculation of the importance of his own being.
The surprisingly ironic ending of the film represented the fact that life goes on, and also that sometimes it is really necessary to end some relationships in order to be happy, even if it seems like the end of the world. Mario is very happy with this woman that he met, but in order for her to be with him, she had to break a man's heart just the same way as Laura had broken his. That man's heart was broken the very same way that Mario's was broken at the beginning of the film, which is very ironic because this man is in the exact same position that Mario was in after Laura left him earlier in the movie.
The title of this film refers not to a particular style of dancing, but to the emotional tango that people can dance with each other. Even though dancing is abundant throughout the film, it's not actually ABOUT dancing. However, the dancing did tie everything in the film together.
Another element that is particularly interesting is the way the camera is used. This is the first film I have ever seen that actually seemed to give the camera itself a bit of personality. In the second half of the film, the director did not seem to make the slightest effort to avoid filming the camera's reflection. There was even one scene where the camera was looking directly at itself in a mirror, which for some reason I find fascinating. I think that this was supposed to suggest that all of the dancing that went on in the film was all rehearsal for a play or some sort of live presentation, rather than people acting for the movie itself. This gives you a whole different perspective and, ironically enough, it makes the film seem even more realistic.
Saura melds fiction & reality with all the skill he has shown in previous films, & Storaro's cinematography is, as usual, stunning. I purchased a DVD copy as soon as it became available & I have found the extras & the commentaries to be both informative & entertaining.
For anyone who loves; beautiful filming making, passionate dancing or erotic women, this film will fill all those needs. Buenos Aires, here I come!
Thank you for that tuba, Lalo Schifrin. As an Hispanic himself, Schifrin knows what he's doing. (He makes good use of the bandoneon, a kind of concertina, too.) There is a less-successful number that uses boots and military uniforms in an evocation of the period in the 1970s and 1980s when citizens of Argentina were "disappeared." There are tango-tinged encounters between men and others involving women, that are homosexual in effect. And sometimes there is no music behind the dances at all -- only the natural sounds of clothing rustling and soles squeaking on the wooden floor as the performers twist and turn.
Let me get back to that homosexual dance between the two women. One of them, if I got it right, is Suarez's ex wife, a superb dancer played by Cecilia Narova. The younger one is played by Mia Maestro. The dance ends with a sensuous kiss, and I can understand why another woman might want to kiss Maestro. I could understand it even if some twisted extraterrestrial whose native notion of esthetic perfection looked like the inside of an alarm clock wanted to kiss Maestro. She is egregiously beautiful, two-thirds Diane Venora and one third Audrey Hepburn, and sports what must be, even to the most jaded eye, a nearly perfect body whose movements are entirely under her own control. Her high kicks beat those of Eleanor Powell. And when her numbers freeze in tableaux, it would be perfectly okay if she just retained those balletic poses for, oh, say five or six minutes so we can burn the images into our brains. I don't think the human form and the suppleness of which it is capable has ever been displayed more elegantly. Not to put down Fred and Ginger. That's a different ballroom game.
The Spanish as spoken is appropriately Argentinian too, for what it's worth. The pronunciation is regional and so is the grammar. I say this out of complete ignorance of the language except for that which comparative linguists tell us. And a chat buddy in Buenos Aires. (Besos a vos, mi compaera).
The plot is nothing much. Abstract and arty and colorful. Saura's 8 1/2. Suarez, the benign director of a musical show, falls for Maestro. She is living with a Mafioso who is a dangerous dude, sub specie aeternitatus. But she tells the Mafioso off anyway and stalks off as he shouts after her -- "You're making a big mistake." If it did turn out to be a mistake we don't learn about it. The movie ends happily if trickily.
I want to emphasize that the dances are just about everything here. They bear about the same relationship to Lemon and Brown's tango as Fred and Ginger's superbly rehearsed dances do to the twist. There is one number by Maestro in which she does nothing but walk around slowly and strike an occasional pose. It's stunning in it simplicity and sensuousness. And in the duets, the dancers hold each other so close through so many acrobatic movements that, without stretching too much, I can imagine one false step bringing them tumbling to the floor wrapped up in each other.
The photography and lighting (by Vittorio Storaro) is superlative and the art direction equally so. Everything takes place in a carefully designed studio with mirrors and stages and painted backdrops scattered around. Sometimes we don't know if we're looking into a mirror or seeing the "real" scene. Nor can we always be sure that what we're watching is taking place in "real" life or in Suarez's imagination -- sometimes the imaginary turns into the real. But none of this detracts from our understanding of the film. The "double" structure is not simple directorial self display, nor is it just more hokum about "what's reality and what's illusion?". It adds visual texture to a film that already has more than a dozen Hollywood monstrosities could hold. It's really art, without quotation marks around it.
The very first time I saw this, I was actually looking for another tango movie. When I found out it was not the movie I was looking for, I almost changed the channel. The very first dance scene with Laura (Cecilia Narova) and the other guy she ends up with (whatever his name is) was so riveting that I literally could not stop watching this movie. It is so sensual and seductive that you can really see why people of all cultures enjoy tangos.
The colors of the set, the dancing, the music, even the story line is so enchanting that it's like you're there with the actors themselves.
If you're a fan of tangos, the music and/or the dance, you will love this movie. A person has to genuinely enjoy listening and watching because this film evokes all the visual and hearing senses of the Tango.
This film was beautifully done!
On the otherhand what happened in Argentina many years ago was true and the way the director directed this sad time was very inventive. It showed through dancing the tragic story.
Add to this the magnificent variety of tango, and you have an undeniable winner!
And this in spite of the fact that the plot is rather slight, relieved finally and solely because of a rather Pirandelloesque twist at the end.
The general problem is mixing film and dance. Rarely, oh so rarely is it done well. The stock choices are two: either film a dance more or less as an audience would see it, or to incorporate dance into the theatric presentation as a device. Either way, the audience is necessarily at a distance. And that's the problem: dance is human, to watch it (I'm talking about a performance here) you intimately participate in the space built and folded by the dancers. So by definition, most film/dance mixtures turn flat.
The solution here is to create an openly recursive storyline, mixing the dance as sometimes a filmed performance or rehearsal, sometimes "real" life, sometimes dreams or visions or imaginings. This combined with a never-rooted camera -- which sometimes plays the role of a character itself -- makes the audience part of the dance, and adds depth. The sets are designed to confuse: sloped floors, mirrors (used liberally) distortion, translucent screens and so on, further breaking the "performance" mold. On these terms alone, this is an intelligently conceived film.
I cannot say the same for the dancing proper. I think the film suffers from sticking too close to an Argentine palette, so the music and dance lacked breadth, and ultimately became repetitive. Whether the dancers were authentic, I cannot say. There certainly were exciting moments for me, but the dancing wasn't sufficiently vibrant to carry all of the scenes.
The Latin flavor was intriguing in the large: that the director would attempt such a self-referential conflation: national horror; angst of aging; layering of creation. Such a project would be considered outrageous in the US long before it is explored. And the Latin character was also interesting in the small: bigbottomed dancers and dumb, dependent women talking about how intelligent and independent they are.
Check this out. Not for the dance, but for a solution to filming dance.
To make matters worse, Carlos Saura wrote a screen play that feels empty. Not even some of the inspired dance numbers lift this movie from the plot the director wrote. The story behind the film seems false from the start. It doesn't help that most of it seems superficial and contrived. The way the film was filmed, feels claustrophobic since it all takes place in as studio set. The film would have been more enjoyable if Mr. Saura had opened the film and brought it out to the districts of Buenos Aires where the tango reigns supreme.
Miguel Angel Sola, a good actor from Argentina, is seen as Mario, Mr. Saura's alter ego, perhaps, since he plays the director of the film going to production. Cecilia Narova, Mia Maestro, Sandra Ballesteros, Juan Luis Galiardo are seen in supporting roles. Juan Carlos Copes, a great dancer of the tango is seen in the film, as well as Julio Bocca, one of the best classical dancers from that country.
The Buñuel-Saura tandem has produced some magnificent cinema, and it is Buñuel's surrealism which Saura frequently echoes, albeit using more modern techniques and technology. Whereas his films `Goya en Burdeos' (1999) and `Pajarico' (1997) (qv) have evidently more tangible story-lines to follow, `Sevillanas' (1992) (qv), `Marathon' (1992) and `Flamenco' (1995) are more documental, but not lacking in cinematographic effects by such geniuses as Vittorio Storaro and Javier Aguirresarobe. However, in Tango the matter becomes more complicated, as, supposedly, anyway, there is, or so we are to understand, a story-line to follow. The story is not clear: perhaps it was Saura's intention that each one of us should make up our own story! Better forget the story, whatever it might be, and concentrate on the visual aspects, as they are stunning. Firstly it is a kind of investigation into the art and philosophy of the afamed Argentinian Tango; secondly it an interesting musical appreciation, as most certainly Lalo Schifrin has done his homework, and the music that is not his and there is quite a lot has been wisely chosen, including even an extract from Verdi; thirdly the camerawork is of the finest to be seen. Storaro has played with luminosity, playing orange against yellow, magenta against purple, as well as using reflections in mirrors and glass panelling to tremendous effect.
In `Tango' Saura once again used music, as in `Sevillanas', `Flamenco' and to a certain degree in `Marathon' as the vehicle for transporting his visual concepts. The result in `Tango' as well as in `Marathon', is quite extraordinary, captivating, and, whether you are a great enthusiast of sevillanas, flamenco or tango or not I am not you cannot help but being satisfied by the result, though perhaps not so much in `Sevillanas' as it is a rather overhurried cursory glimpse at a subject matter which should have deserved more time.
We lucked out because erudite minds who wanted to work in the new canvas had to puzzle about how it all amounted to a sort of life, create their paintings or music or philosophy in the midst of life. Film as a language would have been tremendously impoverished without this limitation, which is the same one we encounter in life: there is painting or dance only for someone whose senses they strike with curiosity or desire, who has a past and future life that they enliven, in other words a narrative.
So we have here a triumph of this language in its struggle to deliver a richer life than usual.
It is about dance, wonderful tango. But it can't be just filmed dance, dance itself is more than bodies to music. It is about desire, age, creativity, passion, loss, meaning; all the great dilemmas of life. But they have to be uncovered as life so there needs to be a narrative framework. We want in both cases to find human subjectivity in the dancefloor of its taking shape.
The story around these things is about a director who puzzles about a new show and passion in his life.
It starts with him on his desk narrating the film we see. It's followed by a hallucination of a male and female pair dancing in a dark soundstage, an old flame we have just seen walk out of his life and her new man. We have some obvious parallels of course: his eye as the camera, his face superimposed on narrative walls. So the point is that when we return to the soundstage the space is already charged with dimensions of memory and mind, internal space where the urges first come to life.
The space itself is marvelous and provides endless opportunities to create mind: blank or colored walls, slides and movie clips, painted skies where figures of history emerge from, endless rows of mirrors. We have of course the filmmaker as the protagonist ruminating on lost friends, cruel politics, senseless war and duty to memory. It's his show after all, the broader film, his space of expression.
What's so marvelous though is the conflation of inner life into dance. Desire as seeing and settling on her face among many. Couples dancing. Choreographed order. Piercing gazes locked together in tango. A tension that is both affected and yet real just then. Something inscrutable in the air that can only maybe danced out and never quite figured out more. Dance as looking for union.
All through the film we see the show take shape, the slow process. In one particularly evocative scene he blows air into empty dresses and this comes alive as inspiration, and this is followed by her stepping out from behind canvas screens to meet him. Soon there's danger that is foreshadowed for the end, an old boyfriend with possibly mob ties who is also funding the show, his heartbreak and loss mirroring the narrator's.
So the violence bubbling in the narrator has been merely postponed, what's the resolution?
It ends with the lovers' duel sublimated on the stage between dancers, this was a pivotal scene in one of Saura's previous dance films (flamengo there). The whole scene is a masterstroke. The key players looking, immersed, affected. An implicit tension that may be just the show. The dance ending with a knife's flash. The scorned man gets up and yells as if having her stabbed was a thought or an urge that he regretted only too late. (Saura could have made it more clear that the dancer who stabs her was also one of the funder's men, earlier he is seen escorting the girl to a car that has come to pick her up).
At this point it may seem like a trivial setup: reality shown to be fiction.
But the point is, as all of them walk out of the stage together, reconciled, enthusiastic, casually exchanging words, that all this emotional drama and hurt that was foreshadowed is seen with more distance to be a trivial fiction, an appearance on a stage, an illusion. Wonderful Spanish sensibility.
The last shot in context is one of the greatest I've seen, a Marienbad tracking shot through empty space towards glass, tentative reflection that engulfs our vision. Storraro excels all through the film, but here he surpasses himself. It's seen here as clearly as anywhere else that the film is in the company of Resnais, not Bob Fosse.
Something to meditate upon.
This is, first of all, a movie about the making of a show. Many people seem to let this information escape, but we're subtlety informed about this from the very beginning. We're presented with the long process that goes in the head and daily work of director Mario. It's somehow a lesson of direction.
Second to this, the show being made is about Argentinian life. It's a story of birth, passion, illusion, violence, betrayal, forgiveness and rebirth. And it's a very dense and beautiful story.
And how is this story shown to us? It's shown by the way of tango, which then takes the central part of the movie.
Having told that, now I hope you may let yourself being involved by this movie and watch it differently. And that you really enjoy the masterful work Saura has done to give you this absolutely beautiful movie. His direction of camera, light, music and actors is simply stunning. I truly believe this movie puts him side-by-side with the great ones like Kurosawa or Kubrick.
The cinematography is first-rate, the overlapping narrative elements (the love story, the story of film-making and its struggles, the story of Argentina in the 20th century, and the story of dance itself) is engaging. But the real reason to see this film is the dancing, which is quite simply stunning. Among the cast are dancers legendary not only in Argentina, but across the world. Mia Maestro, who plays the young up-and-coming dancer, has the exhilarating but probably terrifying job of dancing among all these professionals. While her own dance training is not as extensive as the men and women she dances with, however, she does a really wonderful job in her own dancing scenes--and only someone with significant dance experience will be able to spot the differences between her and the professional dancers.
In some ways, though, even these differences make sense in the context of the story. Elena is the young dancer, and part of the drama that Saura presents is her own evolution in the tango. As she learns more, she becomes more alive to her history and her identity. Her dancing deepens throughout the film.
And if you don't want to learn to dance the Argentine tango after you have seen this film, then you have no soul. Many thumbs up!
After 40 minutes of Tango dance numbers and an absolutely nothing story, it begins to really drag and an hour later, it was no better.
Not only does this feature beautiful colors but the choreography of the dances is inventive, too, but only to point. It just goes on too long, way too long. The story is nothing but a director of this tango show falling for one of dancers - that's it, nothing more!
The film is mainly a vehicle for director Carlos Suara's colorful work to be shown off.